A conversation with MAST

Interview by Jenny Handke

If you’ve paid any mind to BRLSQ over the past couple of weeks, you’ve likely caught wind of MAST, the graffiti artist / renaissance man of illustration / Mechanical Animal Style Technician whose new print just landed in our online store. The New York-based painter recently paid Minnesota a visit to paint live at Soundset 2017, and while he was at it, MAST (AKA indeliblefunk or, more formally, just Anthony) debuted his newest illustration, Alphabet Aerobics, at the Cold World show in our CO Exhibitions gallery. We asked MAST to produce an alphabet print for the show and the final product was something totally out of left field: a funky, poppy, hip hoppy visual rendition of everything between A and Z. We caught up with the artist to talk about his process, his background and why he loves to go berserk with his work, like the 30'x90' mural he’s currently working on (!).

B: When were you first introduced to graffiti?

M: I got into graffiti when I was a young kid. For as long as I can remember I was aware of its presence in NY growing up. The highways were thoroughly bombed and the trucks travelling in traffic were also heavily painted. As a kid in the back seat of the car and walking around NYC it was always something that captured my curiosity.

B: Clearly the (il)legality of the art didn’t steer you away, but why did you pursue it?

M: The mystery was always so alluring. Who was doing it? How were they doing it? Why were they doing it? Seeing graffiti first hand and exploring locations like behind buildings and under bridges on the train lines always excited me. You never knew what you were going to find. At the time I was searching for graffiti as a kid there was a lot to discover. Discovering intricate pieces and characters in these places only fueled my passion to find more and learn how to paint my own.

B: Was there ever a question as to whether you would pursue if full time?

M: As a kid, its what you do, I was too young for a real job and I had this graffiti thing I was captivated by. As I got older and had to own up to my responsibilities graffiti still remained a part of my life, but I was forced to manage my time with it.

B: How has street art and graffiti shaped other creative projects of yours?

M: I gained a lot of skills and developed a personal style through graffiti. It’s an aesthetic that has influenced my professional design/illustration work and vice versa. Its another lens in which to view composition/color and content through.

B: What was the transition from graffiti artist to creative artist like?

M: It was a very gradual transition for me in the sense of producing fine art that was informed by my illegal work. It's hard to take something that you do on a large scale and distill the parts that are essentially your flow or izms and repurpose them in a fine art setting. I had started doing graffiti letters on canvas and it just doesn't work. Give me a wall and some paint and I'm like a fish in water. Finding my voice in my fine art has been much more challenging.

B: What was your creative process like when you first started graffiti, and how did it change -if at all- as you developed your style?

M: For me It's all a matter of working through problems. Challenging yourself, making mistakes, being frustrated and wanting to improve. My illustrative work is something I'm really trying to work on and develop. It was a bold move for me to start working on the Alphabet Aerobics print and I dealt with a lot of creative roadblocks and frustrations in the process, but it was also great to work through them.

B: My first introduction to your work was your newest piece, Alphabet Aerobics. I was told that you were just asked to make an alphabet print, but then you took it way beyond the scope that BRLSQ had imagined and it turned out fantastic. Do you always tend to expand the creative limits/get extravagant with projects?

M: I'm definitely into pushing the limits, and really giving work the time and attention it deserves. For me it's been a lot about not being afraid to try new things and experiment, accepting some mistakes along the way as part of the process.

B: What's your start-to-finish process like now?

M: Once I have an idea in my head it can take a while to work out on paper. I spend a lot of time on building a story. Once there's a story to the work I can play with it. I can spin a lot of ideas off that general story or idea. For Alphabet Aerobics I based the illustrated letters off of the idea of the Blackalicious song of the same name. I would create a rhyme about every letter that painted a visual picture of that letter. One of the more illustrative examples would be the letter H. You have Heidi with the hefty hooters high on hydroponics hollering "hey honey" under holiday holly having a Hefeweizen. Each letter has its own alphabet rhyme that informed the way they were illustrated.

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You can grab a signed + numbered copy of MAST's new "Alphabet Aerobics" print right here in our online store.