In 2005, I collaborated with renowned graffiti artist Temper to produce a limited-edition 60-page book exploring his career so far.
Too Good to Die Young
The Good Die Young drained the life from 27 colourful characters. For Temper, the next stage of his bereavement process was to splash it back in glorious celebration of what made them iconic in the first place.
‘When I lost my Granddad I was very, very angry,’ is his example. ‘But when you come out of that place you start thinking about the good times you’ve had; his personality. I celebrate his life in my mind – the perfect image of him. That’s what I wanted to do with Too Good to Die Young.’
Of course, a full-colour portrait using freehand aerosol is in a completely different league to greyscale. ‘Technically it was something I had to prepare myself for,’ he says. ‘If it were that easy, everybody would be doing it. It’s got to look realistic. Comfortable.’
Some of the earlier black-and-white portraits certainly have a cold intensity that makes you shift in your seat. ‘Hendrix in The Good Die Young is looking at you straight on. It’s almost like a stencil. His eyes are staring; he looks like he’s in the wrong place, like he didn’t want to die like that.’
‘With this collection I wanted to remember him in the sense of his life; that perfect image of him. And the only thing you can do with Hendrix is put a guitar in his hand and put him on stage, pulling that face he pulls when he’s feeling what he’s doing. That’s a celebration of his life.’
Judging by the overwhelmingly positive feedback from diehard aficionados, the essence of these great legends courses through the fibres of each canvas. ‘Every single one has its own community of fans. I could start a fan club for each painting, and that’s going to be one of the highlights: true fans saying there’s something more than just the painting there.’
Seven pieces took nine months to complete, and it was emotionally draining as well as technically challenging. Contrary to popular belief, it’s still not finished. ‘I actually stopped, because it started working in reverse,’ admits Temper. ‘Instead of being more comfortable with my bereavement, I opened up old wounds. I’ll go back to it again when I feel emotionally prepared.’