When did you start making street art? What got you started?
I’m from Cathedral City, a small middle-class town SE of Palm Springs. There wasn’t much going on there. I started painting outdoors in 1998 mostly tagging and some characters. I was initially influence by the neighborhood gang kids who drew a jail style art work on handkerchiefs. Then I met artists who came through town painting trains using more color and characters than the locals. I painted with them, picking up some spray techniques. But I preferred walls over cars. It is hot in the desert so I enjoyed painting solo under bridges. I painted a creepy character people dubbed creature and consequently me the creature artist. Eventually my name became “Creature”.
What type of piece (murals, stencils, graffiti…) do you do? What types of tools do you use?
I paint mainly characters and murals. I frequently use gallon paint for the fill in of the images primarily for coverage and spray can on the outline and high lights. Use anything that’s available to paint with.
Where can your pieces be seen? On walls, installations, trains, sidewalk pieces etc?
I’ve painted murals in public spaces in Solano and Marin Alleys located in the San Antonio Dist of East Oakland and in downtown Oakland. I have one long running character piece on Cell Space in San Francisco and murals in some of the art alleys (Clarion off Mission St and Osage and Cypress off 24th Street) in the SF Mission District.
You are originally from Coachella Valley, home of Palm Springs and the Salton Sea in Southern California. Can you tell us how that environment impacted your art?
Growing up in such extreme weather you have to adapt and paint with what you have like painting under bridges, on dry creek walls and trains. The Desert is very inspiring to me with animals, plant life and colors you can’t find in any other place. I still paint with the environment in mind. When I am close to water I like to incorporate nautical themes and animals in my pieces. In an alley I might think in terms of spiders or mice.
Coachella Valley is closer to LA where there are a lot of artists and a vibrant art scene. What brought you further north to San Francisco?
Around 1998 graffiti magazines were being published enabling me to see more what was happening else where. I have been to L.A and it has a large art scene. But in 2002 I visited family in S.F and Oakland and saw more mural opportunity so I moved here. The community has been great.
When I first arrived I pasted up my creature every where in San Francisco and central Oakland. It was easy and inexpensive. I used 11 by 17 paper and home made paste. I decided I needed to branch out so I created new creatures. One I call the humming bee. It is a masked humming bird wearing a bee helmet. The other is a masked woman, that is sometimes mistaken for a ninja but actually drew its inspiration from the Zapatista movement in Chiapas. I took a few classes on mural painting was inspired by the teachers,muralist and organizers.
Are you a full time artist or do you do this as a creative outlet? If you are a full time artist what type(s) of art do you create?
This has been more of a creative outlet that has evolved to a point where I recently began focusing on art as a career. I am experimenting with different mediums like sculpture and print making and acrylics. I have been in shows in various Bay Area galleries including 111 Minna Gallery in SF, Loakal in Oakland,Neilsen Art Gallery in Berkeley. Recently I started an online store and am vending t-shirts and prints at local galleries. Excited to see how far I can go and have a good time doing so.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from mythology,folklore, and nature. I like to draw my ideas first in a sketch book. They sometimes become a blue print or map for a mural.
What art/artist influenced you in formative years? Is there any genre or artists influencing you now?
One artist who has influenced me over the years has been Jersey Joe aka Rime. He always has a unique style and clean work. I also like and respect Espo, Steve Powers, who has been around for a long time and never stops evolving and progressing. He is a character and has a great demeanor.
Do you do street art in other cities? If so, do you travel to do street art or do you do street art when you travel?
Yes, always try to find a cool place to paint while traveling. I recently teamed up with Koleo,Creeptopus and Kashink in Paris,France where we painted an abandoned train track line. Had a great time hanging out with the locals. It was amazing how you could find their art all over Paris.
This winter I plan to spend several months on the East Coast where I will have an extended stay in a studio in Rhode Island to focus on painting then drop into New York, Phili, Georgia and New Orleans to paint murals.
Can you tell us about Solano and Marin Alleys and your involvement in it?
I was living by Solano and Marin Alleys. Solano is a narrow alley sided primarily by businesses. It was littered with junk and constantly being tagged by gangs. Having seen what art could accomplish in some of the San Francisco alleys I thought we should experiment with Solano. I approached Amor Eterno Tattoo art space about painting the side of their building. They got on board with the idea and I pulled in a group of friends called Project Elefont. We painted a Bruce Lee mural on that building and ending up eventually painting one block together. It was very mellow. I really enjoy painting with other artists. Several years latter new art is still being painted. That one block has expanded down several more. When walking down the alley I meet visitors from other countries, something that seemed inconceivable a few years ago.
Solano Alley flanks one side of International Blvd and Marin Alley is on the other side. Marin alley is more residential and I was living on it. There was always a lot of garbage in the alley and I wanted to clean it up and make it more colorful. The neighbors were leery about art. I lined up a church that abutted the alley and got started. It was one mural, one garage door at a time with other friends.
You have any upcoming solo show at Mary Weather in Oakland on November 8th. Do you want to tell us about the body of work you will be showing?
Yes, I’m excited, working on a series of Creatures on wood panels. The show is called ” Honey Thieves ” most images will be the masked Humming Bee’s that I’ve been painting around town along with a few other California animals trying to steal honey. Looking forward to seeing folks come out and enjoy the work + we have some bands preforming at the reception.
Follow Chris Ganillo
View all posts by Chris Granillo