Tubs is a Chicago street artist whose densely packed hand lettering creates distinct and energetic patterns in works ranging from mid-sized canvases to monumental murals. Beyond his public works and commissions, he has been exhibited locally at Galerie F. Read on to hear about his early influences, his experiences in the Chicago street art scene, and his advice on building a successful creative career.
See more of his work via his Instagram feed: @tubsz_illa
Who or what were your early influences and how did you start working in calligraphy/calligraffiti?
My earliest influences would have to be my parents when it comes to the root of my handstyles, the local graffiti writers who where rocking the streets when I was young, and then as I became more solely focused on my calligraphy/calligraffiti, artists such as Chaz Bojorquez, Retna and Shoe just to name a few. But to go way back, my earliest influence was my mother, who showed me how to write calligraphy and script handstyles as a young boy.
How has your practice developed since then? Did you focus more on the street art aspect of your work or on creating pieces that could be exhibited in galleries? Do you create different work for each setting?
I wouldn't say that my practice has changed since I first started. I always knew that I wanted to create pieces on the streets, but also pieces for people to purchase and put in their home either directly though me or a gallery. But yes I would also streamline each piece to its setting, whether it was a mural or a small piece for someone.
Chicago is a city known for its vibrant art scene, what impact did growing up here have on you? What does it mean today?
I was born and raised in Chicago so since I can remember Chicago muralists, Chicago graffiti and the gang graffiti here had an impact on me. All these different expressions of art had an energy behind and it that always called to me and continues to do so to this very day.
It seems as though there is a community of notable street artists in Chicago. Is there camaraderie within this group or competition? Who are the artists that inspire you?
There is a very notable group of street artists here no doubt. A lot of us have known each other for years before we were called "street artists" and were just known as vandals. So in some circles the camaraderie is there and in others not. But I have met so many great artist here within the last 10 years that are dope as hell and it's always love, we collaborate and try to look out for each other. Some would say that it is very cliquey as well and that holds back opportunities from others, but that is a whole other conversation. As far as local artists that inspire me here in Chicago there are way too many to list. Off the top of my head I would say Ruben LIKE Aguirre, Chris Silva, Revise, Czr Prz, Nozel, Dredz, Hebru Brantley, Amuse, Sentrock, Chema Skandal, Cove, Kane, Pose, Matt Hoffman, Omens, JC Rivera and Jeff Zimmerman.
You have a sizable following on social media, what role has this played in your career?
It plays a very big role, it is one of the main ways that I am able to get my artwork out into the world and connect with other artists, galleries and collectors.
I once had someone tell me that I would never be good at calligraphy because I was left-handed! So, what's your secret to successful lettering? How do you describe your style of calligraffiti?
Ha, I've heard other people say that to lefty's before. If anything you should use that as motivation to show them what "never be good" looks like. That's just the kind of mentality I have. But the secret is that there is not really a secret. It's countless endless hours of practice. Then in that practice and development of skill comes the ideas and new ways to transform your lettering into something different and unique which would be the "style". To describe my work is hard for me, I feel like it's all over sometimes, it can have a very elegant feel at times then at other times look like a bundle of razor blades.
What mediums do you utilize in your works?
I use aerosol, acrylics, inks, pigments and at times some oil based paints.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as an artist? What is the most rewarding aspect of being an artist?
There are many challenges as an artist, any artist can tell you that. The challenges never stop, but I feel like the ability to overcome that adversity is what makes great artist, someone who can overcome obstacles and create something amazing. That is an ARTIST! For me personally, I've run into so many challenges in every aspect of the word so it's hard to single them out without writing an autobiography. But the most rewarding part of being an artist is seeing the impact that your art can have on someone. How the piece can inspire so many and transcend so many bridges. And also how your art can be a universal language and speak to someone on the other side of the globe. It leaves me at a loss for words at times.
What is your best advice to younger artists starting out in their careers?
Keep grinding, never ever ever ever stop creating! And all the people that say you can't do it or just bring that negative energy in your direction brush it off. Use all that negative energy as motivation. You will eventually see the fruits of your hard work.
Do you have any exciting upcoming exhibitions, projects, or commissions in 2017?
Yes, I'm very excited about my solo show coming up on June 9th here in Chicago at the Good Details Co/Gallery in Pilsen. So anyone thats in the Chicago area please come by! Thanks!