Sheva is a one-of-a-kind graffiti artist with a strong understanding of color and a versatile style. When we reached out to Sheva for a talk, she had the awesome idea of including questions from her followers on instagram and we decided to include them here! Read on to discover more about Sheva and her history in graffiti.
Alright so thanks for taking the time out to do this interview, can you give us a introduction to who you are, what your history is in the graffiti game.
Yeah! A lot of folks asked for my origin story and I’m frequently asked “who taught me to paint ” which is extremely off putting but I’ll try and answer that too…I write Sheva. I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin looking up to TCI and IPC mostly.
I started painting as a 14 year old punk, when I was doing real cool things like being in a band, dropping out of school and doing sad-drugs. A lady in her 20s at the time who wrote Jakt befriended me and replaced the sad-drugs with mushrooms, going to an alternative highschool instead of dropping out and introduced me to Paybak and Each2 amongst others. I also made friends with folks my age like @americantrashcorp, @washbeast and eventually we had a crew with Maple too. We were so toy.
So for “who”, I guess I’d have to give that title to @americantrashcorp and Jakt equally but in dramatically different ways. While Jakt probably saved my life, she taught me that as a female I don’t need to draw because I immediately stand out regardless. @americantrashcorp encouraged me to challenge the norm, listen to metal and push myself. Neither write anymore so that may not satisfy “who taught me” but what a weird fucking question anyway.
Where did the name Sheva come from?
I stuck with Shiva when I was like 15 so initially it was all Mortal Combat to be honest. I used to write Shiva but, Es are better than Is. Plus, Shiva is a Hindu deity and I’m not Hindi. The Lord Shiva, aka: The Destroyer, represents duality. So yea, you can’t have destruction without creation, right? It’s perfect for graffiti.
You have so much talent and such a wide array of different styles you do, I really enjoy looking at your work! Do you work as a creative for your day job? Do you ever plan to go the mural route with your work or sell original pieces?
I’ve got a pretty good day job as a nutritionist for babies and kids. So, when I’m not doing that full time I’m either hunting for mushrooms or trains. They’re the most gratifying. I suppose I get opportunities to feed myself and shower too but, yeah. Making art hasn’t been in the cards. I guess that sucks…? It’d be sick to work in the woods tho.
@xeno_tech: fbox or tbox?
Definitely Fbox! There’s fewer and one side doesn’t have a bar!
Last year you made a post showing some of the work you did in Thailand, how was that trip? Where all have you traveled to to paint?
Yeah I went there, obviously that was the most amazing shit ever.
For painting I travel SO MUCH. Jesus, the trains?? So far. But really, I just got a car a year ago for the first time in seriously, forever. I just biked before. Like, It’s been so long since I drove that I failed to even get my drivers license in Minnesota like 12 years ago… which voids the other… damn I gotta get on that.
@sulfuric_ased_21 It’d be cool to hear about major breakthroughs in your graffiti progression…
There are these distinct periods of growth that usually correspond to life sucking really bad. The biggest one being moving to Ecuador. Being in a new country, I was able to set aside what I “should” paint and just paint how I wanted to. So shit got wild af. But it was much better then what I had done and it really helped me grow into my current style.
Folks put so much pressure on, “you gotta have perfect letter structure first, only do simples, and then you can make connections, don’t even look at graff for inspiration or you’re like… a bad person” which really stifles a lot of beginners, especially ladies. I mean, you could literally paint an Isto piece and still get attention! When really, you can do whatever the fuck you want. And you should cause even if it’s awful you arn’t restricting yourself and therefore, progressing.
@invisable_hometown: How much time do you spend on your bike? How does cycling influence your graff life?
I do all city travel via bike so I’m on mine quite a lot. Bikes are crucial for bombing and getting tags up. They also serve as a nice boost for hitting the backs of stop signs or reaching up to grab apartment ladders.
One of your other hobbies you post about briefly was foraging mushrooms. Some of those can be poisonous watch out! What made you get involved in this and I assume you’re familiar with the magic mushroom? What draws you to mushrooms?
I think most people are familiar with poisonous and psychedelic mushrooms. Which is exactly why there’s this fear around them that has restricted our exposure to how FUCKING AWESOME they are. Fungi are killing it in the world of environmental clean up and one dose of psilocybe mushroom has been shown to rapidly grow strong neural synapses and some say, expose us to god. I don’t but shit, that’s amazing.
Nutritionally speaking, remember I’m kinda a pro at that, the fear of poisonous and psychedelic mushrooms has basically ripped a whole food group from us. Like, straight up as if we were taught to fear all fruit. Each mushroom has its own distinct nutritional properties that are generally more similar to meat than veggies.
Plus, they’re free if you just be a human outside and look.
@thatone_kitty: What does graffiti do for you? Good and bad?
Yeah, graffiti duality. I’m about that. Graffiti is just like the default now, when I’m sad or aimless or even morning, I paint. I recently prolonged a breakup too long by just checking out of life and shamelessly putting up blinders on everything not graffiti related. But that’s it, it’s my comfort area and I can stay in it for as long as I can stay awake. It’s beautiful except if you’re my partner or a good friend that’s been flaked on too many times. Not to mention the toll it takes on my sleep, my job and my health.
I hate when people say “graffiti should be fun! Look at me, super positive guy! Have fun painting!” because, for one, don’t tell me what to do. But also, fun or happiness is a fleeting state. Contentment is what graffiti gives me. Maybe I’m annoyed at my color scheme or starving, literally bleeding and dehydrated, there’s still nowhere I’d rather be. And then you look up at the stars and it’s definitely something way deeper than happiness.
@casetweezie: Simulation or nah?
For those that want to go down the path you’re going down what kind of advice would you recommend? What can beginner artists do to up their skills when they are first starting out?
Contrary to everything society teaches us, you do not inherently suck as a female, your body is not all that society values….well…unfortunately it is BUT, you can compete and win. And winning against people who expect you to suck, including yourself, rules. So, start trying harder!
And for everyone else, draw and think about parking for like 12 min before you park at the spot. Like look at a map and park where other civilians would park. Don’t just pull up to the tracks or attempt to hide your car. Good spots stay good spots because they often require a walk.
@tous_des_fous: What tips do you have for someone building their letter structure?
S curve the fuck out of every bar: And look at sign painting fonts.
As one of the few females I’ve interviewed in the scene, I’m curious what are the unique challenges women face in graffiti? Do you ever feel excluded or think to yourself “hmm maybe I won’t paint walls by myself its a little too dangerous”?
It’d be cool if there was less of a focus on physical appearance and more on graffiti but the pressure is cultural and real.
Honestly, I don’t really have much to compare it to. I can go on this list of how I’ve weaseled myself out of questionable situations to prove to you I’m not helpless but I’m just trying to paint! I assure you that from a very young age girls are regularly told how to postpone the inevitable and periodic violent physical attack. It fucking sucks to live in a culture where violence against women is so normal, you’re suggesting maybe I shouldn’t… do my thing… can I go to the store? Hike alone? Bike home? I mostly paint alone for efficiency and come on, I’m far more likely to be attacked by another graffiti artist than a rando.
Who were the artists that inspired you when you started and who are the artists that have inspired you today? Are they the same, and how do you think instagram has changed the graffiti game?
I grew up on the Girlgraff PG thread so it wasn’t that far off from IG. I always looked up to Fem9, Faset, Siloe, Pink and Eski. I do miss graff mail where you send all your doubles of your disposable flicks to your little graff pen pals in other cities.
I’ve generally been heavily influenced by Soten, Geser, and When. Also, Meats, Shane and Asmoe. I also really hope to paint with Sider some day.
Any shout outs you would like to give? Where can people follow you?
The real fam: KSRA, Each2, Kerse, Task ™, Pedal, Ensue, Dable, Reds and Flora
You can follow Sheva on Instagram.