One of the great pleasures of traveling to document graffiti is discovering an artist whose work you haven’t seen before but who you can’t forget afterwards. If you haven’t heard of Napol before you won’t forget him! Born and raised in Valencia, aged only 24, his wrinkled, twisted characters reflect a dark creativity and his quirky sense of humor that bursts off of his neighbourhood walls.
The Twisted World of Napol
Click for the Napol slideshow…
I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember – I still have sketchbooks from when I was an infant (I’ve improved a bit since then). I used to draw imaginary characters and I remember being obsessed with “Curro” and “Cobi” (the mascots of the “Expo 92” and “Barcelona 92”). I started drawing characters from memory until my father gave me cartoons and comics to copy; I liked to imitate.
My name Napol is derived from Napoleon. I have a large head! When I was at school we saw a picture of Napoleon and his hat was huge compared to his body. One of the other kids pointed out his hat would probably fit my head! Kids can be so cruel!
I started spray-painting around 2004 and I improved a lot at that time. I began graduate studies in art at the same time and I started drawing more “realistic” characters. In 2006 I started studying Fine Art but my inexperience with oils played a trick on me and I dropped out; I tried again two years later. What I do on the street is different from my canvas paintings. Today I paint walls, illustrate and work with oils. Fine Arts school also exposed me to other techniques like engravings, woodcuts, lithographs, toys and tattoos!
The closer I can paint to home the better! I’m lazy! I live on the outskirts of Valencia and because it takes me several sessions to finish a wall I try to be as close to home as possible! I do like to paint elsewhere but nowadays, with the internet, you can paint in the armpit of the World and thousands of people can still see your work, which is a good and bad thing!
There used to be a large graffiti movement in my area, although it has somewhat diminished. I remember going to small sites that were known to be painted just to check out what was new. Writers would travel to my neighbourhood to paint from different parts of Spain. That doesn’t happen so much anymore and I miss it! Of course, there are still a couple of times a year when a lot of people come down for jams.
Like everyone else I have been inspired unwittingly by a lot of people – we live in an age where we’re bombarded with images. You don’t even realise sometimes that you’re imitating something you’ve seen over the past year. People tend to appropriate what they like unconsciously!
To tell you the truth, my characters are a parody. I’m twisted! I love to exaggerate and paint grotesque characters. I like to parody people in hip-hop culture who believe they live in ghettos when they’re really living in pretty normal areas. I cannot stand that fake mentality. My other characters are also parodies but they don’t always refer to hip-hop culture. I like to put a background / story behind what I do, but not always. My work simply is! I am here and I do this! Nothing more.
Seeing old photos, I can see a huge change in my technique. In terms of my subject matter, I’ve noticed that I’ve become more twisted over time, like wine spoiling! I have moved away from innocent and “sensitive” themes. I remember a child once standing in front of my mural, crying “why paint that if I don’t like it!” The child went away crying until Diom and I lost sight of him down the avenue.
I realized then that I had “a mission”! I am an outcast. I do not do nice things … I’m not commercial and I have no future! I think I’ll end up eating the canvas!
[Editor’s note: brilliant!]