Los Angeles street artist, 2wenty’s work first caught my attention a few months ago when his Facebook Social Cigarettes posters first started appearing in tech blogs all over the internet and on the streets of LA and San Francisco. His next show, Friendly Fire, opens July 9th at Le Spec Gallery in Los Angeles, CA and includes work by D Young V, Gregory Siff, Liba and Zombie. I caught up with 2wenty to find out more about the mind behind the design.

Your name is interesting. Where did you come up with it?

Name is 2wenty (as in the number 20). When I was trying to come up with a name I was too embarrassed by anything I was going to come up with, so I went with the only nick name I’ve been given. I use to ride street bikes through the canyons with some older guys when I was 20. I guess since I was so much younger they just started calling me twenty. I like it since it worked on another level. People are usually considered number by society so I decided to pick my own number. By coincidence they are 20 cigarettes in a pack and that relates to the Facebook  Social Cigarettes piece.

Do you work by yourself or are you a member of any crews or both?

I tend to work by myself. It’s one of my favorite aspects of doing art. I find it a very personal process. I’m not part of any street crew other than being represented by The Site UnScene.

As of lately I have been doing collaborations which are really fun. I like to see how other people do their process and what we can come up with together.

When did you start making street art? What was it that got you started?

I started in December of 2010. It started with a disagreement with a former friend about a very well known artist. Essentially I was told I didn’t know what I was talking about when it came to art. I hate being told that I don’t know or can’t do something. So I set out to prove myself correct — so here I am.

Do you have an art and design background?

I have no real background. I really haven’t done any intentional art before I started. So I’m playing catch up when it comes to certain skills. Lately I’ve been putting lots of time into spray cans and acrylic paint. All the work I’m doing at the moment is for a year from now. I’m trying to find a style and develop skills that will help me create my ideas. There have been a few things I’ve wanted to make but I’m not good enough right now to pull them off, so I just put it on the shelf until I’m ready.

Tell me a little about what type of pieces you tend to do and the tools you use.

I don’t want to give too much away since I have a few ideas in the works and I want to be the first person to do them.

At the moment all my street works are posters. Either printed or all hand made (acrylic and or spray paint). All the Social Cigarette posters and printed in black, then I hand paint all the colors in each one. It’s very time consuming but worth it to me. I always want to make sure that there is artistic value in what I do.

I grew up using power tools and building things as a kid. I think those skills come into play with everything I do. For all my fine art, I cut and make all my own wood canvases from wood pulled from the trash.

Also, I’m not afraid to try new things and that’s pretty much all I do. I’m trying to pick up as many skills as I possibly can in the shortest time possible, so I try new processes on a regular basis.  My background with tools makes this a lot easier.

My street art can be found all over. Mostly in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Although I have a few things up in NY, London, Iceland, and who knows where else. That’s the beauty of stickers.

My fine art can been seen in various street art shows in Los Angeles. I’m really hoping to do some shows in San Francisco, I’m just waiting for the chance. I really like the art scene there. I make it a point to do a weekend in San Francisco every few months.

I haven’t done any installations as of yet. I have recently been given a chance to do a private wall and I’m very excited to see what I come up with. I also have a few other things in the works that I can’t talk about at the moment.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Probably a lifetime of bottled up emotions, lol.

Sometimes seeing artists make incredible work inspires me to try harder.

Lately I’ve really been going with my feelings and just getting it out. It’s very therapeutic.

I love the facebook piece.  Where did you get the idea for that one? I especially like how you put your name in the barcode.  Next thing you know you will be using QR codes…

Thank you. It’s one of the first things I made. I really wasn’t sure what to come up with. I tired to think of things that touched on my emotions. I wanted it to be simple and universal. I wanted to reach the broadest audience possible and what better than one of the biggest social movements of our time. Everywhere you look someone is on Facebook, at work, in the car, waiting in lines, using the bathroom, etc. It’s endless. I see it as a smoking habit, “because you crave it.” I think its the same as the smoking habit in the way that we know we are doing it but just don’t care. The irony is, I use it all the time. It’s a great tool. The image was made as just an awareness, not that Facebook is evil.

I wanted to incorporate my name into it and the barcode seemed like the best place possible. I’ve used the QR code before on the actual Social Cigarette packs I make. I didn’t want to change the street image. If there was a certain charm to it, I didn’t want to lose that.

I am fascinated with the diversity of street artists.  Some I have met work as full-time creative commercial artist by day and on the streets at night. Other artists have a 9-5 style job that is not artistic at all and street art is their creative outlet. What do you do from day to day?  Does your day job have anything to do with art?

I have a full time job in Television. It usually ends up being more than 40 hours a week. It can be anywhere from 12-20 hours a day – between this and art I hardly sleep. But art is a major part of my life now and it’s completely worth it. The best part is when other artists complain they are so busy and so tired getting ready for a show and don’t even have a day job.

My job has very little to do with art. More of being another number on the job. Which is why art saved my life. I don’t want to do this job forever, it’s a very negative atmosphere.

Have you ever gotten into any trouble due to your graffiti?

The worst was probably getting a gun pulled on me by private security, which wasn’t too bad, I’m just glad he didn’t shoot. That is a pretty fun story actually, ask D Young V about it, lol.

It also helped end a relationship with my 3 year Girlfriend, which still kind of sucks.

Nothing too horrible.

Check out more of 2wenty’s work on his website or facebook.

  Social Cigarettes.  Social Cigarettes - 600 Million+ smokers.
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