When I started doing art I had been working as an architectural designer for years, and I started doing art on the side. I felt like I needed to do art and express myself, in a way. At that time I was listening to a lot of Coltrane, and “A Love Supreme” always had an impact on me. I found out that Coltrane went through a spiritual awakening when he made that album and that’s sort of how I felt when I was making my art. So I took the Love Supreme and put a French twist to it.
Was that the name you were using when you first started tagging?
Back when I was a kid growing up in the Bronx I used to tag this name SIGMA, this Greek kid gave it to me. So that’s what I tagged.
What is the coolest thing about being a street artist in New York?
I think New York is sort of the central place where street art is happening. A lot of the famous artists who created the street art scene started in New York. It’s a place where a lot of people go to make a name for themselves. It’s a very inspirational place for me.
I heard that you were into skateboarding before you did graffiti. Is that true?
I was actually into graffiti before I started skateboarding. It was like early 80s birth of hip hop and I was surrounded by the culture. Not that many people skateboarded in the Bronx back then. You had some videos and Thrasher Magazine, but that’s about it.
As a little child my Mom would take me on the subway trains and inside I would see the blacked out sections where Keith Haring would have his chalk drawings. This was before he blew up so he was still doing stuff on the streets, and to me as a kid that had made an impact because he was doing something completely different from the other street artists. I always wondered ‘who did that?’, and back then you didn’t have the information channels like you do today. That was definitely one of my main influences. Jack Kirby and comic books in general, early skate artists like Pushead, Jim Phillips, those graphics were a big influence originally.
Did your family support your street art hobby?
My Mom and Dad passed away years ago so it was one of those things that I was an adult real early in life, and on my own. It was up to me what I wanted to do. Being a street artist is not something I thought I could make a career out of, it just sort of happened. I love to paint, I used to do graffiti, all my friends paint so it was a natural thing to just go out and paint with them.
I think there is more energy doing it in front of people. When you’re doing it in the streets, it’s sort of a solo thing where you are painting by yourself and then the viewer gets to see it afterwards. When you do a live painting you’re pulling the viewers into the process, so they sort of become part of the art process, where a lot of viewers of street art don’t get to be a part of that. There’s a connection that happens when you see art happening on the spot - people feel like they’re part of that art.
I love painting indoors and I love painting on the street, because now we’re doing legal walls. So now when we paint we invite a group of people and they watch us paint. It’s sort of the same energy.
What is the best place in the world you have painted?
You know it’s probably Miami during Art Basel week, only because all your friends are down there, a who’s who of street artists. Everybody’s sort of hanging out drinking beers and checking out each other’s work. During Art Basel Miami is transformed, all the creative energy is in that one spot. There is energy there that you don’t get anywhere else.
Paris is awesome too.
Probably when I was 15 years old. I was wearing these all black Stan Smith sneakers at the time, laced up with the fat laces. The cops were chasing us and we were running, and because of my laces my shoes flew off immediately. So I’m running through the Bronx, the projects, shoeless, hiding behind cars. It was fun, at the time it was really scary but it was a fun experience.
Did you ever have to do time?
Never had to do time, never busted. I’ve been quite fortunate. I kind of stopped doing illegal stuff years ago, mostly because there’s so much available space now. In Brooklyn, New York City, people are offering walls to you, especially when you’ve made a name for yourself. It’s more welcomed now.
How has the street art scene changed in the past ten years?
It’s completely different, especially the tools that street artists are using, like spray cans. When I was growing up we just had KRYLON or whatever you could rack at the hardware store. Now you have Montana making every single product available. Everything in general has become a lot easier, more accessible and available, so it’s not really underground any more. It’s almost mainstream at this point.
How has your artwork embraced that change?
As far as my artwork goes, I try to go as intricate as I can, take my time and not rush. I’m not doing a throw-up anymore. I get to do what I would normally do in my studio, so the streets have sort of become like your studio. Also painting with famous artists you have to really refine your skills with spray cans, otherwise there is that camaraderie taunting. I have been focusing on can control now for the past few years so I don’t have to use brush outlines - doing a painterly style using only cans.
What are some techniques you want to investigate in the future?
Lately I have been experimenting with colors as background, typography as background, layering as far as images, and horror comic imagery as well. I just want to keep it moving, keep it fresh, I wasn’t doing that last year. People see your work and they just want to copy it, so I have to be moving on to the next thing.
Have you painted anywhere in Buenos Aires?
I did, there is this Starbucks that the guys took me to where I painted on my first day here. What’s cool is that there is this pipe sticking out of the wall. So I was like cool, I am going to incorporate that pipe into this piece. So I made this three-headed monster and I had that pipe as the penis. Incorporating existing stuff into my paintings is what I would like to experiment with in the future.