First off, what are we doing in this backyard shed?
MADSTEEZ: We’re in Bali and I'm painting a mural for the new Rip Curl store at Padang Padang beach. We’re using my friend’s shed as a studio.How much paint did you buy for this project?
About 50 cans of spray paint, a few gallons of house paint, and then probably about 25 tubes of acrylic paint.
Where do you live and how is working in this kind of environment on the road different than working in your studio at home?
I live in Brooklyn, New York, so I came (to Bali) on a 28-hour flight. Basically I paint all over the world, and I'm actually most comfortable in whatever environment I am in. It doesn't matter if I'm in my studio, in a makeshift shed in the middle of Bali, or if I'm hanging from a 50-story building. I love being, and painting, wherever I am at that moment.
Because canvases are too small. Every canvas I paint I feel super contrived and I can't fit in what I want to do, so the bigger the better for me. I like that power of painting on a large scale. That excites me as opposed to a little painting in somebody's bathroom. That is my worst fear, to be a painting in somebody's bathroom.
How did you get into big murals in public spaces? Is it hard to find a place to do that, especially when you were still an up and coming artist?
I definitely had a past in graffiti. It was a transition from creating art in the studio to painting stuff on the streets. Basically the evolution was painting walls, painting buildings, painting just larger scale projects. I don't know how I got into it to be honest. My career, or my art career, has been basically one snowball. One thing led to the next, which led to the next, and before you know it I'm building this creature that is basically Stephon (MADSTEEZ’s signature character).
What’s it like having only one eye that works?
A lot of people don't know that I'm blind in my left eye. It's not blind in the traditional sense that it's all black. The way your eye works is it's basically a perfect circle and light comes in and bounces a million different ways. I have an extra mound of tissue in the back of my eye that's basically a mountain that sticks out. So when light comes in it bounces in super crazy ways. How I see out of that eye is gradients, prisms. It's basically like a kaleidoscope. When you're turning a kaleidoscope, it refracts the light and results in all these different colors and patterns. That's basically how I see out of my left eye.
So you did a lot of street art before?
The word “street art” didn't exist back then. For me, painting illegally is the funnest thing possible. You have this crazy rush, you don't know if you're going to get caught, you don't know who's going to see you, so the excitement of that is kind of what it’s all about. I'd say it's like pulling into a giant barrel at Padang Padang. That's what makes it exciting. So the more prolific you get, the more you could potentially get caught. You dance around it in other countries and stuff. You have to tiptoe on a fine line.
Do you ever get nervous anymore when you get commissioned to do a huge piece in a public space?
I get nervous every time. People don't believe me when I tell them this, but I was the quarterback of my high school football team, and I used to throw up before every single game because I would get so nervous. To this day, before every piece, every project, you're like, super nervous. You don't know how it's going to come out. Even this project (Rip Curl Padang Padang store macro painting) I didn't even know what I was going to paint. So it's kind of the anxiety of what's going to happen. Who's going to be there? Every time I get super nervous, but once you put paint on the canvas, it just starts flowing.