Presently completing his latest mural on the corner of Marie-Anne and Saint-Laurent supported by Aurora, Waxhead is one of our muralist this year at the Festival. For the occasion, our team visited the Montreal studio of the artist behind the dozens of murals of whimsical creatures that are multiplying in the city.
Photo Credit: @fuji_ju
Could you tell us about your background and when your journey as an artist started ?
I grew up in Toronto and then I moved to Montreal. I started to paint a lot here.The reason why I chose to move to Montreal is because I have a lot of good friends here who like to paint and are a really amazing community for artist.
There’s so much good street art and graffitis and so many cool people working on creative projects in the city, I feel It’s an inspiring place to be. Also, I like using the surroundings into my artworks and Montreal has really help me with that.
You chose to sign your art “Waxhead”, is it important for you to stay anonymous ?
My art is not really about the person behind it. It’s about the art itself. I’m trying to create my own world removed from me. I don’t see myself as a part of the picture, but as the creator of it. That’s why I don’t show myself. I’m just the creator of these creatures who pop everywhere. I think it’s fun to stay anonymous.
Where does the name “Waxhead” come from ?
In high school, I was painting a lot of characters with dripping heads, that seamed like they were made of wax. So my friends gave me that name based on the creatures I was painting and I thought it sounded cool and it was fun to write.
You’re known for your stickers showcasing old-fashioned pictures where you replaced the heads with your special creatures. How did you come up with this idea? What’s your artistic approach when you do this?
Old photograph are like passport pictures and the landscapes I’m painting are the world these people inhabit with its own culture. I’ve been collecting antiques for quite some time and going to a lot of flea markets in Montreal and other places that I visit. I started painting on them to change and give them a new life.
I’m doing more portraits these days, but I have been also doing scenes, architecture, landscapes, houses with eyes coming out of them and different things like that. If someone has a very interesting costume on a picture or if there’s an cool background, I’ll pick it up and transform it.
You are also known for your unique characters, what inspired you to create these creatures?
I like using simple shapes to create faces and creatures. I also enjoy taking elements like circles to make eyes and manipulating them to make weird crazy faces. Now, my goal is more to change how people feel when they look at an old photograph or at a painting. It’s about seeing what they can explore and find multiple meanings or characters in it.
I have been inspired a lot by India. There’s a lot of freedom to paint. The major difference between Montreal and India is that people stop you in the street there to ask you what you’re painting. I feel like they’re genuinely interested in what you’re doing. I have been there 3 times and I’ll probably go back again next year to paint and explore more. I really enjoy working in schools, paint with kids and differents communities. It’s a great activity because everybody can be a part of it. It gives us the opportunity to communicate, help one another and connect with people while making art.
Do you have any other projects that you can tell us about ?
Right now I’m doing a line of custom block printed shirts with different artists. These shirts are made 100 % of cotton with coconut-based buttons and using natural ink. I’m selling them through Instagram and I’m hoping to do more shirts with different artist in the future. There’s not a name for the line. Everything I do is untitled. You can have them for $40.
I heard you did a collaborative mural last year with Sun Youth and you also did one as part of Mural Festival this year, how was the experience and what are your goals with these types of activities?
For kids and everybody to have fun. Paint and try something new that they haven’t tried before.
Expand their minds a little bit. Create some art that they want to see. Definitively to inspire them.
When I was painting walls in India, I let this one kid help me. The next day he came back with a sketchbook full of drawings. He showed me a drawing he would like to paint on the wall. The next day, we kept painting that piece. After that, he wanted to create more art. Kids are cool you just need to open their minds. You just need to give them the tools to be able to do something and they can transform themselves. I hope this kid has the opportunity to make more paintings for his community.
In Montreal, I worked on a couple of projects with Sun Youth, amongst others, where a bunch of graffiti artist got together and painted the whole exterior of the building. People were really responsive. The kids who go there were really excited to participate.
For MURAL Festival, we did a painting with the kids, in collaboration with Sun Youth and TD Canada Trust. We brainstormed together, did a bunch of drawings and then produced a mural. It allowed us to teach the kids some new skills about using spray and bucket paints, do something creative.