November 7th we had the honor to have an international crew of street artist collaborating to create the legendary CFYE wall. Among this crew was the amazing Indigo from Vancouver. It was a joy just to see her paint and she left quite an impression on us. Her calm and relaxed attitude (or maybe just compared to the rest of the crew, you know who you are!) which, in combination with her artwork, makes you realize that still waters run deep. Her stencilling has only just begun and she is already well on her way to become one of the great. But she's not limited to stencil art..or anything for that matters. She's a dancer, writer, photographer, poet and more. In other words, a full-time-multi-talent!
"For a long time I always said I didn't want or need to have to choose but trying to do everything made me insane and the quality of everything I was doing was suffering."
So it's hasn't been long since you've started out as a full-time artist right? How has that life been treating you?
It feels really good to have more daytime hours to commit to my artwork, but I don't really have any more free time than before, in fact I think I have less...I just fill it with art. Life has been good. I have done two shows with Ayden Gallery since coming home to Vancouver, and am always busy with commissions. I am looking forward to a very busy 2010...just trying to balance time spent on commissioned work with making art that is just for me, and a balance between work for the gallery and work for the street. I need to get up more often.
"Sometimes there is a specific image in my mind that I want to capture, sometimes just a mood, sometimes a statement I want to make"
What is the process you go through, from first idea/thought 'till actual work?
Sometimes there is a specific image in my mind that I want to capture, sometimes just a mood, sometimes a statement I want to make. Sometimes I use pictures that I've taken myself, mostly I work with other photographers to get the right image. If I have more time for a particular project - which isn't often - I will collaborate with a photographer, possibly bring in other contributors, to do a photo shoot tailor-made for what I need.
I print each onto a transparency and put it on an overhead projector. Hand trace all my layers onto duralar and cut with a blade. Then test sprays, then any last adjustments, then I'm ready to paint. Color/background/support selection sometimes happens at the beginning, sometimes at the end.
Could you tell us a bit about Vancouver and the area's you reside in?
Vancouver is rad. There are some really wonderful, creative, motivated people here and I am lucky to count many of them as my friends. And it's so beautiful, especially in the summer. As I write this, it's been raining nonstop for far too long and summer seems very far away.
Everyone here is just trying to get by, like anyone else. They just wear their problems out in the open more so than most of us.
I live in hipsterville. Lots of coffeeshops and boutiques and things of that nature....but I'm not home a whole lot. I have a shared studio space in the Downtown East Side, and I'm there more often than not. It has no heat, and one resident rat whose name is either George or Tony depending on who you talk to. The DTES has a huge amount of artists living and working there, and also a really high percentage of homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness and poverty. It is sometimes a sad and crazy place to be but once you spend time here on a regular basis you get to know the people and it feels significantly less crazy. Everyone here is just trying to get by, like anyone else. They just wear their problems out in the open more so than most of us.
In the interview in 'we were here' you said you'd like to move out of Vancouver to a place where the stencil scene is more vibrant. Which place would that be and do you still feel like that?
I have been wanting to move out of Vancouver off and on for years. I keep saying that I'm leaving for good - and then I go on a trip for a while and when I get back I feel refreshed and I like it here again. I figure I'll be around for a while yet, at least another year. But yeah, eventually I'll go someplace else. Maybe New York, or London, or San Francisco. I'm not sure yet.
"I just feel weird if I'm not working on something, or multiple things. I feel weird if I'm not creating."
It seems like your creative energy is coming out in all kind of forms: writing, photographing, dancing, fashion and being a full-time (street) artist (anything else we don't know about?). Where do you think all that energy comes from?
I think I'm slowly whittling down my creative activities. I have been for a while now. For a long time I always said I didn't want or need to have to choose but trying to do everything made me insane and the quality of everything I was doing was suffering. The art that I am making and the projects that I have coming up are demanding my full attention, and even more so looking forward. That being said, while art comes first there are always other things happening on the peripheries of that. I am writing a lot of poetry lately, and writing for a couple of art/fashion/design mags, and I am of course always taking lots of pictures.
I don't know where the energy comes from. I am a workaholic and a perfectionist and am a bit OCD. I just feel weird if I'm not working on something, or multiple things. I feel weird if I'm not creating.
What sparked your interest in photography?
I've always liked taking pictures. My first camera was a disposable camera at age 7, I think. Most of the pictures I took were blurry trees and cats and things from around my parents house. I got my first digital camera a few years ago and the rest is history. I like taking pictures of urban space, mostly detail shots. I like the instant gratification that I get from photography, especially with digital. In terms of creating an interesting image, composing and using natural light and color and texture...being able to capture that moment, see something in a new light, or take an object out of context so that others can see it in a new way...that's what interests me. I am currently shooting with a Canon G10. Also just getting into using a Holga, really like how it works. The pictures make me look like I know what I'm doing
"I'm interested in the evolution of urban space and how the artwork interacts with its environment"
I take a lot of pictures of street art and graffiti. I like to document these kinds of things as I know that nothing lasts forever...catch it before it's gone..I'm interested in the evolution of urban space and how the artwork interacts with its environment...layers of paint and paper and marker tags and more paint and paper etc etc...how all these layers get built up and torn away and built up again...
How does your environment react to you taking a camera everywhere?
Well, I do have to be careful wandering down alleys or wandering round strange cities on my own with a camera. I don't want it to get stolen. That kinda situation is where a small digicam becomes really practical, I can just hide it in my pocket.
And now it's 2010 already, any good intentions?
This year feels like it's going to be big. I really want to stay focused, keep working as much as I possibly can, keep pushing myself to make each piece better than the last. I want to travel and paint - to revisit many of the places I've already been, and some new ones as well. I want to get up more often, at home and while traveling. And I want to find ways of getting more artists to come to Vancouver and make my city more colorful.
In your stencil art portfolio we see a lot of multi-layered grayscale works, preferably large as well. How did you develop this style and where does this love for grayscale come from?
Well like pretty much everyone I started with single layers and small pieces. But I like as much detail as possible, and a soft gradient. So getting into multilayers was just a natural progression. I started out as an artist by drawing and painting with acrylics, ever since I can remember...and getting the shading right was always important for me. It's actually a lot harder for me now to make a one or two layer stencil...deciding which details to keep and which to leave out.
As for the scale of my work...well, I was making small pieces up until last summer....mostly either making pasteups or on canvas. Then I got a projector, and was able to make bigger pieces, and start painting murals. The first big wall I painted was in Brooklyn in September at MBP Urban Arts Festival, a collab with Mania. Since then, bigger just feels better. Plus it's really difficult to get the same amount of detail in a small-scale piece.
I like greyscale because it lends itself well to the melancholy mood of most of my work. Plus, it's a comfort thing - I know the Montana Gold greyscale really well, know which shades I will need to use to get the effect I'm looking for, and am almost always able to find all the greys I need at the graff shop in town. But at some point soon I think that I should try something new. Maybe do a piece all in color.
"There is always room for improvement. Every time I make a new piece I have a new challenge to overcome"
Your stencils always seem to be spot on. Do you think you can still learn and evolve much with stencil art?
Yes, for sure! I am always my own worst critic. There is always room for improvement. Every time I make a new piece I have a new challenge to overcome, and in the process I learn something new, adjust my methods a bit, whether that is in design, cutting, painting or all three. I think I've progressed a lot in the past 6 months from traveling and working with other artists. Everyone has a different way of doing things and I try to soak up everything there is to learn wherever I go. As for evolution, I would like to start incorporating more freehand elements into my work. I am currently in the process of working out how I can best create stenciled portraits that are larger than life size, in preparation for a couple of large-scale mural projects this spring and summer. It's always a process of trial and error, but I'm getting there.
In 2009 we've seen you collaborate with quite a lot of artists, are there any collaborations we can look forward to in 2010?
This spring I will be doing the 2nd installation of the Paint Your Faith Project (www.paintyourfaith.ca), a collaborative wall with Faith47, Titifreak and Peeta. Am excited to be painting such a big wall at home with a group of really amazing international artists. And in July I will be working with Jef Aerosol for a show in Vancouver. A few other things in the works too, still under wraps.