Shop Local: Hackney ad-man becomes artist in 'most mental year in history'

David Buonaguidi, also known as Real Hackney Dave, holds up one of his prints which reads: "Dogs don't do discos."

David Buonaguidi, also known as Real Hackney Dave, holds up one of his prints which reads: "Dogs don't do discos." - Credit: David Buonaguidi

A former Hackney ad-man is now making a living out of finding new uses for "beautiful, old things" as an artist. 

David Buonaguidi, also known as Real Hackney Dave, left his job in advertising after 35 years in the industry and has been using his decades of experience in marketing to help sell his art and do a job he loves. 

He rekindled a past passion for screen printing a few years ago after taking a course at the Print Club, a Dalston studio and online shop offering limited-edition prints, and after studying it briefly at university in the 1980s. 

Dave enjoys creating and selling his works, which often involve printing bold and colourful messages onto flat vintage items like maps, love letters and photographs. 

He explained: "I like to find things, anything that is flat enough to print on.

"I just love the second-hand stuff more than new stuff. 

"There’s something about the fact that you're looking after it for the next person that’s coming along."

Real Hackney Dave's pink on yellow print "Meanwhile In Hackney" .

Real Hackney Dave's print "Meanwhile In Hackney" . - Credit: David Buonaguidi

Dave continued: "In a way, the reason I got into the maps is just because they are such beautiful things and there was a moment in time when they went from being really useful to being completely obsolete, which is when smartphones and Google Maps turned up - no more struggling to hold a big paper map on the bonnet of your car trying to work out where you need to go.  

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"There's something about that slightly analogue life that I kind of miss a little bit and I think a lot of people [do too]."

Dave believes art can "engage people in a more emotive way" and what people "stick on the wall" should "mean something".

"You are here" text printed on an old map.

Hackney Dave says he enjoys printing on unconventional mediums such as old maps, love letters and photographs. - Credit: David Buonaguidi

He also uses his advertising training to enhance the way his art connects with people.

The long-time Hackney resident left advertising and his "own little agencies" in January at the age of 50.

"It [advertising] is such a huge corporate bum-fight," Dave said.

 "Where you’ve got so many composite people involved in the decision-making process, you boil everything down to the lowest common denominator of ideas and, after a while, you become institutionalised and think this is what I do, this is what I have to do, this is my business – you settle down."

A red piece of paper with the words Lulu, Twinkle, Tulip, Myfanwy and Food printed in white.

Real Hackney Dave print. - Credit: David Buonaguidi

The Shacklewell Lane resident said the Print Club screenprinting course was "like an epiphany".

He told the Gazette: "I could come up with an idea in the morning.

"Come, print it and I could be selling it before lunch. In advertising, that process would take six months and would take 60 people and hundreds of millions of pounds.

"So I applied the same process and logic that I would do in creating ads but effectively they are ads for me ---so that’s why I use Instagram as my channel and where I sell my stuff, as well as in galleries and on my website."

A dark red and white print.

Dave tried screenprinting at university in the early 1980s but only recently took it back up after taking a course at Dalston's Print Club. - Credit: David Buonaguidi

Dave says the pandemic has affected where he can sell his art, with galleries closed and art fairs cancelled, but not his work, which he does largely alone in his studio.

"It just means you kind of have to re-address everything but it’s the same for everybody - you can't grumble too much."

But Dave says he has been using the "power of social media" to get his work out there and thinks more artists should do the same. 

"A lot of artists operate on their own and, as a result, when some of those avenues [to sell their work] close down and they are not comfortable about using social media, it has a massive effect on them."

The text "Any Idea Where We Are Yet" on a Hackney wall.

Dave has also got involved in doing big, public displays of art which can be found on walls around the borough. - Credit: David Buonaguidi

He says artists need to be resilient and adaptable,  and adds that despite committing himself to a life as an artist in "possibly the most mental year in all history", people are still buying his work in between "fighting over bog paper and hoarding food".

"So you just got to try and get used to it. If these are the new rules, how do I bend them or how do I flex them or how do I make the most of the opportunities that I can find within them?"

During the first lockdown in March, Dave gave away 900 prints to anyone who sent him an envelope, telling people to "keep your chin up". 

His print entitled Meanwhile in Hackney was inspired by a 1970s film called Somewhere in Hackney, which was also made to give people hope.

Dave said: "There's something about that meanwhile. We just keep going, we find a way, people will be thriving in this, which is really interesting."

Outdoor print by Real Hackney Dave which reads: "Nancy, your dog has fleas."

Another outdoor print by Real Hackney Dave which reads: "Nancy, your dog has fleas." - Credit: David Buonaguidi

Follow @realhackneydave on Instagram or visit his website at

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