Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m originally from Peru, and I’ve been doing graffiti for 20 years. I’ve always been an artist. I was very artistically nurtured and cultivated by my parents and teachers. I jumped around a bit between illustration, graphic design, etc. but I always loved painting graffiti which led to painting murals. Murals led to travelling, and it’s become my dream job.
Personally, I don’t like being cooped up in a studio. I like to be outside, meet people, paint murals, and be involved in communities. Partly because it’s healthy to do a variety of work and secondly to guide me as I go because the best critique I can get is from the audience itself. So if someone feels part of something I’m painting, or likes a colour, I like to keep that in mind as I go through the years. I also love larger scale murals because you get to kind of explore the scale and dimension a little further. There’s something freeing about being up on the scaffolding where no one can reach you.
It’s nice to communicate with people and meet different folks around town, but it’s cool to be in your own space, and digest everything that goes on. I grew up in Peru until I was 16 and my father was a dirt-bike racer so I used to travel constantly, and I got used to the nomadic lifestyle. A lot of drawing along the way, a lot of time to myself. So I had a lot of time to explore and develop my own style without being influenced too much by other artists and people, as much as by nature and experiences.
What are your 3 most precious art tools?
My gas mask, so I can have healthy lungs. I love these Muji pens that are 0.38. They’re really thin so I can get really detailed (and lose my eyesight). And my sketchbook is key. In terms of tools, I mostly use spray paint. I use Montana 94 specifically; most artists will have a preference. But I can’t be painting all the time, so a nice off-white sketchbook will keep me happy.
What’s your creative process like?
Creative process depends on what I’m creating. For woodworking, I usually follow a more structured, regimented process. When I paint a mural, it depends on who the client is. Sometimes I’ll have to present sketches and go through a whole process of revisions and come to an agreement and compromise certain things.
My preferred method is to be given full range, which I had all summer and it’s been amazing. People now know my style and they know what to expect. So I’ve been lucky to get certain contracts that didn’t need a sketch beforehand and I was able to just freestyle and freehand everything. I could plan a lot of what I do, but it’s not as enjoyable as to come up with things on the spot and change things as I go.
How did you create our menu artwork?
So Sydney (Caffe Demetre’s Marketing Specialist) approached me because she liked my style. I proposed to make the cover as an actual mural that I could paint on a wall and be photographed for print, which she liked so that worked out well. I’ve also been trained in digital and traditional art forms so I wanted to do some graphic design as well for the menu. I usually only get to do this one or two times a year so that was really fun. I don’t love working with computers (I have a bad back from skateboarding) and I don’t like staring at a screen for too long, so that was a challenge for me to complete all the drawings and headers, but it was really fun and the outcome was good.
What kind of work do you do for Urban Outfitters?
I do display art which is separate from visual merchandising. I deal with the aesthetic, and the environmental experience that we create for customers. It can basically be broken down into two shoppers. There’s the experiential shoppers and the bargain shoppers. I create art for the experiential shoppers who come to a place to be more involved in their surrounding and get inspired by what’s around them. We also do community events and workshops which are reinventing the whole concept of shopping.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
My favourite artists are Os Gemeos from Brazil but an artist I’d love to work with is Remed. He has a similar style to mine, and I’d say he’s a big inspiration to me. I would love to pick his brain and see where he comes from. I’ve read things about him and he seems to come from a similar place as me and do things the same way I like to so I’m sure I could learn a lot from him.
What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on recently?
This summer I had some amazing jobs. I painted the Facebook offices a couple of times, I did a job for the Raptors that was really interesting. I just came back from a couple of trips to Chicago and Arizona where I was painting murals free range which was really fun. The Arizona one was at a boutique hotel so I would be in the sun painting, and hop in the pool, and keep painting, getting served drinks all day, so it was a real treat. In Chicago I was invited for a residency to paint an old macaroni factory that was once the largest pasta producer in the world. Now it’s artist lofts, with around 100 rooms and so many creative people. They told me to paint wherever I want and whatever I want which was great. I painted the rooftop, the basement, the outside walls, the staircase. It really allowed me to explore my work in different spaces and come up with things as I go.
What advice would you give an aspiring artist?
To make art every single day. That’s advice that a teacher gave me which has been very useful because if you want to do something, you have to commit and have a lot of discipline. If you are not passionate about what you’re doing, there’s no point in doing it. Another thing would be to not be influenced by others too much. Now, with social media and the internet, it’s really easy to be bombarded by so many things which in the end will take away from what you’re able to do. Look inwardly more than out. I find meditation very helpful.
In another life, what career would you be pursuing?
Well my dream job is to paint murals around the world, and I already do that haha. If I could do anything else, I would build tree houses, but really nice tree houses. Like Scandinavian, or Japanese style.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
Everything that I’ve achieved up to here has not all been fully on my efforts – my family has played a huge role. My parents nurtured my art since I was a kid and I know how rare that is. Parents don’t want their kids to be artists, but my brother and I are both travelling artists. I have a very supportive wife too who is very hard working. We make a great team. She’s an entrepreneur with a Masters in Communication which translates into a lot of things. She’s worked on life stories of refugee youth, she’s worked in film and television, and she founded The Ward Museum, Toronto’s first immigration museum which she’s been working on for the past year. She’s very creative in her own ways, but she’ll say how my job is so glamorous and hers is dry but what she does is way more important. My work I find is elusive. It’s not clear in what it’s effects are and the results aren’t always immediate.