In conversation with the artist, Kid30 who made Nottingham City his canvas
For artist Nathan Bainbridge, 47, who also goes by the name Kid30, Nottingham is both home and a canvas. It would be hard for anyone who has been living in the city for a while to not be familiar with a little hooded figure painted onto several walls in the city. This signature character, which is now Kid30’s logo, has an unexpected origin story - one that captures the multifaceted artistic persona of Nathan Bainbridge.
“At the time, I was working for a shoe shop in Oxford and I was told to create drawings of a client’s kids to go on the inner soles of a line of custom Lacoste trainers. My original drafts were turned down after being told they were ‘too moody’.
It was around the same time when another client happened to advise me to change my logo on the invoice. I saw an opportunity there for my ‘moody’ character and it has been something of an icon for my art ever since.”
Bainbridge’s career as an artist flourished from stepping stones like creating promotional material for raves and working in branding for Detonate promotions in Nottingham. But at the heart of all these endeavours was the common underlying passion for graffiti.
As a kid who grew up in a little village outside of Oxford in the 80s, drawing was a fairly non-expensive thing he used to do for fun. He recollects his art teacher in sixth form, Mr Read with whom he used to paint and learn new things.
“My grandpa who was an architect used to paint a lot as well. As kids, we visited galleries with him and it was on these train journeys to London that I first saw graffiti. I didn’t really understand it, but I remember thinking it looked amazing.”
Talking about his own art style and the sources of his inspiration, he mentions how mashed-up cartoon characters became a recurring element in his art after featuring as the main theme for one particular body of work. He explains how this idea emerged from not having a TV growing up and being unsure about the characters and the cartoons, often ending up pretending to know them. The stitches joining together multiple characters in several of his works highlight this aspect of his art.
Explaining what he loves best about this genre he says, “It is done very impulsively. There are spaces in Southbank in London where works painted in the morning are painted over by the afternoon. It becomes more about the doing of it than the longevity of it.”
He also spoke about the often conflicting binary between high-brow art and graffiti. “Usually gallery environments are reserved for fine art. But with graffiti, the street is the gallery, which I find liberating. There is no elitist system governing the process and painting becomes an adventure in itself.
While there are artists like Fokawolf and Mernywernz who use street art for brilliant social and political commentary, my work is mostly humour based. I am not out here to ruin people’s days”, he adds with a laugh.
The artist is actively involved in several community engagement programs and he works towards making spots legal for graffiti artists. “I have organized a few youth workshops focused on drawing and self-esteem building. I can recall a few people who got into graffiti after these workshops as well. I have also worked with schools and hospitals where I have painted the kids’ areas.”
The biggest hurdle he faced in his career was the financial lows. “I have had to sell logs, do house clearances and decorations. I am more stable now that I am older and a bit more established. I am able to fund more of my own art.”
His favourite work in Nottingham is one such passion project. “It is on a gable end on Broadstreet and it is the only work of that scale. It was more about the achievement factor that I was able to reach that pinnacle moment.”
Speaking of his favourite work by other artists, he mentions The Arches in Nottingham. “This is 25 years ago and it would be long gone now. I had recently moved to the city and I remember finding this spot and being in awe of it. As good as the art was, it was also about what I felt - a sense of magic that held me captivated.”
That initial spark of awe and magic he felt about graffiti continues to shine through in his work. And through his colourful characters on the walls ushering nostalgia and happiness, everyone who now comes to Nottingham can have a little taste of that magic, a little something that can make one’s day better as they go on their way.
Akhila Thomas is a Magazine journalism student soon to graduate from Nottingham Trent University. She was the editor of the Culture and entertainment section of Platform magazine, a publication run by university students. She has published with several titles such as Feminism in India, Times of India, Mindless Mag and Nottinghamshire Live. With a passion for art, culture, history, environment and fashion, she reads and writes avidly about these subjects. In the coming years she hopes to do more travelling, get back to painting and of course, write a lot.