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Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Thursday, 25 March 2010
Colwyn Bay's Dime One shows respectable art of graffiti

Robo Rock, by graffiti artist Andy Birch, photo be Warpig
Dime One's exhibition will be on at Venue Cymru until the end of April

Thanks to Banksy, graffiti has become a respectable artform, as an exhibition now open in Llandudno demonstrates.

The artist is Dime One, aka Andy Birch from Old Colwyn, and his show is on at Venue Cymru.

From his first blast of a spray can, he knew he was doing it for art's sake rather than mindless tagging.

"Graffiti in the '80s was very much them and us," said Andy. "Everyone in Colwyn Bay, Mochdre and Llandudno had tags at that time and the place was a mess.

"But I'd always been into drawing and it was my way of not only expressing myself, but also getting an identity when I was at school. It allowed me to be a little bit more cool than I am in real life!"

Taking his inspiration from the lettering on a chocolate bar, he adopted the tag Dime One and friends started asking him to paint their bedroom walls or design T-shirts.

If you'd have said I would be making a living out of my graffiti art or exhibiting it, I wouldn't have believed you
Andy Birch, alias Dime One

He didn't think he could make a career out of it though, so went in to painting and decorating.

"Then four years ago, I started getting commissions and being asked to do workshops," said Andy. "If you'd have said then that I would be making a living out of my graffiti art or exhibiting it, I wouldn't have believed you!"

He's making good use of the large space available at Venue Cymru to show off his work indoors.

"I've tried to do a very mixed bag of stuff with this exhibition," he explained.

"I do very traditional New York-style graffiti art in the letter form. But I've also added characters and portraits to my pieces.

"There are 15 works, some of which are photos taken by my friend, known as War Pig, who follows me around taking urban pictures of my work."

So many people stopped to say, 'I like what you're doing there'. It's great.
Andy Birch

Most of Andy's work is done with the spray can, which he still finds a good way of getting physically involved in his art and channelling his emotions. And he enjoys encouraging young people to do the same in his graffiti workshops.

"Everything always begins on paper," he said. "I show how I structure letters, taking elements of how signwriters work.

"Then I show them other little tricks of the trade, like adding 3D onto letters, looking at light perspective and adding characters."

With the help of pupils from Ysgol Bryn Elian, he's hoping to leave a permanent mark on Venue Cymru. They've already gone to work on an outdoor wall near the stage door, and are turning their attention to four large panels on the theme of daffodils, to be displayed in the foyer.

With more public spaces like this available in the community for would-be graffiti artists, Andy uses his workshops to help young people realise that random tagging isn't a clever idea.

"I say, anyone broken the law? Written on a book or a desk? And everyone puts their hands up, including me.

Muppet Show

"We've all done it, but what are the consequences if you get caught? If it's serious, the main thing you can get is a criminal record which doesn't go away after you're 16."

But so long as the graffiti is kept to designated areas, Andy finds it's appreciated by most people, young and old.

"I don't get that many negative comments anymore," he said.

"I've got a little spot in Old Colwyn, just across from a nursery. The last thing we did there was a painting of the Muppet Show, and so many people stopped to say, 'I like what you're doing there'. It's great."

View some of Dime One's work.

In pictures: Dime One graffiti art
25 Mar 10 |  Arts & Culture
Graffiti artists' gallery opens
27 Feb 10 |  South east
Should Banksy artwork be saved?
17 Feb 10 |  Arts & Culture

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