Monstariam [United States]

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When and how did you first become interested in street art/graffiti?

I first became interested in art when I was a little kid, I never thought I had any artistic abilities. The first thing I ever drew was a dragon Nintendo cover when I actually perfected it I loved it and started drawing. At the age of 13 is when I was hanging out with the skater kids and the older kids, and they would always say “we are gonna go tag some warehouse” and from there I would follow these guys and just spray paint and learned so many things from those kids and loved it. I always loved old school cartoons the black and white ones like Betty Boop, Hanna Barbara and Looney Toons and I loved horror movies so I always found a way to incorporate both of those things together. My mom never understood how I loved dark and bloody stuff yet listened to Frank Sinatra.

Which artist/s influenced you?

So many, I’m a history buff I love history books. I loved Sol Bass, he’s amazing, also Klimt, Hanna Barbara and many others. I also loved WW2 history the most, I was fascinated by serial killers and dictators like Hitler and Stalin and a lot of stuff like that, especially Russian history I loved getting into it. Funny part was that in my senior year of high school one of my teachers told me “Why don’t you use your skill, your amazing come to my art class.” I started getting into art and started drawing things. I remember when I was in art class because of the things I used to draw people used to tell me “Your stuff is so detailed yet so cartoony doesn’t make any sense.” Since I would draw something super realistic and would add the cartoons and things to it. I always research old artists, but then I would incorporate put cartoons with it. The thing is in college my teachers would get angry at me especially in art class, because we would draw the nude model and I would draw the models body perfectly, but then I would have Yogi Bears face or the face would be perfect and I would have Betty Boop’s body with the lingerie.

What style is your work?

I somehow connected my hand with my brain, in a way my hand works as a printer basically anything that pops in my head I can illustrate really quickly, because my teacher told me “You have the imagination in your head you just don’t know how to put it in a piece of paper.” So my style would be more of a doodle, quick doodles to be exact. I would always doodle and they started to develop even when I draw on walls they would start as doodles then I would develop these doodles and loved it. I was diagnosed with ADHD and could never focus in class so my teachers would see my books covered in doodles, even though it was history class, I would create a comic book of the whole thing. Stalin killing 500 people with a machine gun and stuff like that. It would explain the whole history class, like this is what happened, when Stalin met with Hitler and they tried to go into cahoots together then Hitler back stabs Stalin and his army goes in and they fail because its to cold and would draw a guy freezing and the method worked and I aced the class all the time so I was really good at creating those things. My major first was animation/cartooning and I loved it so much but one of my teachers grabbed me and told me there’s more money in Graphic Design but I loved animation/cartooning and still kept it part of me. My dad always told me to be myself and chill, not to be bad to people and always walk with a smile. Everything I do is from experience, every time I draw or doodle its based on something that happened, every time I create an event its based on a feeling I have. Monstariam literally launched because I got so much anger and got my heart ripped out so I used that energy harnessed it and something amazing came out, and I loved it. I don’t sleep and I’m a workaholic, but every idea I have I fill up in sketchbooks. Every week I’m done with a sketchbook, I draw nonstop and I believe if you really want to be the best you just have to work hard.

What do your pieces usually focus on?

Almost everything, but most of the time childhood memories especially when you bring the old cartoons like Bombo, Jungar, Grandizer and stuff like that.

Where is your work usually located?

Thank god I can say almost everywhere. The biggest problem is that I have a business side (how to market people) I’m a branding specialist and a concept developer. I come up with concepts and I figure out things and market myself. A lot of artist are facing problems in Kuwait because 1. They are unknown, and 2. Prices are insane. Sometimes when artists have shows and galleries the only people that buy from them are family members, there artwork prices are usually around 1000-2000KD its ridiculous. So what I did was make my artwork more affordable, my partners in the beginning where kind of freaking out a little because they were like “How much you want sell the A4 print for?”  I was like “10KD” so he was like “That’s below low dude, 10KD is nothing.” But I insisted that I wanted it 10KD and the A3 to be around 15KD and the A2 size 25KD.  After a little argument and negotiating he was like “Ok just go for it.”  The result of that is that it’s so affordable that in the beginning I’m unknown, but I wanted everybody to know my name. I don’t like to market myself even on instagram, at first you don’t see my face because I wanted people to see my work not who I am. Immediately people started picking them up, people are buying left and right, posters and t-shirts. As a result every house I go to someone has my print somewhere because its only 10KD. I also made a play on Nutfulla it came out of nowhere, I actually sow a girl wearing a Hijab eating Nutella so I was like that girl looks like a Fulla doll with Nutella on her face and immediately it was Nutfulla.

Do you find it difficult to do your work in the streets?

In the beginning yes, but then what happened was I found a way to work with it.  It was hard because people were like “Oh my god what is this guy doing” but I always stick to a rule no sex, no religion, no politics and always be on the safe side with that. So when you do that nobody can touch you. What happens when people see you work especially kids they come grab cans, so I locate spaces on the wall where kids could come help me. First was a wall by my house where I find space where they can just spray paint, so I would sit down and teach them and little by little people started understanding what’s happening on that wall, I started to work with that. Once cops came out of nowhere and one thing that scared me is that I had a big marker and shoved it in my pants, and it was a new thing for them since a lot of people draw profanity on the walls here in Kuwait or write bad words but when they start seeing amazing artwork on the wall it becomes a different case. The cop was looking at the piece and I was thinking “Man I cant get arrested again” I was scared and ready to run but the guy looks at me and was impressed and started giving me ideas for the piece and I asked the cop if he wanted to spray and he was like “No I don’t spray, I just tell you what to do” and he started to get involved with that thing and it was actually awesome. In Jahra once when I got arrested spray painting the cops there were amazing they were so nice, but they told me they loved the work but there is a crazy protest happening here that I don’t want to be associated with and its super dangerous and we didn’t realize how dangerous it was especially at night.

Have you ever had any problems with authority cause of your work?

A lot actually, I think in January one of the funniest things happened to me was that 2 cops came out of nowhere and knocked at my house because everybody in my neighborhood knows I’m the spray paint guy cause they always watch me outside spray painting. The thing was right in front of Sha’ab park somebody decided to draw male privates over the bus stop it was huge and detailed and the guy wrote a “The poet” in Arabic next to it and the funny thing is that the cops was like “Did you draw on Sha’ab bus stop?” and I was like “Let me show you my work and no.1 that guy lives 2 buildings down because I know he’s the one who write “the poet” all the time and he’s on the 3rd floor you can go bust him.” I actually told this guy so many times to stop doing that cause there is a girls school next to my house and he always likes to write and draw bad stuff on that walls all the time so I told him “Man you ruining it for everybody.”

Have you every collaborated with other artists?

A lot actually, I’ve collaborated with artists in the States, Kuwait even in Tunisia. The thing is some people do a lot of digital work and right now with the new T-shirt collection that’s coming out I’m collaborating with around 15 or 16 artists because I want Monstariam to get to the point were its not just graffiti but motivate and help people, I want it to be its own business to find and promote artists. The cool thing is I just created a team “The Spray Walkers” where I find projects for them because I get a lot of walls in Kuwait, and I’m booked till December so instead of me being selfish and take all the credit I’d rather give it to those guys like put their name up as much as possible. It’s good to build teams because what happens is collaborating in Kuwait is difficult there’s a lot of “ME ME ME” and everybody is afraid that this guy is going to take his job and fame. They don’t realize the pie is huge and everybody can benefit from it. When you build that trust and become a team leader you actually become that guide and they can actually look up and respect you at the same time and I never think about the money first. To me Monstariam is a hobby and will always stay a hobby. I’ve got my full time job which I do, but the reason I want to keep Monstariam as a hobby because I love it to much and it’s a form of escape from my daily activities so I would just jump into it and start creating things. The group I’m creating “Street Spray Soup” is something that I want it to be huge; I don’t mind having like 400 people underneath this group and let them share the pie. One of the projects I just got was the fire department on the 4th ring road so there’s going to be around 6 guys doing it. One of the options I give those artists is to design a t-shirt and I’ll print it, put their signature on it and promote them on the website. I want to promote these artists and I see how people work. I’ve been in the field for 18yrs and I’ve collaborated with artists in Kuwait, its funny though how quickly they want to take over the whole wall but I know tips and techniques where I can do one simple thing and I’ll always be the main focus. When it comes to a collaboration one person is the secondary and the other is the primary or one person does one side and the other does the other side and we meet in the middle, but most of the time you see people that want to take over the whole thing. One thing I love about working Joegraffi and Bufifty for example, is that they know how to collaborate; we usually sit down sketch out the idea and have fun with it. They are young artists, so they are always eager to learn. The last time when we had around 15-20 guys meeting and the egos were insane, but at the end of the night everybody is working with everybody like 2 people hated each other and now they work very well with each other and that to me makes me happy seeing artists collaborating and motivating each other to be better at what they do.

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