Alright so thanks for taking the time out to do this interview, can you give us a brief introduction of how you got to this point? How did you come up with the name Merlot?
I started painting back in 2007, pretty much fresh out of high school. I was writing a bit in high school, but I felt like the paint aspect of it really started afterwards. The name Merlot started as just a way to just get out of the name prior to it. I knew I wanted to switch it up, and happened to be sipping on a glass of Merlot at the time and decided to have fun with it. It wasn’t really supposed to stick but ended up getting comfortable with it and actually enjoying the way the letters worked together. It was also a bit of a challenge with the long word and I think I’m someone that always wants to be challenged in order to continue that growth.
You mention in your about section on your site that you try to find the balance between being a writer and paying homage to the traditional styles in American culture, what styles would you say those are? Who inspired you when you first started out and who inspires you today?
Traditional style graffiti in my eyes is that very New York style. Not that my style is anywhere close but I’ve always been very inspired by it. Something about the way the letters connect, the use of arrows, the beautiful simplicity yet still complex in its own way. It’s always resonated with me and I’ll always appreciated people who can paint in that style. Actually, I recently did a write up with Ironlak called, “MERLOT – Your Favorite Writers Favorite Writers” where I talk about 3 writers that have really influenced my work today. Definitely go check it out here. There are of course way more than 3 writers that have influenced me, the list is really infinite as I’m always influenced by the people I paint with. There’s always something to learn from someone so make sure you see realize that and value it.
In your bio you mention you have traveled as far as to Israel, what was that like? Were you hired to do a gig there or did you just decide to go to Israel and paint just for the hell of it?
I traveled to Israel with ‘Artist 4 Israel’; they brought myself and 5 other female artist along in what was probably one the most memorable trips I’ve ever been it. It was just real.. scary at times, yet exciting and fun. A trip packed with emotions, and it just helped being around some amazing artist doing what we love. I feel like trips with other graffiti artist are the best way to bond and you really take friendships to new levels after that.
How did you get the ball rolling with your career, is there any advice you can give to artists that are just starting out and are wanting to make a living as an artist but don’t know where to start?
People always ask me if I do graffiti and mural work full-time, and the answer is no. While I would love to say yes to that, I have so many passions and yes graffiti may be top on the list, but I personally find it extremely valuable to go outside of your expertise in order to bring in other skill-sets. I’m currently a creative director, but worked my way up from being a designer, and realize how much impact my design life brings to my art. To me, design is a type of art, and it was something I wanted so I went for it. My advice is to take whatever you’re excited about, whether that be graffiti, design, tattooing, etc. and put your all into. Take in advice and insight from those who are already doing it well as I know personally know that I wouldn’t be where I am at without getting advice from others and feeling motivation from seeing others success.
What kind of music do you listen to when you paint and why?
Oh. Why do people always as my this? hahha. I’m someone who likes a lot of music but am extremely indecisive, so typically I will play my friends playlists or have people I paint with choose the tunes. I do love music, but I think i’m so focused on other things that I never feel like I have time to stay up to date, so thankfully I have friends that can do that for me 🙂
Any crazy travel stories? What was your favorite place to travel to and what was the most difficult?
I don’t really have too many crazy stories. But actually, on my trip to Israel, we decided to paint this abandoned building off the side of a main road, and everyone painted inside the building, but I of course wanted to paint on the outside and have that “street shot” as you drive by… so I just decided to do my thing. As I’m getting to the outline… a military truck with 5 Israeli soldiers pulls up on me, machine guns pointed at me and I kind of just froze, naturally. I think just the unknown is what’s scary about those situations; you never know with other countries, just how bad what you’re doing may be considered there.. so in my head, I’m just trying to play out every situation. After a lot of back and fourth talking and arguing to the one guy that could speak English, I managed to walk away from it thankfully.
Honestly, I just like to travel in general. I find so many unique qualities about each place that I manage to fall in love with and am inspired by. So really… I can call a few places my favorite places because they are.. but in many different ways. I don’t feel like many of my trips have been “difficult”, the most difficult thing may be language barrier, but no days with technology, it’s so much easier to get around that. It’s also so easy to find a friend in foreign places based on our community of graffiti artist around the world. That, I would say, it makes traveling that much easier and enjoyable.
For the artists out there that are trying to level up their skills do you have any advice of a particular technique or practice exercise that you have discovered over the years that you have found helpful?
My advice is to focus on one thing at a time. If you want to paint cleaner, paint cleaner… find the right brand that works for you, the right caps, and put in the practice. If you want to get better at your letters, sketch more. Whatever it is that you want to do, focus and put the time into it and you’ll get there.
Any shout outs you would like to give? where can people follow you?
Shout out to my Seattle ladies; 179, Hops, Ksra, NC17, & Noodz <3
Follow me on Instagram: @merlotism
Interview by Wesley Edwards