Speaking with Justin Totemical

Your stickers are quite remarkable. Both your collabs with Forcefield and those you’ve designed on your own are unlike anything I’ve seen in NYC. When did you first begin to get your art out in public spaces?   I was 18. Living in Abbotsford at the time, I almost never saw art on the streets…beyond some toy scribbles.  But that changed when I started attending college in Vancouver. Riding the bus to school, I noticed all kinds of great graffiti and street art on public spaces.

What inspired you to do it yourself?  It’s a great means of expression. It’s my way of reclaiming public space. There’s far too much advertising and structured design taking over our environment. For me getting up in public spaces is my way of establishing control over the higher-ups.  As individuals our influence is limited, but collectively we have enormous power.

Have you any preferred spots or surfaces?  Anywhere on the streets, so long as it’s not on private property. I also like to get up in bathrooms.

How do you get your materials? I used to get them anyway I could. But once I turned 19, I didn’t want to take any legal risks.

Have you ever been caught or arrested? I had begun to leave detailed pieces in the bathroom on the Greyhound bus to and from school. One day, staring directly at me, the bus driver publicly stated that everyone is free to check out the bathroom murals “done by our local vandal.” But, no, I’ve never been arrested!

How do you earn your money these days?  I freelance as a graphic designer.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art? 100%

Lucky you! Have you any other interests?  Everything I do revolves around art. I’m into architecture, music, design-related technology.

Have you ever exhibited your work? I’m pretty unknown in the gallery circuit, but my work has been featured in three art shows so far – two in Vancouver and one in Victoria with my old crew: DMT.

How does your family respond to what you do these days? Everyone loves it.

Any artists in your family? My grandmother was a traditional painter. She was into nature and painted mostly landscapes.

Have you had any formal art education? When I was a high school senior, I took a class in design. The teacher noticed I was better than he was and asked me to do the cover for our yearbook!

Any favorite artists or influences?   There are many – from hardcore LA graf artists to visionary artists. Among them are: Retna, El Mac, Saber, Kofie, Duster 123, Hydro 74, Machine 56 and Alex Grey. And there’s my girlfriend. She’s Native American and she’s definitely influenced my art.

What do you see yourself doing in five years?  I’m just going to go with the flow. My dream is to start a clothing company. You can check out my artwork at http://totemical.com

Lots of luck!

Interviewed by LoisInWonderland

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