Not too long ago we came across a digitalized blackbook of one of the biggest Dutch graff legends: COSH. Honestly, we haven’t been so excited in a while! COSH is well known for his awesome characters and was among the first to take Dutch graffiti to the next level. It’s easy to forget the old-school but seeing that black book makes you remember where it all came from. Nowadays, COSH is a freelance designer/illustrator, animator, electro music producer, he makes sculpters and in other words, is a full time artist. His work can be found in videoclips (some Dutch people might know his work from the videoclip ‘de vierde kaart’ by brainpower) ’till childrens books. This guy has laid down the base for a lot of artists we feature nowadays, so we are particularly proud to present you this feature with COSH!
“My parents hoped this was a short career as a graffiti artist but I just thought I had to be really sneaky the next time.”
You’ve been doing your thing since ’84. How did you got into it, and how do you look back to these ‘good old days’?
My friends and I always hung out next to a school. Some kids stood out playing soccer and others fighting or making trouble. I think my thing was electric boogie and drawing characters on the wall with an edding marker. Drawing our gang name with a big python above it. At a certain point we thought it would be a great idea to use spray cans and write our names a little bigger. I think I saw graffiti somewhere but I can only recall the tag names I saw in The Hague on the way to my family who lives there. From out the back from the car I could see tags from Hunter, EX’80 and Bob’80 (the last one had some sort of dog as a logo). I really liked that one. But our idea was to make a colorful and big piece (six spray cans).
That night we went to the schoolyard and took out our cans. But I was the only one who was really serious about the whole thing. The moment I reached for the second color I noticed a couple of colors were missing. When I looked around the corner of the school it was already bombed completely. To make a long story short, a couple of days later the five of us were arrested and had to pay each a fl 750,- to clean everything. My parents hoped this was a short career as a graffiti artist but I just thought I had to be really sneaky the next time. I picked a new name, “Cosh”, and together with my best friend “Crush” we had a crew called the ISG “Invincible Street Graffers”. The first piece we did was a major attraction in our village and a photo was put in our local newspaper. We where very active and did most of our pieces in the middle of the night by sneaking out the house and cycling to the te next village. A year later we had a group of 4 members: 3 guys and one girl. We called ourselves the “Royal Art Force”. Ofcourse after a while we got reckless and got arrested. After our arrest “crush” and I were the only two who still wanted to go on.
After a while I met “Phase” at Zoetermeer. At that point Zoetermeer had a rich graffiti culture. Comparing to them I considered myself some sort of toy. They had style but my pieces still looked like rip-offs of stylewars. But my characters were great and everybody liked them. So little by little I focused myself doing that. Every weekend I travelled to Zoetermeer and stayed there for two days. From monday to Friday I drew in my blackbook or someone elses blackbook. I always loved the competition with “Phase”. I think in 86 or 87 I met ‘Sism” and “Beat53”. They are from Rotterdam so after that I painted a lot more with them and Rotterdam became my hometown. I think everybody remembers and idealizes there youth. I never forget the first time I smelled Sparvar cans and the heard the beats of mantronix on the album of JUST ICE or the raps of KRS one.
Did you study graphic design of some sort?
No, but I did try to attend a graphic design study. Unfortunately they didn’t want me there. I was really discouraged by that and did not draw anything for a long time. Not for too long of course and after a while things turned out great despite of the fact I didn’t attend a graphics study.
’84 was the introduction of the 3,5″ floppy disk, the world has been digitalized since then. How has this influenced your work? (graphic software, social contacts, etc).
It was just in 1998 when I started working with a computer. At first I didn’t understand anything about Illustrator and couldn’t understand how anyone could make anything nice with it. But when I started to get it I got addicted to it. I was surprised by the fact that my drawings got a complete different look, almost like someone else made it.
Back then I also used ICQ (I Seek You), an online program to communicate with each other but this was primary for private use (making jokes).I do get in contact with people on Myspace, Fotolog, Flickr and Hyves but my conversations are generally by phone or e-mail. In every inch a computer-guy, that’s me I’m afraid. Besides Illustrator I love to learn more about other programs like Photoshop, Aftereffects, Flash, Ableton Live, Reason 4.0 and Zbrush. Last year I attempted to leard 3Dmax but the knowledge I caught unfortunately disappeared because I didn’t continue to practice often.
We saw you’ve got a very versatile taste in music and movies. Are they an influence to your work? (and if not, what is?)
I worked in a video store for 10 years and went to the movies like twice a week. I’m watching a lot less movies nowadays partially because a few genres lost my interest.I rarely watch an action-, spectacle- or animated-movie. I’m just not interested in these movies anymore. But I think old school horror or sci-fi movies are fantastic! My work sometimes shows influences from these movies.
I collect vinyl but this doesn’t affect my work I think. I think that I’m mostly influenced by all the things, pictures, clips, prints etc. I take up.
How do you feel about the current graffiti scene in the Netherlands, and worldwide?
Making graffiti is not as exciting as when I started. But that goes with everything of course. At the beginning I was a member of a secret club. An opportunity for me to play cowboys and indians a while longer than usually. Sometimes I am surprised when a few new talents create something I could never have come up with. Barcelona, Berlin and Brazil are the place to be at this moment.
There are people who draw a line between graffiti and streetart. Is there a difference, or are they just names?
I do understand where they are coming from. I prefer myself as a graffiti artist although I only make legal peaces and not as often as I used to. If people don’t think that I’m a graffiti artist because I don’t make letters but characters that’s really their problem. Some people refer to me as a graffiti artist and others don’t. Graffiti can be street art. But sometimes it’s just vandalism.
Following up on that, you once said there is a kind of split in the graffiti scene, where one group tries to claim fame with dangerous objects like trains and the other group focuses on the artistic side of graffiti. In which of those groups did you start out?
I never was a real bomber but I did enjoy it for a while to go out at night, ride my atb and make pieces with just some chrome and tectyle. I also enjoyed making pieces on trains for a while. But those days are really over. I’m almost 40 years old, have my own house, girlfriend and kids. Nowadays I make music or work on my computer till the early hours and sometimes I go out with friends to make a piece in the weekends.
“We just wanted to make our sketches on a train when we saw a flashlight coming nearby…”
Do you have any crazy stories to share about legal/illegal graffiti adventures?
Yes of course! One night I was laying on the yard at Rotterdam Central Station together with Chop, Source, Nam, Ces53 and some other guys from Amsterdam (I’m bad with names). From the zoo situated there you could perfectly see everything underneath the trains. After laying there for a while we saw a drunken “Nash” climbing over a fence. We thought he wouldn’t come back anymore.We just wanted to make our sketches on a train when we saw a flashlight coming nearby. We got back to our hiding spot near the zoo and noticed that Nash had disappeared.
“They suddenly wanted to climb over the fence into the zoo. I thought that wasn’t a great idea but didn’t wanted to be alone and followed them…”
We did hear a couple of voices nearby who appeared to be the voices of cops. We also heard Nash talk, trying to get them to go the other way. Then a cop got his flashlight up and looked at the fence we used to get there. Then he saw us, standing just 5 meters from us and said ‘Good evening gentlemen!’. I tried to run away like a madman following two shadows north way across the track. One of the shadows appeared to be “Source”, where I thought it were the two writers from Amsterdam. They suddenly wanted to climb over the fence into the zoo. I thought that wasn’t a great idea but didn’t wanted to be alone and followed them. When they started to climb another fence I told the guys that we were in the zoo and that climbing fences wasn’t a great idea. I knew how to leave the zoo but that fence was a lot higher than the first one. Source went first and fell 3 meters down, flat on his face. The person who followed also made an ugly fall. This was not a good sign so I tried to leave the zoo somewhere else. I found a brick wall and managed to leave the zoo without accidents. When we arrived at Source’s place we threw all our cans in a bag and on the roof without checking if we could get them again.
“when he and Nam were brought home by the police he jumped out of the car when the police brought Nam to his front door”
After an hour Ces arrived at the door and when the morning came Chop got there as well. He was laying in a field the whole night, even when the police was really close, happy that the dogs didn’t catch up on him. I went to my work in the videostore when my sister called to tell me that Nash was at my place. Getting him on the phone, he told me that he was questioned all night by the railway police. When he and Nam were brought home by the police he jumped out of the car when the police brought Nam to his frontdoor. He was afraid that the police and his parents discovered his blackbook, laying at home. He decided to tell his parents and called them to ask if they wanted to hide his blackbook. Later on he went home by train and managed to escape his punishment.
Who and/or what inspires you?
A lot of comic artists and illustrators. I live in a house full of material that inspires me. A lot of action figures, old toys and vinyl records. What I like most is to get inspired by something you’ve just got a quick look at and make something completely different with it. The first idea that pops in my head I work out quickly in my sketchbook. I often use things in my sketchbook I actually don’t like much. Just to see if I can make something with an ugly form. Or trying to change a character into a triangle form or make it a lot fatter ….
What is the best streetart spot we should check out?
Eindhoven is my favorite spot and utrecht has a nice hall of fame.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I have no idea, but I do hope that a lot of people will say that my work continues to look a bit different after a while. I myself want to paint and animate a lot more.