Madsteez, artist, Analogue Digital
Art can live on forever ...
The globe may be dotted with talented, aspiring artists, but it’s only a fortunate few who manage to bend those natural abilities into a sustainable career. Street artist Mark Paul Deren, aka Madsteez, is one of the lucky ones. Born on the outskirts of Washington DC, blind in his left eye but bursting with talent, the young fella simply did what he did best – transforming blank canvases and walls into vibrant, colour-soaked artworks. His pieces soon attracted attention from corporate heavyweights like Nike and Audi, Hollywood actors such as Dennis Hopper and media publications including The New York Times. The man himself will be flying from his home in California to Brisbane this month to share his story of self-taught success at the Analogue Digital design conference, before working his magic at the First Coat Festival in Toowomba. Just before Mark boarded the plane to Australia, The Weekend Edition caught up with the legend to talk painting and parenting.
What were you like as a kid growing up on the outskirts of Washington DC? Were you always creative?
Looking back at it, I was more creative as a kid than I’d thought. I was really big into projects. I’d paint my skate decks, make movies for school projects, make my own t-shirts, and always trying to customise everything.
What do you love about your job?
The best part is that I get to create things that didn’t exist before.
Such huge works no doubt require plenty of patience and persistence. Do you ever suffer from self-doubt during the creation process?
Of course! I’d say that every painting I do, I always doubt it. I always think it’s terrible. I’m like, “What am I even doing?!” But then when I’m about 95 percent of the way through, I start feeling confident in the piece. It’s weird because I still can’t tell myself going into it that it’s going to be ok and there’s always the stage of uncertainty. It still gets me emotionally every time.
If you could produce one of your beautifully vibrant works on the walls of any home, landmark or building around the world, where would you choose to splash the paint?
Wow, that’s a great question. I’d love to paint an entire mountain or a volcano. Something at a scale that is unfathomable. I think that might have to be my next project!
You’ve forged the kind of career that most of us only dare to dream about – do you have any words of wisdom for other aspiring artists who may have been too scared to take the leap and make their visions reality?
It may sound clichéd to say, but I’d say never give up. I’ve been doing this for more than 15 years and I could have just as easily thrown in the towel at some point and went another direction. But now I feel like things are really starting to get even more fun!
We can’t wait to check you out at Analogue Digital! What can fans expect to hear you talk about in your presentation?
To be totally honest, I’m still working on my presentation. I just hope to first, not embarrass myself and second, if I could inspire at least one person to do what they love to do, then I’ll be satisfied.
Do you have anything on your to-do list while you’re in Brisbane?
I’d really like to get some surfing in while I’m in town because I know the waves are super fun!
You’re created incredible murals around the world – which piece is your personal favourite, and why?
My favourite is this 20-metre WEENasaurus Rex that I painted in San Diego. It’s my favourite because you would swear it was Photoshopped, so when people see it in real life they just can’t believe it.
What’s the best thing about being you right now?
I’d say the best thing about me is that I truly love my job! Besides doing what I want to do, I also get travel the world and leave my mark for others to enjoy.
What are the biggest challenges in your line of work?
Lately, one of the biggest challenges I’ve been having is being strategic. I’ve been learning more and more about the fine art world and there are certain things you should and shouldn’t do. And I’m still trying to figure it all out.
You’ve been featured in mags like Dazed and Confused, partnered with Nike to release a signature series shoe and have had your work commissioned all over the globe – what do you consider to be your career highlight so far?
My own Nike shoe was definitely a dream come true. But I’d say a career highlight was when I was able to do a portrait of Dennis Hopper that he posed for. It was such an incredible experience to be able to do that for someone who was so inspiring to me.
You’re also a dad. What’s the biggest lesson being a parent has taught you about life?
I think the biggest lesson I learned from being a parent is love and patience. I think unless your a parent yourself, you just can’t describe the type of love that can come from loving someone that you helped create.
What are you most proud of?
I’m really proud that when someone asks me what I do, I can say “I’m an artist”. I know how rare it is to make a living as an artist and at this current state, I am extremely lucky.
What do you hope your legacy will be?
I really hope my art stands the test of time. It would be so awesome to have people still excited about my art after I am long and gone.
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