Alright so thanks for taking the time out to do this interview, can you give us a brief introduction to who you are, what your history is in the graffiti game and what crew do you rep?
My name is Solomon Souza i am 25 years young… i grew up in Hackney Wick, east london.. but have been living most of my life so far in israel… i have been writing and drawing on things since my childhood, after my school at the time gave me and some friends detention we decided the best way for us to get back at them was to spray up the school one night.. it was a great introduction to sneaking around and painting on stuff and i never stopped… i now paint the streets of israel and wherever i find myself, using a few different names, in different languages… i write in english, hebrew and Arabic… i rep AB or “Aleph Bet” as it is called in hebrew and am associated with multiple crews in israel and around the world!
Do you make your fulltime living from graffiti? How did you land your first gig doing mural work?
I do make a healthy living off my work and it now flys me all round the world… my first gig came thru a friend whos friend had a wall they wanted painting… i receive a lot of my work thru word of mouth and friends but mainly i find the work i have done in the past leads me to new work.
I see you are one of the street artists that likes to do mural work as well as graffiti writing, which one do you enjoy most and which one did you get into first? Was graffiti an escape that grew into a career path or were you always thinking of this as a job opportunity?
Somehow over the years my passion became my business and i must say it is hard sometimes balancing them… so i like to separate myself entirely from my “work” when i hit the streets… using different names and styles out here, you would never guess it was mine!
I see a lot of murals you have have either religious figures or art figures like leonardo da vinci, I’m curious why you include these in your work what kind of impact did someone like Leonardo or Bal HaTanya have on your life as an artist and a person? What are peoples reactions to putting these faces on walls?
Well, i have been a relatively observant jew for the past 10 years and i receive so much of my inspiration from the stories, culture and lessons taught in Judaism.. i enjoy painting portraits, especially those with an interesting story to tell… and i find many, many examples within the Torah and jewish history but do not limit myself to it, so i draw inspiration from many things… i like to keep the portrait relevant to the location in which its painted.. so for instance i painted the Bal Ha Tanya (author of the Tanya) in the crown heights neighborhood of brooklyn… where sits the center of a huge jewish community called Chabad… of which the BalHaTanya was the spiritual and philosophical founder more than 250 years ago…
For people that are beginning how does one find a wall for big mural pieces like you do? I know some people reach out to offer their services to businesses for free, is that something you did when you started?
For anyone looking to start painting large murals… start small… seriously.. work your way up, it a lot easier climbing a mountain if you have some experience climbing stairs first 🙂 sketching, like with any creative endeavor should be the first step. Everything starts with a good sketch, buildings, clothing, machines… although as time goes on you may find yourself so confident with your new found skills that you can comfortably freestyle… this is always fun as you never know what may come next, keeps it fresh! Finding your wall is another story… i like abandoned places for practice where i can fully focus on the task ahead and really lose myself in the painting… finding mural work can be hard, but i like to put my work out there, like throwing a fishing line out, and see who bites 🙂 large companies spend millions of dollars on advertising… painting a large mural can have a similar effect for yourself and your work… choosing to do work for free is entirely up to you. But you should always value your work, especially when working with businesses… i have done much work for free (although i like to think of it more as a gift) or barter, my largest project to date consists of 230 metal shop shutters in Jerusalem’s central market, it did not involve money (besides for the funds from donations spent on the paint), if it had, it likely would never have happened, but i have received much of my current work from the publicity it has given me…
My favorite piece of yours is either “A constant battle” or the wall murals of the garden of eden you’ve done. I’m curious if you can expand on what inspires you spiritually?
Well, i am spiritually inspired by many things, mostly the world around me… it is a living, breathing piece of art, filled with light and dark, serenity and drama.. I believe we exist in a constant struggle between these contrasts and it is our job to find the balance between them… which makes for great subject matter… I paint the garden of eden to remind us of a lifestyle we left behind long ago for something else entirely… something distracting from what reality should really be.
Is there any piece of advice or lesson you’ve learned over the years that you feel is worth repeating for people who are trying to figure out how to do this as a career?
I grew up in a family of artists, my grandfather, FN Souza is know as the father of modern Indian art, his daughter, my mother is of an even higher caliber in my opinion and instilled in me the value of creativity from a young age, this showed me that this, unlike what you may hear sometimes: that art isn’t a real job, it will never pay the bills etc… was entirely unfounded and with the right motivation, environment and dedication you can support yourself quite comfortably from you work! Now, i fully understand that not everyone is so privileged to grow up in a house surrounded by art and artists but if you really take it upon yourself to truly live this life you can do so through pure determination and love for your craft, connect with other likeminded people around you and develop your own network!
Who are the people who inspired you when you started and who inspires you now? What kind of music do you listen to when you paint?
I am inspired by many artists from all over the spectrum, classical renaissance masters to present day graff kings.. i am enthralled by Caravaggio’s brushwork within his dark and dramatic portrayal of biblical scenes, at the same time i appreciate the confident execution of a tag or throw along a busy highway! I listen to many different types of music from old school funk to the occasional modern mumble.
What separates a successful artist in your mind from an unsuccessful one?
Success is a strange thing… and it comes at different levels… i believe the most important aspect of success is your own perception of it, if you are content with the work you are producing you are a success, to me this is most important… obviously this expands to being financially successful through your work and so on but we need to understand as artists that talent does not always equate success on a financial level… take a look at the world around you and I’m sorry to say you will see no end to the amount of (in my humble opinion) talentless success, a lot of it is good branding and networking which in itself is actually hard work and commendable in a way if done right.
Any great travel memories you can share? What has been your favorite place to visit?
Well my work has taken me round the world, from America to Australia and a few places in between, making lifelong friends and connections! Australia is beautiful and exotic, i saw plants and creatures there that seemed straight out a sci fi movie… America is a different game altogether… its cities are giant concrete beasts and every things seems to bow to the thunderous presence of the multi lane Highways… i met amazing and terrible people along the way and had a few close calls here and there, like one time painting with my boy Nymz in Korea town, Los Angeles we narrowly avoided being shot by a local gang who had decided to rob and shoot someone just round the corner instead, when the police cars and ghetto birds showed up they couldn’t believe we were still there doing our outlines haha
Any shoutouts you would like to give? Where can people follow you?
I have many names to shout, some of the loudest would be: DalesOne, Ouch, Logik, my sister Miriam, Onelove, DiDi, Crash048, Zaras, FGTS, Spine B7, Nymz, CabK2S, Atomik, Stans, LibreHEM, Denisthekko, Tomas, Bich, Inspire, Aroke, Keor, Trash, Blaze and Task! You can find me on my Facebook page Solomon Souza and Instagram @solomonsouza