Odeith is a Portugal based artist that started his career on the streets and train tracks of Damaia in graffiti in the 1980s and has now become an artist that has transcended his rough background as well as his artistic influences of his youth to become internationally known as an artist with a style of art and technique that is truly unique to him. His signature style involves a 3D anamorphic technique that makes his art feel like its coming right out of the wall like a video projection that looks completely unreal. Outside of this 3D style you can find murals of cultural icons like Muhammad Ali, Mary J Blige and Martin Luther King in his body of work around Portugal. Below we had a chance to speak with him a little about his work, his upbringing and where he wants to take his art next.
First, I want to thank you for making the time to do this interview, I really enjoy your work and I’m glad to be able to interview you, I think a lot of artists could learn a lot from you. For a lot of artists the dream is to make a living off their art, for people starting out this can seem like an impossible task. Can you tell us about a time you had to make a financial or personal sacrifice to make it doing what you want to do when the people closest to you told you to do otherwise?
My father used to tell me, keep painting on the train lines, that shit will pay you the rent one day( of course my father was joking and against there I was painting illegal).
In previous interviews you mentioned that you have never been to art school and you don’t take inspiration from other artists, only from the environment you paint in. You’ve been doing this for a long time now and its easy to see you definitely have your own way of doing things but way back in the day how did you learn to get where you are at? Who were the artists who you admired when you were starting out?
I remember I used to see a couple of pages in the hip hop connections magazine, names like, mode2, pulse, t-kid and a lot of stuff from New York.
Back when you just used to tag and paint on the backs of trains with friends was there ever a confrontation with police or any other authority figures? Can you tell us some stories about the early days?
I remember the first time that I was caught by the police, I was 15 years old, and I was painting the building where I was living, and the cops made us clean with some liquids until they were driving at the round abound near the building at 4 am in the morning. Me and my friends, we were exhausted.
How did you go from doing graffiti art for free to making a living off of mural work?
Sometimes when you are painting on the streets some people come and they give you their number because they want some painting commission. I was tired of working in the furniture factory.
You say that you came from a really poor neighborhood in Portugal. Can you tell us a little bit more about your upbringing?
It’s in the suburbs of Lisbon and stays in the middle of a couple of African ghettos, these ghettos grew up when the Portuguese African colonies ended in the early 70s.
You say your inspiration comes from the places you visit, is there any places you haven’t visited or painted in yet that you would like to? What would be a dream location to paint?
Poor neighborhood in China, definitely I have to do that.
Do you ever see yourself teaching people what you have learned with your Sombre 3D technique and passing it along to other artists?
Not really, for now I just want to paint, make some money and live from that.
You mentioned before in an interview that “sometimes I sell my soul and make some money with some pieces but it’s better than working in a factory.” I think that’s something a lot of artists can relate to, the fact that we all have to give up some piece of our soul to pay the bills. How do you balance your lifestyle to make the art you want but still make a living? What do you have to say to other artists in a similar situation?
Well, to keep insisting painting, giving your best till the day you can choose what to paint. And just paint what you like.
What do you think is the most important thing an artist can do to grow beyond their current level of skill?
Mainly don’t quite painting, try to find every day new techniques and insist bringing something original to the streets.
Out of all of the places you have traveled to what was the most unexpected and can you tell us about the reaction you get from the public when you paint public figures like Muhammad Ali or Martin Luther King?
Well, people love it because most of the paintings they were painted in poor neighborhoods, and people feel they are inspirational legends.
Have you ever done work for galleries or do you have any ambitions of doing so?
No, not really, I was never interested in galleries work.
The most political piece I’ve seen posted on your website is the mural entitled “They colorize it but its still black and white”. What would you say you hope people take from your work? Do you think the street artist has an obligation to say something with their work political or social that reflects the environment the art is created in?
I thinks it depends how society interacts with you, sometimes you feel more sad about society and you write something about it, sometimes you don’t and you are free to do whatever you want.
Finally, you seem to be constantly experimenting with different techniques and now with the Running Dog mural you did you are adding video as another element to what you are doing. What can people expect from you next? Who are some of your contemporaries you like to follow or you think are bringing something new and different to street art?
I never know, sometimes you think about bringing something new to the game but it’s not easy because there are so many good artists and so many things going on, on the web “streetart world”, that at some point looks impossible to make something new.
Interview by Wesley Edwards