Frenemy is an engaging, self-taught North American artist, tattooed from head to toe, with a rich background in music and drawing that goes back over 20 years. He has created a dreamlike world of wacky characters, where houses look like hamburgers with legs, cats fly and monsters are your happy little friends.
Frenemy is a fan of colours: his bestiary presents monsters in fresh and bright colours. His characters are often interwoven into each other in landscapes directly inspired by his dreams, which adds to the visual and colourful effect of his murals.
Frenemy is particularly fond of this childlike universe which is also playful. He likes to illustrate the thoughts that overflow from the head of one of his reader-monsters, transforming letters into stories and stories into landscapes.
For the artist, school generally lacks didactics, fun links and small characters that can accompany children in understanding lessons. He is convinced that a playful contribution can have a positive influence on children by motivating them to read more, thus promoting their concentration and learning.
After having created a few children’s books, frenemy wants to go further by integrating directly into school books so that his characters become the children’s companions during their learning.
We follow him in his very interesting quest to fill our world and the minds of our children with intelligent and colourful monsters who love to read and learn, which we are sure is of great interest!
I am a street artist, muralist, illustrator, painter, sculptor and designer. I do many different things artistically. It’s good to be creative in different ways.
What is your story? What are the reasons that pushed you to paint?
I started painting on the street around 2001. I started as a graffiti artist painting letters. I made a friend who was passionate about it and he invited me to come and paint. I was immediately hooked. Around 2009, I started to transition into character-based work like the work I do now.
I had no formal art training to do graffiti but I loved to draw. During my years of graffiti painting, I learned all the basics of the art. It was basically my art school.
What inspires you?
I am very inspired by the cartoons and children’s books I loved as a kid. I love the idea of creating my own world. I combine this in my work with my graffiti influences to create a playful and original world of characters that are more about my personal experiences.
What is your favourite ‘playground’?
I love painting abandoned places, but I also really enjoy painting large scale murals in visible places, the bigger the better!
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On the street I paint mainly with spray paint and sometimes with wall paint. For the gallery I do a lot of painting on paper with watercolour, gouache and acrylic, with a brush.
What is the most important project you have worked on? Why is that?
Recently, it is a children’s book that I am writing and illustrating. Children’s books inspired me to draw as a child and it has long been a dream of mine to write and illustrate one. I hope it will inspire some children to become creative in the same way that the books I loved as a child did for me.
Who were the main artists that inspired you initially?
For illustration I would say Dr Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein and cartoons like Ren and Stimpy and other 90s cartoons. For graffiti, I was really influenced by graffiti crews like A2M, SWS, VTS, HM and Mayhem. All of them had writers in their crews with really original funky styles. It was later that I took both of these influences and merged them to create my character style.
In your opinion, does urban art have an impact on people’s lives?
I think it does. It can change the overall feeling of a place. Especially areas of the city that have been neglected, I think it brings some life back. Maybe it also inspires people to go out and paint in the street. The internet combined with the paintings, I think it can draw attention to certain issues depending on the work.
Do you think your work questions society? In what way?
I think going out and painting illegally in the street is inherently a political statement. Taking back the public space. Giving life to derelict areas. Personally, my work isn’t always necessarily overtly political, but I feel like we’re bombarded with the shit of life. So I like to create things that make people smile for a minute and escape briefly, that’s what my work does for me. A lot of my work has to do with imagination and escaping the shit of the world. If I can help someone else join the escape for a moment, I feel I’ve succeeded.