It’s this surrealist 10 meters high girl that made me discover Natalia’s work. I have the impression that this kind of work is universal, timeless, no human cannot be stunned by this feminine poetry. It straightened my inner macho, a magical slap in my face that brings me back to earth, a bit like a porn actor dropping a tear watching Little House on the Prairie. Beyond her native talent, Natalia has mastered her skills with the best professors at Lodz school of Arts in Poland. Then, its thanks to her boyfriends advices that she started painting with spray cans on bigger and bigger walls inviting each one of us passing by, to immerge in her fantastic and colorful world.
Jacker / Tell us about the first time you got into Art ? How did you develop this passion until today ?
Natalia / Since my childhood I’ve always loved creating stuff. I was painting on the walls of my bedroom and making handcrafts. My teachers and both of my parents always told me to go for the art school. I never imagine another way for me. I went to Secondary Art School in Radom. I was a good girl, focused on my first art lessons, wanted to develop myself in traditional art. I graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Lódź. I developed my skills in different directions such as screen printing, packaging design, poster design, corporate identity, comics, drawing, sculpture, but most of all I loved to paint. I come from a small village and that’s why I never had contact with graffiti subculture before. During my studies I met my boyfriend who persuaded me one day to try painting with spray cans. For me cans were only another kind of paint and wall replaced the canvas place. My first time painting a wall was a bit humiliating. I thought it would be a lot easier. I’ve always been very ambitious person and that’s why I decided to use spray cans as often as I could to get better at it.
I’m still very passionate about my art and I think it’s not so easy. I know a lot of artists who’re burned out from the inside. I’m still a novice to the mural world so maybe that’s why a lot of themes are new to me and undiscovered. I still have that feeling that I’m on my first art lesson, that I still know nothing about art. You could say that this could be a depressive approach, but it mobilizes me to work hard and gives me the distance to what I’m doing.
J / When did you realise that you could live of it and make your passion become your job ?
N / After my studies I moved to Warsaw and found a graphic designer job but I quickly understood that I will never develop myself if I stayed there. I don’t want to make projects like a machine. I want to make my individual work. I was looking for a first chance and I got it in March after half a year in my first job in Warsaw. I was invited to France to a festival organized by Seth from Global Painter. I quitted my job and moved to a smaller and cheaper city. I was not convinced that I would make it though. For me it was a jump into dark waters, but I had nothing to lose really. After few weeks, more invitations came through the door and I finally found the time and a bit of confidence to make my first solo exhibition.
J / Did painting huge walls help you gaining notoriety ? Do you think street art could be a springboard for artists that struggle making a name ?
N / I’m a good example of an artist that street art not only helped to find jobs but also helped developing potential. Poland is a country with no modern art market. Most students that graduate from Fine Art Schools choose designer careers. Students that focus solely on art have a hard time finding jobs or even single projects. I didn’t think that I would find a chance to boost my name without first the decision to quit normal job. I would still be a graphic designer and I would have never had chance to travel and show my work all over the world. My family supported this decision and without them I couldn’t have made it. Street art career gives me notoriety but it wasn’t my only purpose, my reputation is more important. I think street art could be a springboard for artists but only for those who will truly love it. If they paint only one wall to be famous it would be fake. It should become part of their life.
J / What are the differences between a canvas and a wall in terms of the technicalities and the idea ? Would a painting that you made on canvas be transferrable on to a wall or vice versa ?
N / There is a lot of difference between a canvas and a wall. Painting canvas in a peaceful studio is simpler than painting mural in an urban environment. One of them is quality of paint. On canvas I use oil paint, where paint does not dry as quickly as when using acrylics. On a wall, I use a lot of spray cans which reminds me of airbrushes and it dries in seconds.
Painting murals has more rules and things to think about. On canvas the only thing that restricts you is the size of the brush bristles. On a wall you can use different caps with levels but making small details are hard to do or even impossible. The second difference is the texture on which you are painting. Walls have a large variety of different surfaces. If you paint on bricks you can’t make small details because in a sunny day, the whole image will be cut by the brick’s shadows.
Another aspect is how big the wall is or how many windows it has. The idea and composition of the project is closely related to the look of the wall itself. You don’t have that problem on can- vas. Also painting walls is very exhaustive: weather changes, the hours spent painting big surfaces and working at height. Eight to ten hours of hard work under the rain or during a hot summer day whilst working on a fourth floor height can gradually weaken the fervor of spirit. That’s why when I plan a project I always think how to do that in seven to ten days. Canvases and walls are two different ways of thinking, it’s possible to repaint one idea on both surfaces but what is the point in doing so.
J / Your world is very colourful, dream-like and even fictional. What does inspire your creations and which are the artists that have inspired you ?
N / Everything I lived in the past can have influences in my future paintings. I’m inspired by : dreams, old photos, trips, people’s observations, films, normal day life, insomnia, book illustrations and music. From my first art history lesson I’ve been inspired by Jacek Malczewski. Later on I got to know art called Fauvism and I became interested in the combination of colors. Recently I became interested in Norman Rockwell’s paintings, the way he showed emotion and the different situational scenes. I love freaky, abstractive movies and animations which show life from the border between sleep and awake : Ghibli animations, The Simpson, The Adventure time, Dark City, Wes Anderson movies, Vampire Hunter, Monty Python. My style is a combination of vivid colors and the use of metaphors in the content of the mural. I liked using fluoric colors, maybe that’s why some of the colors are so aggressive. I like to put a lot of details into my paintings. I know I can get crazy about it, but the details are important to me. I like to do portraits because I believe that people always look for another face somewhere, and it’s easier for them to build a context around it and observe more the picture.
Sometimes I would like to take on the same subject that some artist did before me but of course in a different, closer way. Whilst looking for new ideas, I always think about objects that I would like to paint and I have never had a go before. These are all my private challenges.
J / There’s a significant lower ratio of women compared to men in Graffiti and Street art, especially when large surfaces come into play. What are the perks and inconveniences of being a woman in these surroundings.
Traveling and painting is very fatiguing. After dinner I no longer have the energy to explore the area. I’m small, not very athletic girl so the actual process of painting is for my body a little more exhaustive. On festivals people don’t treat me in a different way because I’m a woman, they treat me like one of the guys and I find it normal, as we are all equal. Some of the artists have their own assistants, some of them paint in group whilst I only need help to cover a wall with acrylic on first day. Painting with assistance using spray cans would be a dishonor to me.
I know that there aren’t many women in street art. I’m always looking at art the way men have done it before as I think that they’re better than women. I know only one famous female Polish Impressionist artist, Olga Boznanska (1865-1945), but I don’t like her work too much. I think my style of graffiti is not like how men do it, but I want to impress everyone, the guys included. I want to be as good as them. I think it’s always been inside of me, to be as good as male artists.
J / You travel a lot and you have painted everywhere in the world, which country has impacted you the most and why ?
N / I’ve been to few countries: USA (NY, Richmond), Germany (Berlin, Halle), Portugal (Ponta Delgada, Lagos), France (Fleurylesaubrais), Sweeden(Malmo, Boras), Itally(Terracina). I’ve always wanted to feel free, alone in the nature and that’s why I love Portugal. I miss my friends from Lagos (LAC) where we lived during winter. I was preparing there for my solo exhibition. I think it was the best time I spend with my fiancé alone in these ghost towns.
When I travel to another country to paint my own art, despite the hard work I always have the best time ever. I remember how much energy NY gives me. It’s an amazing city, the whole time I was there I felt like in some movie. One day, while we were sitting in a park with my friend Dicapria, I realized that I was looking at Will Smith’s house from the movie “I’m a legend” – one of my favorite movies. It was so unreal to be there.
J / What steps do you follow when painting a mural, do you first paint it on paper that you then reproduce on a wall or do you just sketch it ?
N / An idea referring to the place and situation is the first stage. Then, on the basis of the wall surface, I sketch the colours and its compositions. I make them in Photoshop first and after that I either look for interesting photographs or take them myself and I create a coherent collage. After this, it’s time for a sketch, using acrylic paint and improving again. The most fun I have is using spray cans. In the end, I make some corrections and give a title.