Although more prominently placed in his native Sheffield, Coloquix’s work has popped up in Manchester’s Northern Quarter – notably down the side of H Blyth on Spear Street. We thought it was high time to feature some of this painter’s work, and to get the low-down on how and why his mysterious character is appearing in some unorthodox locations.

What got you started as a street artist and how has your character developed over time?

I kind of fell into it a bit. I lived in Leeds for a few years, even though I’m originally from just over the border in Derbyshire, and whilst I did plenty of drawing and the like when I had an LS postcode, I wasn’t really exposed to street art or graffiti properly until I moved to Sheffield back in 2012.

Although I remembered some of the classic local names from the 90s when I was a kid, the old Niche building, lovingly known as The Crack Den, really opened my eyes to it all. It was just too easy to wander into. That was probably the first time I’d really witnessed a proper gallery, if you will, and the first time I saw a Phlegm piece. Safe to say, it blew my mind.

My character developed pretty naturally, though. Her beginnings are something of a mystery even to me, but the reason her eyes are always closed, for example, was because I just couldn’t paint her with them open at the start. I’ve got incompetence to thank for that.

What is the start of the creative process for you? Do pieces always start as sketches?

I’ve only gone out to paint on a whim without something in mind once or twice, and results tend to be a little… variable. This actually occurred the weekend just gone, in fact. She ended up holding a ram’s skull in one hand and a cigarette in the other. This definitely wouldn’t have been the case if I’d sat down, thrown some Boards of Canada in my ears and sketched her out properly.

When I was first starting out with the whole drawing on walls thing, I was too excited to just get out into a derelict space and do some colouring in. It quickly became apparent though that the longer the sketch took, the better the paint job would be.

Your pieces are often painted in quite interesting and unusual locations – on a river bed or on a canvas of cling film wrapped between two trees, for example. Do you spend a long time scouting for the right places before you start work?

Again, circumstances sort of pushed me into painting in these odd places. I mean, the whole urban exploration thing – or urbex, if you’re particularly down with the kids – was definitely a huge thing at the start. When I first moved back to Sheffield, I had a year of extreme anxiety. Christ only knows why or from whence it came, but part of the recovery process was reclaiming that sensation of being terrified. The first few derelicts I popped into scared the living flip out of me, in a good way.

So any intriguing spots of that nature just came from what was essentially a bit of a giddy pastime. As for the woodland and river bed ones, after about six months of painting in Sheffield and thinking that everyone was lovely and that the fumes bound us all together like one big grubby family, I started getting all my work dogged and scribbled over, so I had to think beyond the usual spots. To this day, I’ve never had an underwater piece ruined.

Do you have any exhibitions coming up?

Good question. There probably should be. An exhibition, I mean. There were three over the space of a year, so I thought it only fair to give people a break. But it’s been about a year since the last one.

At the minute, the big plan is getting her up on walls in exciting lands, far away across big puddles. So far this year she’s had a stateside jaunt and has made appearances in New York, Denver and San Francisco, with more planned. Whilst Sheffield is a cracking base, I’d like to think that she could pop up anywhere.

There should also, hopefully, be another exhibition before the year is out. I’ve got some other ideas jiggling about in this canister of mine, but I’ll keep them quiet for now, as if I mention them and they don’t occur, I might look a little unstable.

Good advice you wish you’d been told earlier?

You cannot please everyone, however good your intentions may be. It’s an odd one, and I certainly don’t want to make painting seem negative in any way, as it’s on my mind constantly and as you may have guessed, I love it to bits. But you will annoy, frustrate and possibly upset some people, doing something which is so public and accessible. And that’s okay. If you know your intentions are good, or even if they are perhaps a little cheeky, just fill your boots.

That, and try not to paint any national heritage sites by accident if you can help it. That never goes down well.

instagram.com/coloquix

Sam Walby