From the alluring, yet quiet Melbourne suburbs, creeps Eleven, a 19 years old artist who's gaining huge popularity for his twisted, cartoon-esque illustrations and graffiti in his town.
Cover picture by Nicole Reed from A Shot Away
Interview by Marisa Benjamin aka Skeczh for the FatCap Team
From the alluring, yet quiet Melbourne suburbs, creeps Eleven, a self-proclaimed “ colorfully monochromatic, rainbow-eating, ironically logical living cartoon character.” While that might only be partly true, and I won’t say which part, Eleven is gaining huge popularity for his twisted, cartoon-esque illustrations and graffiti on the streets of Melbourne.
Eleven was recently chosen to compete in Secret Walls x Melbourne, apart of the worldwide live art battle competition, Secret Walls. At 19-years-old, he is the youngest artist ever to compete in Secret Walls. He will be battling Melbourne-based illustrator, Jessica Singh, in the competition’s first battle on August 29th.
FatCap : Why the name Eleven?
Eleven : When I first got into graffiti, I was obsessed with its history. Out of all things, I couldn't give the time of day to study in to most other hobbies or school even; graffiti just encapsulated me. It interested me so much I decided to adopt the common use of a number at the end of my tag. Seeing as most old school legends used the numbers of their streets, I used my house number; Eleven. Since then it's just stuck with me. My mum says it's her lucky number and mother knows best.
FC : How would you explain your technique and style?
11 : Or lack there of? I can't say I have much of a technique. When it comes to my graphite work, I started out just guessing how things should be shaded. I picked up a lot of fancy tricks by watching other kids in my art class back in high school. I smudged my graphite a lot, but have come to discipline myself and be more patient with various pencil weights.
Aerosols is a different story, seeing as rendering is completely different. I enjoy clean crisp work, but personally I prefer work with a bit of character. So when I paint I like to be a bit sloppy and messy. It's paint, so why not embrace the medium, right? Instead of trying to make something so loose look like an uptight vector illustration with ruler lines.
As for an overall style, I'd say it's a colorfully monochromatic, ironically logical and sensibly insane style. My work stems from a childhood spent glued to the carpet in front of my television. I frequently visit childhood loves and immature tendencies. It's fun. That's exactly what my work is to me, just fun. It's that simple.
FC : It’s easy to see cartoons have influenced your art. If your art was a cartoon character who would it be?
11 : If my art were a cartoon it would be a weird mix between Spongebob and Futurama. Both cartoons are ridiculous and have unlimited potential for jokes. They're alternate realities, so I find it more interesting and much more fun. Stupid, probably sums it up nicely.
FC : How did you begin to pursue art professionally?
E: This is actually a funny story. I was in class one day, violently attacking the page with tags and throws when a girl in my class from the other end of the room asked,
FC : Do you ONLY draw letters?
11 : Now for those who know me, know I'm a very competitive person who doesn't shy away from a challenge. So, perhaps in my mind it sounded a lot more like a snarl, attacking my creative integrity, so in a flash I drew up my first character. It was a beastly looking train with motor oil rabies. From then on I started drawing more characters.
My art has always been a way for me to keep myself entertained. They're visual stories, jokes and wild thoughts put onto paper. I don't think I take art seriously at all. I figured at an early stage, if I’m not laughing at myself, I shouldn't be doing it.
FC : You photograph, illustrate, design, graffiti, sketch: What would you consider your favorite?
11 : I love each one and each one provides me with different satisfactions. Photography allows me to get some fresh air and frame the moments life is constantly throwing at me. I don't have to think at all, I just have to be paying attention to every detail. Designing and illustrating probably require the most thought. I'm the fastest snail when it comes to these, seeing as every 5 minutes i'm contemplating how what I did 5 minutes ago will affect what I will do 5 minutes from now. Even in those moments of concentration it's a great time to meditate and escape my psychical body for a bit while I leave it on auto-pilot. I drift off mentally and think about foods to eat, things to do and people to see. I'm constantly thinking about what I'm going to eat next. Painting and sketching come more fluently as a way of venting ideas. I let everything go and allow for myself not to follow any rules to uphold the integrity of their spontaneous nature.
FC : What do you think the benefits of growing up in Melbourne, a hub of street art and street culture, have had on your development as an artist?
11 : All my life I was brought up to see 'art' as some form of dead-end street. I only picked it up serendipitously through being peer pressured into graffiti. Now that I've been digging deeper into the 'scene' in Melbourne, there's no denying it is one of the best cultural hubs of the world. Melbourne has such a diverse pocket of artists and art styles.
The street art scene has boomed as of late. It began before I picked up my first can, but it's now heavily weaved into Melbourne's psyche. I remember catching the train to the city as a high school boy and seeing these blurs of color along the walls. Now, every blank wall, alleyway, lane, shop interior and even car parks are being filled with street art and graffiti. It's crazy.
For me, it's been so beneficial living in Melbourne. Anyone who is anyone is here. I've been able to meet some amazing artists through exhibitions, other artists and just bumping into them on the street painting. Melbourne is quite small, but it is rich in life, so word gets around fairly quickly here. Nothing is easy. I suppose I’ve just been very lucky.
FC : You’ve also been able to meet a lot of artists through exhibitions. Could you tell me a bit about your latest show "Works on Paper”?
11 : To be honest the whole thing hasn't sunken in yet. Most normal people would be over the moon twice, but for me I still feel like I at the bottom of the ladder. I've been studying myself as of late and I believe it's the fact I don't take myself seriously as an artist. Don't get me wrong, I'm incredibly humbled to be apart of such an amazing collective of creatives, but I'm the not the kind of person who sees himself in a respected light. I heard from a friend that some people came into her workplace and mentioned my name. I find that to be hilarious and weird. I befriended a fella from Paris while he was down in Melbourne and I laughed when he always referred to me as 'Eleven' (in his cute French accent).
So what is it like to be exhibiting next to people like Bec Winnel, DOES, Gimicks Born, DVATE and the rest of the JAA gang? It's weird! There's my work sitting up there next to people who have probably been refining their craft longer than I have been walking! My mother often says to me: "Your work isn't even that good."
FC : Gallery or Street?
11 : Street. The magnitude and potential street has is indefinable. I find galleries can sometimes be intimidating and elitist. Not to mention it costs money to even see some exhibitions. The street is free. It's welcoming. There is a lot of subtleties in street work and often at times, the best work are the ones you have to bust your ass to find. Nothing is going to ever beat work you can see without security breathing down your neck. The lack of preservation is what makes it so much more appealing and so much more embraceable.
That's just my opinion anyway. All the works I love most aren't usually in galleries. However, I still hold a great respect to exhibiting artists. Their work belongs in galleries and can only be really appreciated in a gallery. To each his own, so they keep telling me.
FC : You were recently chosen to participate in Secret Walls: Melbourne. What are you looking forward to the most?
11 : I'm still having a hard time swallowing the idea! Everyone in the series has so much more experience than me, not to mention I'm the youngest artist ever to be in Secret Walls. I'm looking forward to painting in front of all those people, time ticking away, spotlight on me, hands trembling, ink spilling and heart racing. Nothing beats live art and "friendly" competition.
FC : Any tricks up your sleeve to win it all?
11 : Tricks? You'll just have to wait and see I suppose.
Picture by Nicole Reed from A Shot Away
Nicole Reed from A Shot Away