Giant sharks, dogs, divers, and modern realism on a huge scale. Smates is one of those street artists who goes BIG with his ideas. We caught up with SMATES to talk about his large scale street pieces around the world. From Mechelen, Belgium to further afield his art has caught the passer-by, we’re delighted to find out more…. words and street pieces follow below
Is Mechelen known for its street art?
It’s not especially known but we have each year a person who becomes the city artist. This can be a writer, musician…this year it is Gijs Vanhee a street artist. 🙂
He has a project that has10 walls in the city which will all be painted by local, national and international artists. My painting of the underwater dog is my wall in this project.
What ‘drew’ you to paint outdoors? (cough)
It is just a normal thing to do when you start with out with graffiti. Didn’t really think too much about it, I just wanted to do it.
Did you start with photo-realism and characters or as a writer?
I started at the age of 17 and I only drew characters. I stopped around my 20th birthday with practising graffiti. And at the age of 32 I started up again. In the beginning only with pieces and then I did one character, leading on to one more, and one more, and one more….
Describe your art in 5 words?
Is there anything or anyone you really want to paint that you haven’t yet?
Of course there is, there is still a lot I want to paint but most of all really it’s trying to find big walls and getting to travel around the world to do that.
What influences your creative process now?
I’m still searching for my personal angel. And when I see really cool walls of others that keeps me with my feet on the ground and pushing myself to do better.
What would you say are your artistic influences?
It’s rather classical art.
A number of your pieces are underwater or have a water flow about
them. Is this a running theme in your work?
Not really. It’s just coincidence. And I have to be careful now that it doesn’t become a gimmick. It is like my to shark walls. Some people think I only paint sharks. But I only have done 2 walls with a shark theme.
That’s one fantastic piece with the dog in Moscow, do you prefer painting animals or humans?
The dog is in my city Mechelen. In Moscow I did a big face with divers swimming in his mouth.
And I like them both. I like drawing things that are alive. I’m not really fond of painting nature and stuff.
So everything that has eyes I like to do. 🙂
How do you find your subjects?
Sometimes I have a concept in my head before I start designing, and quite often in the search for images I see other things that give other/better ideas. It’s a natural process.
Who’s your favourite artist at the moment?
Do you have any big projects coming up?
Yes a couple, but all of them are commissions. I paint for a living so I have to pay my bills and therefore do a lot of commissioned jobs. But once I have made enough money, I’ll take a break for 2 weeks and paint a big wall with one of own designs. I like to try some new ideas/techniques.
What’s the piece or project you most enjoyed this year?
The big shark that comes out of the wall at the Day One festival because it was the first time I did such a big character. And it was also the first time I worked that high (38m), I really loved it.
What does the future hold for Smates?
I hope a lot of big walls and projects in other countries.