Gulan is an artist and skater from London, England who draws, paints and illustrates. His multifaceted art features signature warping faces, highly imaginative situations, settings and scenarios, wrapped in bold lines embedded with accompanying bright and dark colours.
It’s fortunate as he has a bright career ahead of him and his creative approach not only shows in his artwork and skateboarding but in his words about it. His surreal art has been constantly drawing our attention for more than a while so when we finally matched his standout skate clips right back to the artist at hand, we just had to find out more about him and ask him some questions about his creations.
So after a short chat about his points of view on art, skateboarding and everything in-between we were stoked to discover that he was down to become a No Comply Network member.
Here’s Gulan’s member interview about how he first got his handle on skateboarding, finding art at a young age, how he sparks new ideas for his highly imaginative art, going to Mile End, hanging at Parlour Skate shop, why he’s stoked on No Complys, his thoughts on style and individuality , his hand drawn and digital art and skate animations, working at the Palace Skateboards Shop in London, his favourite Palace graphics, Jack Hamilton, Curtis Pearl, Jake Church, Chewy Cannon, Gulan’s world, his clothing, his recent projects, why he’s passionate about drawing designs for his fallen friends, his favourite tricks, spots, skaters, photos , videos, and music ever and more.
What’s your full name?
My full name is Ryan O’Toole.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Stratford, East London and I currently still live around East London.
When did you first see skateboarding?
I think I was 14 when I started skating when I was introduced to it by my friend that I hung out with in secondary school.
Cool. What was your first board?
I had a Hot Wheels skateboard when I was really young and then I got that proper old school half-skateboard half-scooter lift up thing when I was growing up but didn’t really progress with actual skateboarding until I went to secondary school.
It was when I got there that I saved up some money to get a £40 McGill board from Argos lol
Where did you learn to skate and who was in your crew?
I first learned how to skate in Seven Kings Park in Ilford but I’d say I really learnt how to skate at Mile End Skatepark.
At that park there was a very big, scene of young kids, who were the same age as me at the time, who were all really good at skating.
Then there was the Brazilian crew and the Yah Bru lot, the list could go on forever!
It just had such a diversity of people I would say they all became the crew I hung out with the most.
Cool. What was it like skating Mile End for the first time?
I first went to Mile End when I was aged 16 – 17. So what that was like back in 2013 -2014.
It was quite scary at first, going somewhere where you see skilled people skating and you are just trying to progress in your own space.
Back then the park had its own skate shop called Parlour which was always nice and friendly and welcomed you into the scene like you were family.
Gulan: Ollie Over The Bump, Mile End: Shot by Pon_Da_Corner
What was your favourite thing about going to Parlour?
To be honest, the Mile End Parlour shop became a second home to me. I grew up not having anywhere to go in the morning. So I’d be there in morning drying up the skate park, waiting for them to open get a coffee and have a skate.
What was your favourite Parlour skate video?
I mean they were all sick just because of the people in it but I would have to say probably the Parlour skate jam Etnies Casting Call just because I can remember them days so well, big shout out to Bryce who used to run Parlour he’s an absolute legend.
What kinds of art did you make as a kid?
Growing up skateboarding, probably introduced me back into art, because when I was younger, I was moving from house to house and so I didn’t really have time to make art.
Then, when I got a house in Maryland when I was 17-18, I was drawing in books and getting back into it again.
That’s when I came up with Gulan, which to this day has no meaning, in my eyes, maybe it was an alter ego I built for myself…
Interesting. I saw you made griptape art then, what do you like about making it?
I used to experiment by drawing with pens on griptape and everyone that I would see at the skate park had something different on their board or would spray something on it just so we could all identify which board was yours from everyone else’s boards.
That’s a good idea. So you draw some seriously intriguing otherworldly characters, how do you come up with them?
Everything’s in my head. I go through a lot of my days doing the endless pointless scrolling on Instagram, just like everyone else and when I see something that catches my eye or an idea that pops into my head I save the thought and write it down to be created another time.
What do you like about creating unique faces?
I use faces in my art when I graff. The ‘G’ in Gulan has normally got a face and it runs from the nose to the face and since I’ve done that I’ve always tried to draw faces.
Sick. You also used to work at the Palace shop. What’s your favourite Palace Skateboards skate edit and why?
I worked at the Palace Skateboards Shop for four years and met some great people and hefty skaters.
I’d have to say the old PWBC news videos that are on Vimeo that Lev Tanju made kill me with the computerized news talkers and the grime and outtakes.
I think one of them I like to watch a lot is called The Next Episode.
Do you make art full-time?
I am freelance at the moment. I used to work in construction before Palace and sometimes I’d get the odd side job painting and decorating but recently I’ve been getting by selling bits and bobs here and there for the last couple of years. I also recently had a warehouse job but due to Corona that went out the window.
How can people commission you for work?
Just direct message me on Gulan’s World on Instagram and let me know what you need done.
What’s been your favourite brand commission to do?
My favourite commission so far has been with Brixton’s Baddest Skate Shop, where I created the skatepark that looks like a beach.
When I first did the animated video I was quite proud of myself because at first I thought I wouldn’t go through all that process for a 3 second video but look at me now.
What is Gulan’s World?
Well I’m known as Gulan to everyone I know, mostly, other then my mum and brothers and some close friend.
I don’t know where the word came from, I ask God for answers, but yeah it’s the world I see and hopefully you see too.
Why is style important to you?
I think that everyone who skates, sings, writes, or paints all have their own style.
I think style is what tells us all apart from one human to the other.
You’ve known Curtis Pearl for a while, what’s your favourite thing about his skating?
My favourite thing about Curtis Pearl is that he loves going fast and he loves a good 360 spin.
Also when he skates his hand automatically turn into daggers like hes doing a crouching tiger.
Sick. What’s your favourite Curtis Pearl trick?
There’s too many to name but probably has to be the long Feeble Grind that he does in the Yardsale video, there is too much character in that clip.
What’s your favourite Jake Church trick?
Damn anything Jake Church does is nuts or just good.
His new stuff in the Yardsale Y2 video is absolutely insane,watching Jake skate is sick.
He pumps himself up like a caged animal.
I dig skaters who have a view of things as spots no one else will and that’s Jake.
Why do you use bold lines and oppositional colours?
I use bold thick lines from doing graffiti. Even when I design on my iPad, I do the colours first, and outlines last just like I was spraying on the wall.
Do you prefer hand drawn art over computer made work?
I used to sketch a lot, but nowadays except for painting everything’s done on my iPad.
When did you start to make digital art?
Probably only a couple years ago I bought this iPad in 2019 so since then I’ve been experimenting with different ways to make art.
What inspired you to make graffiti?
Skating lead me to seeing graffiti all the time.
I met some writers while just being there sometimes on a rainy day and spark a conversation, but Curtis Pearl was also painting and some others too and it just seemed like the right thing to do.
You’ve done a lot of pieces at Mile End skatepark. What’s been your favourite one to throw up there?
I wouldn’t say this is my favourite but other than all of the faces that I’ve done there and the endless Gulans, it would have to be all my RIP murals.
They are the ones that stay and if they get sprayed over they will just get painted back over again.
You will see Banjo, Wilson and Ignacio around Mile End.
They are three of our skater brothers that we lost last couple of years were locals, who used to go there a lot.
I’m sure you’ve heard of them but those pieces are the most valuable I’ve done at Mile End.
Cool. What’s your favourite Kyle Wilson trick?
Nollie Varial Heel. Just because I’ve seen him do more then 500 of them in front of me
What’s your favourite thing to skate at Mile End and why?
Probably will have to be the boobs, or the bumps, as some may call them, I like riding over them them consecutively, one after another, gathering speed from each one, gaining air from its kick and landing back in the transition, yeah that’s a great feeling.
Your mates with Jack Hamilton. How did you meet, what’s your favourite thing about his art and his skating?
I’ve known Jack Hamilton since going to Mile End in early 2014. He has a banging skate style, loves vert, loves bowl, and I’ve seen him do some crazy grabs.
His art, just watching him doodle, he’s a real character, just like the ones he draws.
We are actually working on a piece together at the moment which due to his passion to sketching is taking longer then presumed haha
Your work is very imaginative. How do you come up with new ideas?
Like I said earlier its all on this earth, the cosmos we are in. I’m just latching onto what we’ve all thought before but never seen or visually imagined before.
A lot of it is based on films and famous works of art. Why?
Picasso once said ‘good artists borrow, great artist steal’.
Even the likes of Shakespeare routinely stole plot lines or whole scenes from other writers so that’s how I design. I’m one big thief on that category.
What’s your favourite film and why?
Snatch or any of the other Guy Richie East End-based films.
What kind of music are you into right now?
Reggae, Garage, Grime, 80s, 70s, 90s, Classical, Pop, Funk, Soul, Jazz you name it!
Why do you like drawing clouds of smoke?
I’ve been smoking since 16 and I would say smokes have a big roll in my life.
I’ve been smoking at nights and coming up with designs and I’m sure if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have come up with half the stuff I have done.
What was your first animation?
My first animation was probably something too embarrassing to show in my eyes and if I don’t like it I wont show it or I have probably deleted it.
I don’t like to hold onto things but it would have to be probably the Brexit one I did of Boris
Your Chewy Cannon Fakie 5-0 animation is classic. How long did it take you to create it and how did you make it?
My animations roughly take about a month to do and that’s attacking it every other day for five hours but that’s rough because I could have some mad spree and get it done in a week. It all depends on how I’m feeling.
I tend to have designs and animations I’m working on all at once so if I lose focus I can finish off something else and get back to it.
Your recent work is very detailed. What sparked the move to be more intricate with your artwork?
I’d say it’s where I am now.
It’s just the progression of learning, coming up with new ideas and being comfortable making new designs.
But also I’d say if you saw my old work you would know it’s me but by doing more graphical photo style designs I take my signature mark to other types of art.
I just don’t want to not lose touch of myself and make the kinds of art that everyone wants.
How did you and Tom Delves decide to work together?
Tom Delves and I skated with each other at Mile End and I knew he did designs and when I saw him with his iPad it made me want to get one.
Later on me, Tom, my brother and another skater called Nuno Ramirez decided to move into a flat in Woodford and during that time we came up with a design together, by sending back and forth between each other and adding bits to it.
It started off with bus stop, the taxi and a guy doing a trick off the bus stop and after I send it back I added the whole building and it went on from there
You’ve done some paintings recently. What inspired you to push yourself into creating more classical art?
I hated painting in school, could never do it.
I started paint a couple years ago and got better and better finding different styles and paint I liked using.
Now I tend to like oil and acrylic with a scalpel. I tend to paint when my mind is either really free or really hectic.
I never have anything in mind beforehand. When I stare at a canvas I just go from there, its weird it’s the same for graffiti.
Your Mudchute Wallride Crook is sick, how did you come up with it?
Funny you ask that, I was there the other day with Curtis and I did it first try and no one saw haha but that time it took like eleven tries.
How I came up with it is…I dunno, it’s what ethos of my skateboarding is based on. Try it, see what happens who knows, might land it.
What’s your favourite Palace board graphics and why?
My ones in the future @palaceskateboards wag one fam!
Jokes aside, John Knight, big up, had the best design for Palace.
His one-line face drawings of Rory Milanes‘ pro board on the face of the Reebok shoe.
Also John, if you met the guy you’d respect it even more.
Your Brexit T-shirt is jokes. How did you come up with that and are you still selling any more products?
When I did the Brexit design, I knew I had a set of designs so I’d make about 40 tees and sell them and move onto the next design to be honest.
I want to sell more because if I had enough outletters I could make more of an income from selling.
Then there would be endless supply of gully tees but we live in a world of domination and control so I will struggle to get them out to you lot for now.
You’ve also produced a series of some cool trousers, shirts and shorts, hoodies and a line of masks. How can people get them?
I do have a website where you can see them but a simple direct message to me on Instagram is where I make the most sales of my stuff mainly.
You’ve got a sick No Comply. What’s your favourite thing about doing the trick?
I’ve been doing No Complys from early and I like the fact it’s not a flip trick and it’s a good way to switch my stance.
I also like the fact you have to pull back and use your knee, not many tricks involve that.
Who’s got your favourite No Comply?
Have to be Ray Barbee without question.
How can people commission you?
As I said, DM me on Instagram or even better maybe you could catch me at Mile End and we could have a nice chat and go from there.
I like your Southbank piece, what inspired you to make it?
I was going through skateparks whilst doing designs for Brixton and Mile End and Southbank.
I wasn’t ultimately that happy with that design but glad to hear you liked it though.
What’s your favourite trick you’ve seen go down at SB?
I haven’t been there enough to tell you but Casper Brooker‘s never seemed to let that place slide without landing an absolute banger.
Who is your favourite skate photographer and why?
Have to be man like Rafski.
He just has good energy about him he’s a humble, bless guy and only cares about getting that banging photo and makes sure you’re doing okay.
Sick. What’s your favourite skate spot in London?
My favourite skate spot will have to be Mile End skatepark, just because the people and the spots in that park are incredible.
What’s your favourite skate spot in the world?
Again you know it mate, MILE END
Do you have a favourite photo of all-time?
You ever seen the Irish men sitting on the scaffolding in New York?
Lunch Atop a Skyscraper: Shot by Charles C Ebbets
I would say that’s my favourite image of all time due to the men. They don’t value their life but only the work they put into the building.
What’s your favourite skate video ever?
To be honest I don’t watch skating. I just like skating.
It has always been my calming mechanism nothing better then getting on your board and pushing down the street when life gets you down.
A lot of skaters laugh at me an say you ain’t seen this part? And then maybe I’ll go watch it later on but I have to much to catch up on and in my eyes.
I don’t want to be pro or even sponsored I just love it and what it does for people that’s all. But if I had to pick though it be the Gou Myagi.
The video is on YouTube its called ‘Japanese skate billiard’
In it they are all dressed in different colours and skating, in the concept that they do, they are snooker balls, the music skating and editing is just perfect.
I think more skate videos should be like this.
Who’s your favourite skater?
Me, myself and I, just because I know what it took me to get this far but if it had to be someone, it would be a young Brazilian skater named Felipe Dal Cin.
Don’t try search for him on socials you won’t find him, maybe you might find some footage but you had to be there to see him skate to know what I’m on about.
Who has your favourite style on a board and why?
Yeah Chewy Cannon in my eyes has best style on a board, love how fast he goes and has such a floaty style, everything looks effortless.
Do you have any upcoming releases?
Nothing to announce right now but I always make sure there’s always something going on…
What do you think about The No Comply Network?
I think it’s great how with The No Comply Network you are socialising with skaters and letting others know about them and their artwork and skating and basically making our community bigger.
I think we need that, it’s great to see the different interviews and hear what’s happening in people’s heads. Keep it up.
Any shout outs Gulan?
Shoutout to all my fallen friends. Shoutout to my mum and shoutout to anyone who has ever supported me
Any last words?