Newham bus driver creates masterpieces in dirt

Next time you leave a dirty car parked on the street, you may come back to find it has been turned into a masterpiece.

Bus driver Robert Burden is literally creating art on the streets of London by drawing intricately detailed portraits and landscapes on the gathered dirt and dust he finds on parked vehicles.

To make sure that he doesn’t scratch the paintwork on the cars, Robert, from Upton Park, uses a pencil wrapped in tissue to create his art works.

Robert says that his creations are an expression of what he sees working and living in London but some of the portraits are of dramatic scenes and musicians that he admires.

Describing his work, Robert, 38, said: “It’s making art out of dirt, something that is usually seen as bad.

“Creating these pictures is an amazing thing to do and people are often truly moved.

“I did it because it’s temporary as well because life’s temporary. We live in such a throw-away society.

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“It’s also turning something that people think of as dirty into something beautiful.”

Drivers have been stunned to return to their cars to find them bearing portraits of legendary actors and movie stars like James Dean, Clint Eastwood, Queen and Bob Dylan, as well as cityscapes of London and political messages such as “Don’t destroy the world” and Colonel Sanders next to the message “Kentucky Fried Human”.

Robert was born in Devon, Exeter, before moving away to Birmingham to study for a degree in Photographic Visual Communication at the University of Central England in 1999.

After graduating with a 2:1, Robert moved to Newham with dreams of becoming a successful photographer or visual artist.

He was also following his passion for genealogy and wanted to discover more about his family’s history when they lived in London.

Robert, who has lived in Victoria Avenue for around 10 years now, said: “When I first came up to London, I couldn’t get a job because my degree was in photography so I started working for a courier place in Deptford and when I was just waiting around, I’d sort of kneel down and draw in the dirt.”

The hours of boredom spent playing with dirt meant that Robert refined his art to an impressive level of skill and detail.

However, financial constraints meant that Robert became a bus driver in east London and he now earns a living on route 104 from Manor Park to Stratford and route 238 from Barking to Stratford.

Robert said: “I’ve always wanted to paint and I would like to do more stuff like that but I just don’t have the time.”

But Robert continues to hire out his photography skills and sell his art online and hopes to one day have an exhibition of his work.

A full photographic collection of his exploits are available to view on his website www.robertburden.co.uk.