On June 3rd of this year I attempted to paint the largest single artist piece of graffiti in the world. Measuring 170 meters by 75 meters it was composed for the lawn of Victoria Park London.
For three weeks I scouted the park, then across the street from my apartment. I watched the day and night time movement of the park staff. Documented various comings and goings, laid in the grass and thought of the shape of the turf and the way I would do what I do here.
I decided to use environmentally friendly field line marking paint. Like spray paint but not permanent. It only comes in 7 colors (red, blue, green, yellow, orange black and white) and I decided to skip green on the lawn and I never use black.
On the night of the painting I and my associates (one on a nearby building watching the front door, the other in the park with me video taping me painting and watching the rear approach) started at 2am. Carrying the paint in large bags over to the field I setup the camera and began to work.
Within 10 minutes I became aware that the helicopter circling the other side of the park was watching the ground. It was low and moved very slowly. I walked the 100 meters back to the video camera setup to be under the shelter of the trees. I took the dv camera (which was shooting in infrared) and pointed it at the copter. Low and behold they could clearly be seen using an infrared spotlight to scout the ground. Invisible to the human eye but not to their (or my) cameras. I started to sweat.
Minutes were moving by quickly. The helicopter finally started to pull away from the park and I returned to the center of the field to paint. I was on my 4th can in 30 minutes. The physical area was huge that I was covering and all in the dark.
After a few more dodges with the copter my mobile phone vibrated in my pocket. This meant that the cops were coming through the park. I quickly covered the distance to the trees, lying down beside the camera person in the grass and waited. I could see the headlights moving through the trees of the park. After the lights passed I could still hear the engine close by. It stopped only 20 meters away from us and the door opened. I had barely sketched an outline at this point. But then the door closed and the car drove off. We had successfully gotten through a security pass. My heart still pounding I jumped up and went back to work.
I painted for what seemed like hours (actually only about 3 hours total) and dodged the copter another time. But by 4:30am the sunlight was so bright I could clearly see across the fields to the streets. I was out of time. I stopped, having only used in the range of 20 cans. I had a complete outline and several colors but no real fill. It would take 10 hours of solid work in the light to really make the piece fill up.
Beyond the time constraints we would take the photos the next day in the field. Outside of a circle of viewing of about 5 meters across you could not see the entire shape at all. The length of the grass was long enough to obscure any part you were not on top of to look at. The monster simply disappeared into the grass. Next time shorter grass.
This piece was certainly a learning experience. My body ached for days from the physical aspect of moving over the field and hunching over with the spry gun to paint. The scale of something like this piece can not be underestimated. Area equals time.
But at least I got it out into the world. Next time I do it in the broad daylight and pretend I am supposed to be there.