Meet the artist behind The Queen's Platinum Jubilee mural in St Albans

The artist, wearing a black t-shirt and jeans, stood in front of the painting.

Ant Steel is a custom spray can artist, who was commissioned for the piece. - Credit: Pearce Bates - Archant 2022

The people of St Albans have been fascinated by a new mural of the Queen which has appeared in Christopher Place.

The spray painting has been created prior to Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee celebrations, which take place between June 2 and June 5.

The artist behind the portrait, Ant Steel, is a 3D animator by trade, but has a passion for art and spray painting. 

Mr Steel also created the 'Stand with Ukraine' mural near Bar Meze, on Adelaide Street.

Following the jubilee painting's completion, Ant spoke to the Herts Advertiser about his background and the reaction from local people to his work.

The Jubilee mural:

Ant explained how the Jubilee mural was commissioned by Christopher Place, the shopping location where the piece is located.

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He had held conversations with the centre, before deciding that an image of a young Queen Elizabeth II on the day of her coronation would be most appropriate.

Asked whether he considers himself a royalist, the artist replied: "I don't really know what being a royalist entails.

"I do consider myself a supporter of the Queen, of the Royal Family and everything else involved."

Reaction from locals:

Since its creation, the painting of Queen Elizabeth II, located in Christopher Place, has taken the city by storm.

Even whilst Mr Steel was speaking, a passer-by stopped to take pictures of the artwork and compliment him on the piece.

Speaking of his joy at hearing the positive comments that the piece has received, Ant said: "The comments have been so positive.  

"That’s not why I paint (to receive good comments), but being in a little dark room (working) with absolutely no feedback is very detrimental as far as an artist is concerned. 

"So, when people do say ‘wow, that looks great!’ that just feeds my desire to paint more and do more. 

"That’s so important from an artist’s point of view. 

"The comments have just been overwhelming, they’ve been so nice. 

"People have been wanting to take pictures with me, with the painting. 

"[They’ve been] from all ages, from kids to grannies to everybody, everybody’s loving it. 

"One chap passed me in the park on Saturday (May 14), he said ‘oh thanks for painting the Queen, thanks for that! You’ve made St Albans a beautiful place’. 

"I mean, St Albans is already a beautiful place - we know that - but for him to say that, is just so great for me. 

"It makes me feel like I’m on the right track. 

"And he meant it genuinely, there was nobody else around, he wasn’t trying to impress anybody, he didn’t have to say that. 

"He meant it genuinely, from his heart, and I think that’s really cool!"

Starting out:

Mr Steel began creating large pieces of art, when his employment as a 3D animator wasn't giving him the same enjoyment as creating physical pieces of art.

He said: "I’ve always done art, when I was young I always did art.  

"I studied graphic design, which was air brush and magic markers and stuff. 

"Then I got into animation, well, firstly I did outdoor advertising which was billboards. 

"I’d do small mock ups and the sign writers would do big billboards. 

The painting, in black and white, where the crown sits atop the Queen's head.

The entire piece was spray painted by Ant Steel, once he had decided that an image of the Queen from her coronation would be best. - Credit: Pearce Bates - Archant 2022

"I think that in my past has made me want to do that myself, because I always used to look at these guys doing these big billboards and I’d do my small art and be like ‘Wow! How did you do that?’. 

"Then my path went into animation. 

"I did 3D animation, TV commercials and that. 

"I just got to the point where I thought ‘computers are cool, I’ve still got an awesome computer at home, I’ve got all of my software but I miss that tactile art feeling’. 

"I want to get my hands dirty, I want to get paint on my clothes, I want to be able to make mistakes and not just press control-Z!  

"I want to actually think ‘no, I’ve got to fix that’.  

"So, getting back into painting, getting back into art, was a big thing for me.  

"I really wanted to do that, I just chose spray painting because I’ve always had a big interest in it."

3D Animation:

Asked whether he had worked on any commercials that people might recognise, Ant said: "Yeah, so probably the Energizer battery, the little ‘never say die’ guy that does the press ups.  

"I animated him on a number of commercials. 

"KFC’s ‘Chicky’, I had little Chicky going round TV commercials skateboarding and doing backflips. 

"So, I do a lot of characters, but there’s probably hundreds of adverts out there with Samsung mobile phones on that I’ve animated. 

"That’s just a phone spinning around, but the characters; the Chicky character and the Energizer battery, I loved it. 

"That’s what drove me forward to animation, you do some jobs where ‘this is my job’ and others where ‘this is my passion’.  

"I had jobs that were just ‘the job’, people wanting to animate their logo, great! 

"That’s nice, but wasn’t really passion. 

"Whereas, when the little character comes along, then that becomes a passionate thing."

Painting murals:

The transition from 3D animation to mural painting might not be an obvious one, but is one that has an interesting story behind it for the St Albans-based artist.

Ant explained: "One of the first jobs I did was in California actually, that actually was the first job I did. 

"I work for a microphone company, the first British microphone company, I help do all their branding and 3D animation. 

"Every year they went to California to do this big music show and I’d typically design their stand for them in 3D. 

"They’d visualise that and then I’d do all the back panel artwork, which would then be printed out. 

"One year, we decided ‘instead of printing out artwork, why don’t you just go and draw it?’. 

"So, I went there to the show, and I drew on the wall during the entire show.  

"I drew a mural, with an elephant and Union Jacks and the Beatles crossing the back of a zebra, all kinds of crazy stuff!  

Full image of the painting, with the young Queen looking over her shoulder.

Mr Steel works as a 3D animator, but creating art is his passion. - Credit: Pearce Bates - Archant 2022

"I didn’t use spray cans because that was indoors, I just used markers and pens.  

"That was really the birth of me wanting to do street art, because the response from that was just phenomenal!  

"The Americans just love that stuff!  

"People in the beginning didn’t know what I was doing, the security all came because they were like ‘who’s this guy drawing on the stand?’.  

"Then, everybody kept on looping back because, over four or five days, they kept on coming back to see how far I’d got. 

"That stand for that year actually won the top five ‘best in show’, which was amazing because they’d been doing that for like fifteen years and they’d never got an award for it. 

"That was a big one, from there I painted in Shoreditch, I painted some offices in Shoreditch, did some canvases.  

"But, it’s been juggling between my 3D stuff and (the art), because I still do my 3D work. 

"I work for an Australian company and a UK company, and that actually pays my bills, the murals don’t pay my bills. 

"If it could, that would be fantastic!"

New projects:

With many having greatly appreciated his design, fans of Mr Steel's work will be eagerly awaiting news on his next project.

On this matter, Ant said: "I’ve got one really, really, really big project that I can’t tell you much about but I’m really excited about it. 

"It’s got to do with charity, it’s got to do with the NHS. 

"That will be national, involving the whole country.  

"So, if I manage to get that right it’ll be really cool! 

"It’s just a crazy idea that I had. 

"I haven’t actually got that seal of approval yet, so I don’t want to jinx it.  

"It is a really cool idea that would be so moving and so inspiring for so many people. 

"For me that’s my centre, I don’t know why I’m on this planet, I don’t know why any of us are on this planet or what our real purpose is.  

"If I’ve got some means of being able to do something that can make the world a better place, if I can do that, then that’s what I must do. 

"As cool as it was doing TV commercials, at the end of the day, nobody really wanted to watch TV commercials.  

"I’d tell my mates ‘oh I just did this’ and they would be like ‘oh, we don’t watch TV commercials, we skip that’. 

"So, if I’ve got something to offer this planet then, if I can offer that and it makes the world a better place, then that’s my reward."

Projects in St Albans:

Despite the news that Ant will be bringing an exciting new project to the country, the people of St Albans will be keeping an eye out for new pieces around their own local area, and if Ant gets his way they won't be disappointed. 

He added: "Specifically in St Albans, there are a number of sites that I’ve got my eye on, and I’m in negotiations with them. 

"I had positioned myself to spark this whole thing off a few years ago, but then obviously we all had to stay at home.  

"Now I feel like it can flourish, now that the ball’s rolling and people are maybe looking out for the next piece, that would be great!"