INSIDE THE MIND OF A STREET ARTIST: MR PRVRT

We were fortunate enough to have New York Street Artist MR. PRVRT do an amazing piece on one of our garage doors. The process video above was captured by Craig Shimala. Let’s get to know him a little bit more!

(Photo: Craig Shimala) 

How about a quick introduction?
I’m originally from Albany, NY; but I have called Rochester, NY home for about 8 years now. I work closely with several groups including Wall Therapy, Bushwick Collective, FUA Krew, and Sweet Meat Co. 

What’s your process like?
While all of my smaller works are created using hand cut stencils, my larger scale works and murals are made using nothing except cans of spray paint and a reference image. When painting freehand, I strive to retain the aesthetic of my stenciled work by layering flat colors to create depth instead of using soft shading techniques. It was extremely gratifying to be able to fool the likes of Martha Cooper earlier this year when she saw one of my murals in progress, and was completely convinced it had been made using stencils. 

How did you first get involved with doing street art?
I first started cutting stencils about 12 years ago back home in Albany, NY. My first real exposure to street art was through the work of Chris Stain and Brian Scout, who both lived in the area and had been collaborating on projects in one of our city’s most neglected neighborhoods. They were targeting abandoned houses and installing paintings over the boarded up surfaces. While I have done my fair share of writing on things that don’t belong to me, most of my earlier work involved stickers, wheatpastes, screwing up paintings to telephone poles, etc. I was genuinely surprised that people started to notice my work, and even more so when I was asked to paint my first murals. Its really gratifying to know that even after leaving my home town, younger writers and artists still reach out once in a while to let me know that I helped inspire them to get started on the streets, the same way Stain & Scout helped inspire me. Being able to invite Chris Stain to Rochester this year for Wall Therapy was equally rewarding, and in turn, he facilitated my entry in Bushwick Collective in Brooklyn, NY. The longer I do this, the more I’ve come to realize that street artists, as a community, are one huge family that stretches to every continent. 

What was your inspiration for the piece you did on our garage door?
For a while, all of my mural work involved portraits of wildlife, until a fellow writer named Biles told me he didn’t want me painting “hipster animals” on graff production walls. Ever since then I like to bring out some wicked shit every once in a while!!

What do you hope for people to take away from your art?
I rarely try and attach any sort of deep meaning to my work - if anything I hope it makes people realize that our entire world is a blank canvas. Its amazing how much love people show for you when they see that you are doing something that makes their neighborhood look a little nicer. 

How would you describe the difficulty of using a spray can versus a pencil on paper?
Free hand work with spray cans is all about muscle memory. As cheesy as it sounds, its like you are dancing with the wall, its a lot about moving smoothly and with confidence. The larger the wall, the harder the actual drawing becomes. I’ve never projected a freehand piece, so there is usually a period of time when everything looks pretty terrible, before I step way back and start to adjust the proportions. Most of my sketching on walls is done using transparent black or white spray paint, which I find is actually quite similar to drawing with pencils. 

Do you think street art needs more appreciation?
Over the past decade the internet really did a lot to make people aware of the fact that there are people doing this in every city and every country. I think street art is most appreciated by the people who will see it from their window every day, or pass by it on their way home. There will always be someone who hates it or finds something to be offended by. 

Do you have a favorite piece you’ve done?
My favorite piece so far was the Anatomical Cow I did for Bushwick Collective in Brooklyn. I really tried to push what I was capable of, and it was an exciting challenge to take on so much detail and deal with so many bright colors. The general goal is to make each next piece the best one ever, and repeat. 

What’s the biggest challenge or weirdest encounter you’ve had?
I was painting with a friend in Rochester’s abandoned subway tunnels (yes we have those), a homeless guy stole a can of my paint and used a lighter to make a blowtorch, he proceeded to start lighting anything he could find that was flammable. Things started getting pretty intense, so we actually ended up calling the fire department. Just a couple of vandals helping to do our civic duty! 

Do you have a formal art education? Do you have a day job?
I dropped out of school in the middle of my bachelor’s program. I had been taking a lot of printmaking classes at the time, and actually first started using stencils as cheap means of simple printmaking, versus a lot of processes that require a massive press to print. I’m currently lucky enough to say that I do not work a day job anymore. It’s definitely a hustle, and I’m always chasing the next project down the line. I’m always accepting commissions for murals and canvas pieces, and I’ve done a fair amount of print releases as well. It’s never a steady paycheck, but it’s amazing, the idea of actually owning your time. 

What would be your advice to young artists trying to find their groove?
First and foremost, I do this because I love it. I’m not getting rich off of this, that’s for sure. I do plenty of pro bono walls, and I think that’s important, because this isn’t just a job, it’s a passion. Also, if you want to learn how to spray paint, please do it on plywood in your backyard, not on top of any real street art or graffiti. 

What are some of the trends you’ve found in other cities?
Each city is different, but what remains consistent are the people. I’ve painted in some terrible areas, but most people immediately accept you when they see that you are going to make their neighborhood look a little better. 

Have you ever considered submitting to Threadless?
I guess sometimes I neglect to realize that people might actually like the work I’m doing!! Maybe your followers can look forward to a future collaboration! 

Any last words or shout outs?
Big thanks go to Dr. Ian Wilson for always having confidence in me. Much love to my friends and collaborators in Rochester at 1975 Gallery and The Yards. Lastly, if you’re in Chicago, make sure to check out my show “SPLATTERHOUSE” at Chicago Truborn, located on W. Division St, the show runs through Nov 13th!