This year’s festival will see internationally-recognised artist Louis Masai live-painting an outdoor piece at local nature reserve, Sydenham Hill Wood. Festival-goers will be able to watch the painting being brought to life beginning on Friday 13th May and continuing throughout the weekend. We caught up with Louis to ask him about how he became a street artist and what inspires him to create his stunning, outdoor pieces.
When did you begin your career as an artist? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do?
I moved to London 6 years ago, specifically to start my art career. When I was a kid I wanted to be a chef like my dad, then I wanted to travel the world. In a way that bit I am doing along side being an artist because of the way that I work. Wanting to be an artist I suppose is not really a conscious decision for me it’s just kind of within me. I would find it very hard to spend the day doing much else any more.
Have you always drawn, painted and sculpted animals?
When I was at school I painted mostly animals, then at Uni I was painting people a lot. But for the past eight years I have only really painted animals.
What is it about the animal kingdom that inspires you?
The animal kingdom is so varied and fascinating. Animals have so many textures and colours. Shape and movement is also so varied. The animal kingdom is so complex, I cant think of anything more inspirational.
Your recent work draws attention to the plight of endangered species. Was there a particular light-bulb moment when you thought you could use your artistic ability to raise awareness?
About three years ago I was on a painting trip in South Africa. I was painting endangered species of South Africa and writing statistics next to the work. At that point I realised the impact that using murals could have to inform the wider audience of species decline. Since then it’s just evolved and evolved. Now I’m working with environmental agencies and using my paintings to encourage change.
How do you go about researching the animals before creating a piece of art?
I spend weeks researching images on line for a series of work. In some cases I watch documentaries also to gain a wider understanding of what I’m creating.
Do you ever encounter any negative reactions to your work or snobbery about street art?
For the most part the public are pretty happy to see my work and very rarely do I get a negative reaction. It’s more common to hear people get upset when they are gone. I’m not sure I understand why someone would be snobby about what I do or don’t do, I have never encountered it.
What advice would you give to aspiring young street artists?
Do what you believe in, and if you’re happy about it then that’s more important than being sad about it.
What are your plans for the future?
Well this year is a busy one like the last one I guess, lots of traveling and painting amazing walls, and in October I will be starting a two month tour of the states.
You can see Louis at work on Friday 13th May – Sunday 15th May in Sydenham Hill Wood. For more information and pictures of his work, visit: www.louismasai.com