I began my adventures in Live Art back in ’96 with my friends who had formed a hip-hop underground collective, The Breakestra. Each night I would let the music and energy from the crowd influence the direction of my subject matter. I started out with chalk pastels, which led to markers, then found objects with air brush and paint, and finally working with my acrylic paints directly on canvas as I would in my studio, but amped up to 100 miles an hour. I would usually be on stage acting as a band member, playing the art form, sometimes turning the canvas upside down and starting over, and constantly changing and evolving it throughout the show. I ended up becoming part of the weekly event, performing on stage with different underground hip-hop groups like my good friends, The Freestyle Fellowship.
During the years 1998-2001 I would paint weekly at Spaceland in Silverlake where I discovered my own personal style and techniques that have evolved into my Live Art experience. These techniques are quite different from painting a mural with spray paint, or sitting in my studio where I laboriously work things out on my oil paintings. Fast-tempoed club music consisting of hip-hop, dub-step, and electronic dance music seemed to run at a bpm (beats per minute) that worked well with my rapid brush strokes. I find myself caught up in the repetitious beats that help guide my maniacal rendering of different shapes, like the buildings I create, or even some of the characters I map out. I am always discovering new painting techniques because of music’s bpm. Once I begin to paint with this music pumping through my veins, it hypnotizes my gestures and causes me to jerk back and forth or create spiral after spiral of repetitive shapes continuously flowing along with the beat, knowing all along that somehow these shapes and forms will form an image.
I coined the term Live Art back in 1996, with the idea that it would be a freestyle experiment that would need, in a sense, audience participation and the high energy of live musical performance to really summons the type of physical energy and vision needed to take on a large scale painting without a pre-planned sketch and in the presence of hundreds there to have a good time. The complexity of working out undrafted ideas in front of a live audience creates a serious challenge that I’ve always felt comfortable with since I began doing graffiti on the streets as a young teenager. Painting in this exposed arena comes with public conversation, and constant interruptions, questions, and judgments that cause one to hone his/her style tighter so that every stroke is an end and begin to the next. In order to prepare for every Live Art performance, I must clear my mind and soak up the environment, the event, and the sound of the music. I also take into consideration the world conversation, politics, and interject what I feel passionate about so as the piece is not just a commercial concept, but that it serves as a broader conversation between me, the canvas, and everyone else, live, in the moment.
Live Art’s experimental challenges offer me a complex puzzle to work out, which I enjoy as an artist. It causes me to stay focused and concentrated in the moment, enabling me to execute a completion with every movement I create. Time restrictions and people’s attention span also create a challenge and I think that these pressures create new possibilities in how I paint and what I’ll actually try to pull off. Being in front of so many people, feeling their anticipation to see something interesting and entertaining, having them wonder while I wonder, and keeping them focused on what I’m doing causes me to be a better artist in my studio life. It’s a practice like martial arts. It requires a level of respect of the art and dedication and commitment to completing the piece. Doing Live Art has caused me to explore the usage of new tools such as sharp plastic wedges, soft silicone chips, natural weeds, rags, and my own two hands. I generally treat it more like an engine rebuild of some mechanical ritual than sitting down and carefully painting a pretty piece. I literally carry my supplies in a toolbox and it is a very industrious experience - I’ll leave the location covered in paint and feel very much a part of my environment.