Interview with MAZ PAZ

Footloose, multifaceted artist Mas Paz has roots that spread across the Americas… and as his efforts in muralism, illustration, installation art and print production expand, his branches are reaching out too. A repeat participant in En Masse, Mas Paz spoke to us about his style, his social concerns (his handle, meaning “more peace” says a lot) and his love of lettering, whatever the language.

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Where are you from and where are you now?

I am from Bogota, Colombia. I grew up in Arlington, Virginia. Currently I am in Barra de Navidad, Mexico, hanging and working on a body of works and painting some walls. 

What do you do? How do you describe your art practice?

I am a painter, illustrator, muralist. I enjoy painting walls in low-income neighbourhoods, where arts and murals may be lacking. Friends tell me that the style of my art has a very native look. I enjoy bold lines and geometric curves in my art, they help me create imagery representing family and the environment around me.

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When did your practice as an artist begin?

I think my artistic career began when I moved to Brooklyn in 2006. I left my job as an assistant teacher and my family in Arlington, Virginia. When I landed in BK, I got focused. I started working in a 3D modeling house and screenprinting, I eventually quit my jobs in the city and started selling t-shirts in Union Square. From then my freelance art career began. But, I remember as far back as one day when I was a little kid on the airplane, playing hide-and-go-seek with someone sitting in front of me and colouring up a colouring book with some markers that my mom surprised me with. I must have been 4!


Why do you feel compelled to create art?

It is something in my blood. I have always loved to make things. When I was a lil’ kid, I used to make furniture for my GI Joes. I wanted to copy my favourite comics. When I saw graffiti in the streets, I had to make that too. Now I  feel as if I need to paint as big as possible and give the youth something inspirational to look at.

One aspect of your practice is silkscreen printing. What is it you like about that process and what it produces?

There is something about screenprinting that seems to attract many. If it was easy, we all would be doing it! When I was in college, I made this print that looked like a stamp from Colombia, the design also consisted of my mom and I, my family and some kids from the orphanage that I came from. I love that print. The negative I made was meant to print on paper, but I printed shirts with it. The ink was completely wrong and it never dried. But, I loved making those tees! Since then, I want to make more tees. I learned how to screenprint. I have gone off to design many, many, many t-shirts. For friends, Nike, myself and many others. I have also printed wood panels, jackets, hats, patches, posters… the list goes on. The craft is addictive. With screenprinting, I have the access to make clothes and art! Sometimes I merge the two. It helps me spread my Mas Paz message and even helps bring in the dinero.


You also have experience of the increasingly rare practice of sign-painting by hand… what are your thoughts that particular craft?

I am glad to have shared some of my sign-painting experience with this amazing En Masse Collective! If it wasn’t for the love of typography, I might have never met En Masse. Coming from a background of graffiti, I never thought about learning typography or even thinking of sign painting. One day my friend’s father lent me Stop Stealing Sheep by Spiekermann — this book taught me the ways of the letter. After reading that book I had to get down and learn to paint some letters. I had a solo show at Iona Bar in Brooklyn, that was all hand-painted signage, the theme the show was phrases of peace. Almost all of the signs were in Spanish. I was really happy with the work. To me, sign painting is about mastering a craft that computers try to do, and just can’t!

What is your proudest accomplishment as an artist?

I am glad to say that the more time goes by, the more accomplishments I feel like I have accomplished. Projecting my art seven stories high on the New Museum was awesome! Last year, I got a paid invitation to paint a very large wall in Long Island, that was another big accomplishment. I just recently released a video documentation of my travels in La Paz, Bolivia, that was also big. Working at the MoMA and for Nike have also been big accomplishments. I plan for many more in the future.


What improvement, alteration or innovation would you most like to see in the arts?

Schools all around the world lack funding for arts programs and extracurricular activities. Art is an essential learning tool for children and adults! Art teaches self-esteem, creativity, patience, teamwork — the list goes on and on. I want to see more funding and more art classes in schools in the States and all over the world.

Where do you feel the value lies in artistic collaboration?

We as humans are not alone. The same goes for artists. Since we are all here together, why not work together to help each other and learn from each other. If it wasn’t for collaborative projects like En Masse, I would not be here talking to you and if it wasn’t for my great artist friends that I have met over the years I probably wouldn’t know the techniques and skills that I have now. In my opinion, collaboration is key!

What is next for you?

Next… I recently released a MasPaz skateboard with AUP, a skate shop in DC. I am releasing the same deck again, along with a new MasPaz Skate website. My friend Miles with CubaSkate and I hope to open a skate shop in 2015. I plan to raise 2K this year for my orphanage, last year I raised $575. I’m am working on landing some outdoor LED installation proposals with a friend in DC. Currently, I’m working on a building a nice little body of paintings, and planning some trips to Colombia, Australia and Puerto Rico. Lastly, I can’t forget to mention an illustration project that I am working on with illustration guru and En Masse manager, Rupert Bottenberg!


You can find more peace, and a lotta pieces, at Paz’s website.