Posted at Tuesday 19-05-2015

Can you give us some background on yourself?

I live in Mechelen (BE) and started with graffiti in the 5th grade, when I started studying at Sint-Lucas Brussels.

After a lot of nagging at home my mom finally allowed me to go from a regular school to art school in the 4th grade. I graduated as a graphic designer, not as a painter.

After a break of about 10 years I picked up graffiti painting in 2009. Before 2009 I did follow painting classes, where I learned to work with colour and composition.



What inspires you most?


There isn’t such a thing that inspires me THE most. There is a lot that inspires me: artists that are a lot better than me for example.

I find it really stimulating when I see work done by others that makes me think “shit, that is so damn cool, I really need to raise the level a few (or many more) notches.”

It is always good to realize that a lot of artists make really strong work. That keeps me sharp and makes me push my own boundaries.

Apart from other street artists, illustration and photography, also traditional paintings inspire me a lot.


Photo­realism is one of the hardest techniques to learn. True? 

How long did it take you to prefect your photorealistic techniques?


I think photorealism is one of the easiest techniques to learn, because it is pure technical. You need to be able to observe, to see if the proportions are right. You also need to have a good knowledge about anatomy and colour use, so you know what you are painting.

I’m still changing and improving my technique. I got my first insights when I was spray painting a portrait. I suddenly understood how the colours and composition worked.

Photorealism is also about being patient and putting a lot of time into your work. Me saying that it is the easiest technique might be a bit exaggerated, but in reality it is like an ancient way of painting: building up layers from dark to light.


When you’re doing the photorealism, are you working straight off a photo or is it rather imagination only?


I always work off a photo. It is almost impossible to work pure from imagination when doing photorealism.

There might be a few insane artists that can do it, but not me. I use my imagination most when I’m designing.


How important do you think is a sense of history and knowledge about different styles? 

Have you tried out different styles before arriving at your signature style? 


I believe that looking at different pieces of art and that testing your ideas is crucial to discover your own visual language. When I used to be a kid, I always wanted to become a cartoonist. But after a while I became more interested in realistic drawings. My favourite course at art school was drawing life models as well. So people, anatomy and realism are really the things I'm drawn to instinctively.

At the moment I have the technique of painting realistic with spray cans quite under control, so I feel ready to go to a new level: that of hyperrealism. I'm still experimenting; also on canvas there is a lot I still want to try out.


You've got all kinds of things going on in your work: underwater scenes, animals, and faces, these themes often combined. Where are those ideas coming from? Does the wall itself or its location play a role in what you chose to paint?


The underwater theme came quite natural, because it creates a 3-dimensional space and the wall and the image can become a whole. I do find that art that interacts with the location are the most powerful works. 



What does the near future hold for you?


I just finished a big wall in Hasselt (BE) where I was totally free to do what I want. I'm also doing a lot of nice commissioned walls in the near future and will be part of an exhibition in Milan together with Steve Locatelli.

This summer I will also paint a nice wall for Farm Prod in Brussels. And then there is still some possible jobs abroad, in Russia, Spain, Italy, but it is too soon to talk about those.




All images ©Smates



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