Cheltenham Paint Festival 2023 was on my radar when it was first announced earlier this year. Having photographed the street art in Digbeth, I have ventured further afield to Bristol and Leamington Spa to look at their street art. The Paint Festival in Cheltenham has a reputation of being well organised and attracting some of the top street artists from home and abroad. The festival director and artist Andy Dice Davies (aka dice67) had produced an audio map for the phone. I downloaded the interactive map and whilst there was a bit of a learning element on how to use the software, I found it very useful. I would love it if there was a narrative that I could listen to as a continuous streaming or even a podcast of the event. Still the interactive map was very good and I have used the app for reference for this blog.
North Place Car Park
Not knowing the geography of Cheltenham, I did my homework. I found on arriving that the town has NCP car parks and I needed their app to get a good rate of parking. I parked centrally and made my way to North Place Car Park. Many street artists were painting on the surrounding walls and the place was a hive of activity. There were many photographic opportunities as I walked around the walls. I struck up a conversation with one of the artists @mycutecreatures. Her work was only just being started but it was possible to see the design that was planned. I find it fascinating how the artwork develops as the artist is painting during the day. I moved down along the walls where other artists were working away. The murals were on different themes, with different images and most of all differed in colours and content. Certainly a feast for the eyes.
Next stop was the Holiday Inn to see both last year’s mural and the progress on this year’s wall. Last year’s mural is amazing whilst the present mural is facing towards the town. When taking pictures of the street murals, I always look to take a different picture and seeing the mural, I lined up the traffic lights with the face. This made for an interesting picture. Curtis Hylton painted the pea hen for a previous festival whilst the uncompleted work in my picture is by Epod3000. Check his Insta account to see the finished painting.
Previous Festivals Artwork
There are so many murals to visit, and I went to several places to find street art that had been completed during previous festivals. As you see from the set of pictures each mural tells a story. I visited on the Saturday and several works are incomplete. This just means that I will have to revisit at a later date! This blog provides a real time account of how the festival was taking place.
Whilst I was in the area around the Holiday Inn, I met Stephen Gledhill, a street art blogger, who runs the Natural Adventures blog. This covers street art up and down the UK. Stephen was looking at the stencil done by the Street Artist Pogo Stencils UK. Stephen explained that this artwork was a wonderful example of complex multi-layer stencils. There is good attention to detail, and it is possible on close inspection to identify the layers. I love the explanations to paintings in art galleries and was indebted to Stephen for taking me through the Street art. I took a picture of Stephen next to the street art that was painted at a previous Cheltenham Art Festival.
Frog and Fiddle
Stephen recommended visiting the Frog and Fiddle which turned out to be a real gem of a pub. Ordering myself a drink, the bartender gave me some of the background to the place and gave me permission to wander around. I went upstairs where there is another example of the stencil work of Pogo. The positioning of the partial face against the windows adds a haunting feel to the pool tables. At the back of the pub, @Dice67 has painted a portrait of Jet Black, the Strangler’s drummer who is sadly no longer with us. There were other street artists at work in this area and were happy to chat about their work. This festival does provide a buzz to the town.
Leaving the Frog and Fiddle, I walked up the high street taking some detours to see previous festival work by @Zabouartist and work in progress on a new mural by @liambononi. The latter artwork was above an entrance to a factory. The artist was painting on a motorised platform with air filter protection. The tools of the trade. Having marvelled at the artwork I returned to the path down the high street and came into the Church yard of Cheltenham Minster, St Mary’s. My destination was the Two Pigs pub, the HQ of the Cheltenham Paint Festival.
The Two Pigs
The pub was busy and had many artists working both in the back yard of the pub and inside. Many of the painters took time out to chat about their work and most were happy to have their photograph taken for my blog.
More Street Art
The festival experience is remarkable in that the murals have become an interlinked feature of the town. I passed beautiful streets filled with examples of Regency architecture. I walked around the Royal Crescent and then into the streets behind. Here tucked away in a car park are the Bayshill walls where there were examples of artwork from previous festivals.
Using Andy’s interactive map on my phone, I retraced my steps through an alley way to the Bottle of Sauce pub and Dodo establishments. I walked through the St Paul’s area, where the houses are predominantly white with some splashes of colour. My aim was to view an iconic piece of work by the street artist @whoamIrony. However, I went too far and found myself in Pittville Park. Here I discovered street artists painting on the Agg Pavilion. There were 5 artists at work, and I was pleased to meet @Titlegraffiti. I recognised his work at once having come across his work in Digbeth, Birmingham. My personal favourite was the intricate work being done by @faye.rai who explained that she was painting in a similar manner to a watercolour. Other street art at the pavilion included the painting of a Barbie doll on its side by @katiescott_creative. There were others there and I am hoping readers will fill in the artist blanks for me.
I did get to see the iconic wolf moon mural by Irony on the way back.
There were also some other artwork on the streets which were fun to photograph. I went back to the car park and came across @ n_4_t_4 with his colourful mural of a bird. I introduced myself to Nathan and he took time out to talk to me about his work. He is a well-respected street artist and this was one of my highlights in my travels around the festival. Around the corner @mycutecreatures was finishing her mural and several others were nearing completion. Members of the public were admiring the street art.
By now I was ready for home, I realised looking through Andy’s map that I had missed several other large projects such as buildings and carparks. Therefore, I will have to come back to Cheltenham and see the street art that I had missed and take pictures of those that were in progress. I did pick up on Instagram what was happening elsewhere and there is a good record on many Insta micro-blogging sites.
If you want to follow some excellent street art photography, then Max Johnson @Moxsblag is a must. Her documentation of the artists is first class and very detailed. Another insta blogger is @Streetartuk2023. Again, nice photography and documentation.
Many thanks both to Andy for organising the festival and all those artists that allowed me to take photographs of their work. I hope that I have got all the credits right and apologise if there are mistakes. I am happy to amend when I have the necessary information. Please contact me via this website or @dammodammo if there is anything that I need to correct. The featured image at beginning of this blog was by @sam_art_34. BBC Gloucestershire did a feature on the return of the event prior to the festival.
Camera use for all pictures was with my Fujifilm x100v except for a couple of iPhone pics. The x100v was on aperture control and colour balance daylight. For the artists out there, I was the guy in the hat wandering around with the silver retro camera.
If you enjoyed this blog then here are my Street art walks around Digbeth, Leamington Spa and Bristol.