Voice One: Artist Harry Gilliam spray-painted his nom de graffiti in two… (Sony Pictures Classics )
Harry Gilliam first received recognition for his graffiti art as a child, doodling on the walls of his father Terry Gilliam's London home.
"My mother would always get furious at me because I'd spoil another wall or corner of my bedroom," he said. "But my father would love it because it's artistic expression. So he'd always be very proud."
Harry Gilliam has continued to please by creating two graffiti murals for his father's newest film, "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus."
At 21 years old, Harry Gilliam is an old hand at graffiti art. He developed an interest in anime and manga by age 5, picked up his first spray can by age 11 and eventually adopted his graffiti name "Voice One."
"I went through so many names at first trying to find a good name," he said. "I remember looking through this graffiti book, and someone had written 'Voice of the Ghetto' in this really nice style. I tried to start with 'Voice,' but it was too short, and I wanted to make it longer. And 'one' is the best."
In addition to moonlighting as Voice One, Harry Gilliam studies fine art at London Metropolitan University. To earn a little extra cash, he has what he calls a "day job" modeling for brands including Alexander McQueen and Reiss.
Though he's toying with becoming a graphic designer for an advertising company, an exhibiting artist or even a film director, he's not likely to retire Voice One any time soon.
"Graffiti's so mainstream in the sense that it's done more publicly than most artwork," he said. "It's not contained within an exhibition hall. So that's why I was drawn to that. Art is all about getting your own voice out, getting your voice heard."
Hidden treasure: Normally, very few people see graffiti before it's painted over, and a similar issue arose for one of the two murals created for the film. "For 'Doctor Parnassus,' I did what I consider probably one of the best pieces I've ever done," he said. "It was huge. It was like 22 feet high by 14 feet long. It was of my graffiti name. I put some characters around the outside of it -- mad scientists and crazy old men -- so it would stick within the theme of the movie. I was really excited for everyone to see it on the big screen. And they put a caravan in front of it, so you never saw it in the film."
Monkey business: "The other piece is in a scene between Dr. Parnassus and Mr. Nick, and it's right behind them," he said. "I had the V-O-I-C all in quite simple block letters and then I had this giant monkey face at the end, and I put the E-O-N-E in its teeth. I like putting letters in teeth now. It's my new thing. And it was this giant purple monkey, but he's lifting his eyebrow up, giving a strange look from the back through to the audience. My dad's films tend to be wild and crazy. And what's wild and crazy? A monkey's wild and crazy. They jump around the place and screech and throw bananas at each other."
Paint job: Since Harry Gilliam goes through nearly a dozen $25 cans of paint per mural, graffiti is an expensive habit. "I do a lot of details, and I like a lot of color in my work as well," he said. "Some of the cans can get really expensive. Spray paint is getting so advanced now. They've got all sorts of different caps and pressure cans and everything, so that you can do such detailed work with spray paint. It's like using a tiny little paintbrush. And the liquids that they use for the colors blend so nicely. . . . A good thing about the film is that they just said, 'Go to the shop and buy what you need.' I bought double what I needed just so I could keep a few for myself."
No more Mr. Night Guy: Painting with permission was new. "We shot on location down by the South Bank in central London," he said. "They allowed me to graffiti the walls. The police did turn up, and . . . one of the production team had to come down and be like, 'No, it's fine,' and show them pieces of paper. But it was quite nice having the chance to do this during the day rather than at night with our big torches or floodlights. I could take my time. I could stop, have a sandwich and a drink, then continue on for a little bit."