reprinted from the Covid Issue of #figchronicles

Do a quick search on Instagram for Covid art and you will twirl your way down the rabbit hole for hours. Hmmm, I actually have hours to do just that.

Street art is present in almost every large city. As once crowded areas have thinned out, artists have found acres upon acres of canvas at their disposal. It is amazing how the very invisible enemy of C-19 is so graphically presented. This art is strongly emotional, powerful, and packed with angst.

For weeks, I have been following @thevelvetbandit, an amazing artist on Instagram. I have been fascinated by the simple yet pointed designs that are popping up in Santa Rosa and beyond. I reached out to The Velvet Bandit to see if I could interview him/her about his/her process.

SB: Have you always been a Street Artist or is this something totally new?

TVB: I’ve been an artist all of my life, but March was the first time I have ever done any street art. I’ve always wanted to and this seemed like the perfect time. Let’s Roll (image above) was the first one I did.

SB: Do your ideas simply free flow or where do you get your inspiration?

TVB: My first inspiration for street art came from artist-activist Shepard Fairey. There is certainly a lot of inspiration around the virus and they just keep coming. I want my art to carry a positive message about Covid. There is plenty of imagery around this and there are so many ideas in my head that I just need to get them out. The news continues to shift and that just gives me more to paint about. I have always been an activist so this feels very right.

SB: What is the process and what is the medium that you use?

TVB: I use newsprint paper and create my image with acrylic paints. When the image is complete I find the spot for it and use a non-toxic, non-permanent wheat paste made from flour and water for the adhesive. I put a coat of the wheat paste on the surface (concrete, metal, wood), adhere the image and then add another coat or two on top to seal it.

SB: Do you have to sneak out in the middle of the night to leave your mark?

TVB: In the beginning, I was very careful not to get caught. I reached out to both a police officer friend and an attorney to make sure I wasn’t breaking any laws. The bottom line is that as long as the art is not affixed permanently, I am probably okay. Now I tend to “hang” my images in daylight, I am wearing a mask so I am unrecognizable.

SB: Do you think people are collecting your art or do you think it is being abated?

TVB: I am not really sure and I am not attached if I come back to a location and it is gone. It would be cool to think that people are collecting them, but my reality is they could be posted for 5 minutes or 5 months.

SB: Is there anything else you think we should know?

TVB: I am absolutely shocked by people’s enjoyment of the work. I love seeing my work tagged and it has been such an amazing response. This definitely keeps me motivated. There are three parts to this, all of which keep me engaged:

1) Creating the art.
2) Finding the spot and ‘hanging’ it for the world to discover.
3) Sharing and seeing it in the world.

People have been donating to help me continue to purchase art supplies and I am actually making more money than I was in my pre-Covid job. I can see myself doing this forever.

SB: Well, I am a huge fan, and I look forward to my future treasure hunt in Santa Rosa so I can see how many of your images I can find. In the meantime, I will continue to be a lurker and cheer you on from the sidelines.

If you want to donate to keep these positive, and fun messages alive you can Venmo a contribution to @thevelvetbandit.

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