Leigh Drummond is a freelance artist working in Leicester, UK. His artwork takes many formats; print, illustration, graphic design, sticker art - but to name a few. As well as being a multi talented artist Leigh alongside others founded Mono Clothing and has tutored youth offenders in arts workshops. But most famously is the freelancer’s street art found scattered amongst the town of Leicester.
Seed Creativity has interviewed Leigh Drummond to learn more about his career as a freelance artist.
Words by Mel Fletcher
MF: What did you study at university?
LL: I studied illustration and graphic design. But I never completed it, I just got a job doing it instead. I didn’t like the industry that much, especially graphic design. It was always the classic thing of being told to change everything because tutors know best but generally they don’t.
MF: So you like to keep to your own style?
LL: Yes, then if people come to me and ask to do something then they know where i’m coming from and I can interpret their idea in my own style rather than being told exactly what to do and talk generic styles. I did graffiti when I was a little kid…
MF: ...were you a doodler?
Always a doodler. I did a bit of graffiti then I gave up for about 10 years then only recently got into it again.
MF: I noticed online you have sticker art.
Spain-03, Mono stickers in Andalusia, Spain
Image © Lord Leigh
You photographed them in public places in numerous countries across the world.
LL: That was about 15 years ago. Stickers have been around since the 70’s, more so vinyl stickers and people putting them on the backs of cars, especially in America. Then it became big in the 00’s. This is when everyone around the world started to do sticker art, most probably because of the internet. And everyone started swapping stickers - so people would exchange packs of stickers with each other across other countries.
MF: Are they sent in the mail?
LL: Yes there are websites for it. Alot of grafitti websites only last so long because people running them tend to give up and do other things after a while. But one website hooked a lot of people up and there was a point where I had an address with around 600 names of people from around the world that were making and trading stickers. And I would take these packs with me when I travelled. That was the great thing about stickers, they were portable unlike spray paint.
MF: Were you trying to make a statement or were the stickers for name exposure?
LL: It’s more of a continuous statement. I’ve always been doing the same artwork and changing mediums and there has been continuity throughout which is partly technical progression. Also my general influences which are quite weird and bizarre. Stylistically I like comics such as 2000 AD - more British comics, I don’t like American ones. Then I went more realistic in the aspect of what I was drawing compared to comics. My subject matter comes more from literature.
Les-Arcs-1 /Zombie Arms , Mono and Monsta in the mountains
Image © Lord Leigh
I read philosophical and science fiction books and historical novels. When you get asked where your influences come from it’s a weird thing because you are constantly influenced by everything, it’s a culmination of it all. In art critiques you are always asked “why have you done this?” - I believe people have a general progression throughout all of their artwork. Form always comes into play and positive and negative space in my work. That is with all of my artwork, not just graffiti art.
I find graffiti art boring now because it has been done for such a long time in the same standardised format - linear letter formations. That’s why I started getting into backgrounds. You find in Leicester not many people are doing backgrounds.
MF: How do you get commission for your graffiti art?
LL: There are different ways of how commissions work. Generally there are standard fees, hourly rates and daily rates. If someone gave me more lean way with the subject matter then it can alter the price
Mono-01 © Lord Leigh
Stickers by Lord Leigh aka Mr Breakfast of Mono.
Gold-Sticker /Sticker - Gold on Charcoal
Design and print by Mista Breakfast / Mono
© Lord Leigh
© Lord Leigh
Seed Creative Hub launch event
Art by Mono © Seed Creative Hub
because I have more freedom. Sometimes i’m happy to be given permission to paint a wall however I like with no input from the owner. There are boundaries about what can be painted; no drugs, no guns, no sex, no violence - that’s the general rule. I learnt that doing workshops for years with youth offenders.
MF: How do you get commission for your graffiti art?
LL: There are different ways of how commissions work. Generally there are standard fees, hourly rates and daily rates. If someone gave me more lean way with the subject matter then it can alter the price because I have more freedom. Sometimes i’m happy to be given permission to paint a wall however I like with no input from the owner. There are boundaries about what can be painted; no drugs, no guns, no sex, no violence - that’s the general rule. I learnt that doing workshops for years with youth offenders.
MF: Do you commercialise your style in different formats?
LL: Well that is where the name Mono begun. Some mates and I from university set up a clothing company called Mono Clothing and at the time I was doing graphic design and illustration for flyers around London for magazines before everything changed to being online. The company was successful at the time but we were young so we didn’t really care about fashion that much, it was more something to do with an artistic way of merchandising.
MF: Where did you sell your clothing line?
LL: We had 15 stockists around the country. Wellgosh in Leicester was a retail store we sold to. Because we had a backlog of merchandise I thought I would carry on the name in my grafitti.
MF: Looking at the wall painting you did in the Seed Creative hub and various other works around Leicester, do you draw a planned sketch first?
LL: I do all my paintings from a digital mock up just to get an idea of the form of a character. I might take a few photos to work from too.
MF: You mentioned characters. Are the subjects in your work the characters you read in books or are they your own fiction?
LL: It’s more the settings of the characters which concern me in regards to how it connects to my influences. The characters seem to fit within the subject matter but it’s the backgrounds I am more interested in. My imagery tends to tell a story. Because I have read so many sci-fi books about the end of the world I have recurring nightmares every night and I think that reflects in my work. The combination of reading apocalyptic literature and walking past empty buildings seems to place images in my head that I draw my ideas from.
MF: Do you have an attachment to your graffiti work? Would you be upset if someone tagged a wall you worked on?
LL: For an anarchistic movement there are still unwritten rules, one of them is you shouldn’t go over someones work if you are either not going to completely cover it or do better. But generally tagging isn’t that bad as people police the places internally. I have had people target my work before but graffiti comes from Hip Hop and people used to battle it out - breakdancers would have breakdance battles, MC’s will have an MC battle, DJ’s would have a DJ battle. Graffiti is one of the four elements of Hip Hop and it’s the same - people would take it to the street and battle it out. The battle would be who could get the most tags on the area or who could do the best quality.
MF: When I was in Croatia travelling to the airport, along the motorway were huge slabs of concrete that were graffitied with detailed, picturesc compositions. Each slab had a different artist and style. It must have been something the government commissioned because it went on for miles…
LL: Europe are starting to think outside of the box now. I think the UK is aspiring to be more like the American style of Graffiti rather than trying to be original. Europe seems to be completely different which in my opinion is more true to the original message of graffiti and that was what Hip Hop was about. It wasn’t about doing something someone else had done.
MF: And my final question is where do all your names come from?
LL: Mista Breakfast was from breakdancing. When I stopped doing graffiti for about 10 years I did a lot of breakdancing “Mista Break-fast”. Lord Leigh was a nickname I was given because of my posh voice.
Article written by Mel Fletcher
Text © Mel Fletcher 2014
Article commissioned by Seed Creative Network
Images © to photographer mentioned