In a quiet road leading off Brighton’s Trafalgar Street, Scott Kingdom was putting the finishing touches to a graffiti masterpiece–a giant multi-coloured tag, depicting the word ‘Scare’. Designed to appear as a 3D image, it featured a flock of giant bats flying out of an ‘S’ shaped crack in the brick wall. A student at the local art college by day, he was responsible for many of the area’s most skilfully composed murals. He specialised in anamorphic perspective; a technique used by artists to trick the eye since the Renaissance. Influenced by pavement chalk illusionist Kurt Wenner, Scott hoped soon be recognised for his work in the way someone like Banksy, Paul Insect or Darren Cullen was. He had already earned a little money, receiving commissions to brighten up a wall in Kemp Town and a warehouse in Hollingbury, among others. Still, he could not still resist the thrill of going out at night to illegally spray his designs in the graffiti hotspots of the city, wanting them viewed and compared with the best of the local street art.
Scott grew up in Horsham, West Sussex and had moved to Brighton six months previously, to take a degree at the art college, encouraged by its vibrant street art scene, and reputation as a haven for members of the counterculture. He also wanted to escape the ever-watchful gaze of his narrow-minded, overly aspirant parents. Brighton was a cosmopolitan place with a dark, sleazy underbelly that appealed to the rebel within him. It was a place where it was easy to slip under the radar of officialdom, and where individual self-expression celebrated, or so he had imagined. While Scott had expected to find himself at the centre of a group of like-minded souls in Brighton, instead still felt like an outsider looking in. Brighton already had its graffiti heroes and was, as he was discovering, a very tough place to make an impression.
Scott’s part-time job in a supermarket paid towards the rent of his student room and allowed him to buy the best quality spray paints available. He also volunteered his time teaching school kids how to paint street art as part of community projects, and this year intended to take part in the city’s world-famous B Festival. Scott’s best friend, Calum, was a lanky and slightly less cool teenager at the same college. Calum was on the photography course and dreamt of being a photojournalist on a top magazine. He was nerdily obsessed with graffiti, knowing the names of all the legends of London, Paris, New York, Rio and beyond. Calum regularly photographed Scott’s work for various magazines and websites. The escaping bat design has already taken Scott the best part of the night to create, and Calum had now arrived to photograph it. “Sweet” was his only comment as his shutter began to whirr.
The local police patrol car passed by cruising down Trafalgar Street towards London Road. The guys hid in the shadows until it had gone. Upon returning to the wall however, Scott and Calum could not believe what now faced them. Black paint sprayed over Scott’s artwork, and painted upon it, in luminous white, was a realistic-looking cracked gravestone with ‘RIP Scott’ written on it.
“Were there any tags on the wall when you started, man?” Calum asked, looking worried.