I’ve always loved smaller, lesser-known artists in the street and urban art world.
I mean, there’s thousands of artists who are really famous for what they do, whether it be amazing murals, crazy installations or playful stencil work – big names we all know and love because their work is unique, stylised and created with insane skill.
But sometimes smaller artists are where it’s at. I’m talking really captivating work; exciting concepts and art styles that you’ve just not seen before – or you have, but someone’s reinventing it in a fresh way.
These are the artists that intrigue me more than anything. Watching an artist develop their skills and style; seeing what they produce when they’re just creating for the love of it rather than out of expectation or because a certain style is what they’ve become famous for.
When I search for an artists work the first place I go is to their social media account – usually Instagram – to see more. And it surprises me how many incredible artists out there who I follow like a crazy stalker are not that well known for what they do (I go to their Facebook page too and they don’t have that many followers on either platform). There could be a whole load of reasons for this, of course, but to me, incredible art needs to be shared far and wide.
Don’t get me wrong, being a great artist is really not about how many followers you have on social media – I’ve come across plenty of artists with thousands of followers but their work just doesn’t grab me. it’s about how much their work interests, engages and excites. And sometimes it’s the ones that hardly anyone knows who are doing the most interesting work.
Here are my latest finds, each as unique and interesting as the next. All of them have a few thousand followers or less, but (I think) deserve to be more well-known.
They might not all be your thing, so just skip the ones you don’t like 😉 But I guarantee at least one of them will intrigue you!
**All images are copyright of the respective artists (unless otherwise stated) and can be found on their social media accounts. Click on the artist name titles to go to their pages!**
For fans of: J Goldcrown, graffiti, tagging
At age 11, JBesset started skateboarding, discovering the world of graffiti through his first spray painting.
By 2001, using the name ‘Enur‘, he put together a graffiti artist crew from in and around Cannes, France, and started participating in urban art festivals, as well as painting front windows and shutters.
In 2004 he tried to transfer his graffiti to canvas and what followed became some really incredible work.
JBesset incorporates tagging, bright colours, calligraphy and my favourite, DRIPS, with thought-provoking quotes. The result is so vibrant and mesmerising that you just can’t look away.
He seems to be focusing more on canvas work right now what with having lots of exhibitions and gallery shows (and his own business) to focus on, but his graffiti background is unlikely to be forgotten any time soon. Beautiful work, whether you like graffiti or not!
For fans of: Pokras Lampas, eL Seed
Ink4rt started in graffiti art in the late 90s, and although he still tags to this day, his love for graffiti has developed into a deep appreciation for calligraphy, which is now his primary focus when creating his pieces. He loves calligraphy because it’s something he believes requires both artistic and historical learning.
He explains that he is self-taught, and that he loves to work in smaller formats (mostly paper) but there are also benefits to painting on canvas and walls – paper requires real precision and attention to detail, canvas requires creativity due to it’s texture, whilst walls offer a real sense of freedom.
But in utilising these three different mediums, it allows him to portray calligraphy in all it’s diversity.
There is something so beautiful about calligraphy when it’s painted – the brushstrokes just look incredible. And viewing the elegance of calligraphy in the context of a super-urban, decaying space is also really interesting and intriguing.
#3. Remy Uno
For fans of: Manyoly
I love Remy’s work because it incorporates a lot of styles, features and themes that I think are always really interesting when it comes to art.
There’s surrealism, nudity, bright colour, abstractism, geometric shapes and patterns… and his work looks beautiful on both wall and canvas.
It’s also the kind of work that looks really cool as a massive paste-up – I saw paste-ups like this in Paris (particularly this one below by Jack Servoz) and in person they are just breathtaking.
#4. Monkey Bird Crew
For fans of: eL Seed and nature
The Monkey Bird Crew are a group of artists who create work centred around the theme of monkeys and birds.
Why? Well, the monkey represents the primitive human condition and the bird represents the freedom and escape of the human soul.
The MBC say they are, “encouraging men to strike a balance between it’s material obsessions and fantasies of freedom“.
They are mostly inspired by ‘sacred or lyrical works‘ including illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, architectural ornamentations and illustrations – which definitely comes across in their work.
What I love about the MBC’s work is that it all looks like it’s been etched into wood; when created on a huge wall it really does look really unique and unlike anything I’ve seen before (though from what I can gather, it’s mainly stencil work! Crazy.)
I think their work could easily be translated on to various mediums such as glass, wood, paper, fabric, etc and still manage to look really impressive and detailed.
There is also a lovely contrast of the main black and white images against the gold and earthy tones normally used in the background of their work.
#5. Francs Colleurs
For fans of: Slaps & sticker art
Francs Colleurs are a group of over 40 french artists working on a national-scale project, creating big urban art pieces out of lots of stickers of, well, art pieces.
Each sticker has someone’s art printed on (or a part of someone’s art printed on), and then they are placed in strategic ways to create a new art piece in the street.
Every year the artists involved change, and the aim is basically to create an artistic community and to highlight the visual power of the urban scene, whilst also letting the public get something fun out of it.
They’ve even developed an app so some stickers, when viewed through the app, become interactive (see this). So cool!
Francs Colleurs is actually run by a collective called the 9th Concept Collective, and they create loads of really cool projects that bring artists together.
I love it because it takes so many amazing piece of work and then combines them to create something completely different but really creative!
For fans of: Space
Mariana PTKS work is, to put it simply, mesmerising. She incorporates the universe into various figures, geometric shapes and text, and uses a variety of mediums – from paste-ups to oil paint on canvas, and, of course, spray paint.
Of course, being the cosmic traveller, I love her work, especially the women with the universe making up their long flowing hair. Dreamy!
For fans of: Mondrian, geometry
Goddog is a self-taught artist with a background in graffiti. His work is so intriguing; a mix of abstract shapes and images; geometric designs and lots of rich, contrasting colours that grab your attention. If you focus, you might even see faces, leaves, and various other objects popping out of the patterns…
The colourful pieces are really beautiful to look at, but I think his black and white pieces are really something special – something about simplicity just makes the work POP.
Every piece he does is instantly recognisable as one of his, but not because they all look the same – his work is actually incredibly dynamic and diverse, with lots of different variations on his signature bold linework and geometric shapes.
He comes across as an artist who is really into experimenting with line and colour. It’s this experimentation that makes every piece of his really different, but still unmistakably Goddog’s.
For fans of: Creepy characters, Basquait, Jack Servoz
Alo is a self-taught artist, and describes himself as a, ‘painter and urban painter‘ with his style being ‘urban expressionism‘.
Lots of his pieces can be found in Shoreditch, London, which is actually where I discovered his work.
The first time I saw one it made me think of Jack Servoz’s portraits (this one in particular) and also of Basquiat, which is probably due to the colours he uses and the use of bold, black, sketchy lines.
Alo mainly uses bold primary colours as, he explains, they ‘define the emotional range of each artwork‘. He has explained that his characters are representative of loss and defeat, and the inspiration for each one is taken from a real woman he sees in the street, who he then recreates in this art form.
Each of the characters, to me, has a sense of sadness about them; their faces are downcast, their eyes staring sadly and their mouths turned down. But you can see the shadows of a very beautiful and elegant woman underneath the sadness.
What I also absolutely love is the bold black frame around each piece. It’s like the woman is standing in a window looking out, which also adds to the sense of loss, longing and sadness Alo is trying to portray.
For fans of: ethnic or tribal art, Ben Wilson
3ttman was an artist I just happened to stumble across somehow – I can’t even remember how. I just came across a photo of his emoji drawings in concrete and thought it was funny. I mean, the effort he must go to to mix concrete, draw in the image and then make sure it doesn’t get messed up while drying – well, it’s kinda crazy.
Turns out this wasn’t all he specialised in – once I got looking through all his work I was amazed at how diverse it is – and the amount of skill and creativity that go in to it.
From etchings and sculptures with coloured cement to huge, bold, character-filled painted murals, and even ‘street ceramic’ – filling in potholes in the street with coloured ceramic – he just seems like someone who is really having a lot of fun with his work and doesn’t take himself too seriously.
His art seems to be inspired by a mix of different things: in particular, I see patterns, detail and block colour reminiscent of typical illustrative techniques and I see somewhat tribal or African influence in some of the detail of the pieces – like the shapes of the bodies, the colours he uses and the scenes he paints.
I think my favourites of his though are the street ceramic pieces – making the ‘everyday’ extraordinary!
For fans of: Japanese cartoons, nature
STeW is an artist who has dabbled in so many different mediums and styles that it kinda blows my mind. His website has a veeeery long list of all the projects and work he’s completed and they’re all really different.
However, the standout pieces for me are his nature-inspired stencil street pieces. Colourful, gritty, abstract and detailed – these pieces are just beautiful.
He also creates a lot of samurai-inspired work which utilise lots of different techniques and textures to create a fun, cartoonish feel.
I really like the diversity STeW has in his work; it’s cool to see an artist try out so many different styles and put their own stamp on each one.
Well there you have it. 10 artists I think you should know about!