Interview: Louis Masai

Louis Masai is a London based artist who uses nature as his muse. More importantly his work is a visual voice for endangered animals and the natural environment. Widely acclaimed for his outdoor murals and street art Masai has worked with Friends Of The Earth, IUCN, Gaia Foundation, The Body Shop and Synchronicity Earth. The later forging a strong partnership that will continue to change the way environmental agencies interact with the public.
Over the past three years Masai has been creating murals around the world raising awareness of endangered species. He has visited the USA six times painting in New York, Philadelphia, Miami, and New Orleans. His most recent mural project, in partnership with Human Nature, the environmental art platform, was ENDANGERED 13. 

Louis Masai is presently on his US tour with his environmental art platform The Art of Beeing, raising awareness of species extinction. He was able to answer a few questions I had for him.

photo-by-tee-byfordHey Louis, how is it going? For people that don’t know you or your work, could you give them a little bit of background?
I’m good thanks, dude, so I’m an artist from London, and I use my work to highlight environmental issues, I mainly focus on endangered species as I feel that I have an opportunity to pass on information to the general public about issues that may have escaped their attention…

Clearly, you are passionate about animals, especially the bees, as they are featured heavily in your work. Could you tell us why, and what message you hope to convey through your art?
well, I have been painting bees now for about three years, initially, I became interested in them because A. they are endangered across the whole planet and B. they are the most important species to the survival of all ecosystems and C. they demonstrate the importance of biodiversity. currently, I am in the states painting twenty murals over the next two months about endangered state specific species. Each painting has a bee stitching up a patchwork toy replication of the endangered species. the bees represent nature’s warriors – they stitch the planet together in reality and in the painting they are stitching the toy species. my ask is that people take note of these amazing little insects and become more bee-like in their approach to the environment. I’m hoping to encourage humans to stop unpicking the planet…this is why the tour is called ‘THE ART OF BEEING


You are on a mural painting tour in the USA called ‘THE ART OF BEEING‘. Could you tell us how many murals will you be painting and where?
I’m aiming to paint about 20 murals, I have already painted three in New York, and I’m half way through the next in Detroit. After Detroit, I’ll be in Reno, Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Austin, New Orleans, Nashville, Atlanta, and Miami.

Is this the first you paint in the USA? Do you have any expectations?
I’ve been to and from the states for the past few years, I’ve painted in Miami, New Orleans, and Philly before this trip. My only expectation is that I’ll have a great time.

new-england-cotton-tail-6How much does your art affect or influence your everyday life and are there any role models or artists who inspired you?
my art is my everyday life…I find it hard to separate the two, especially as my subject matter is something that I am so passionate about. I can’t say that I am inspired by any one particular person or artist, but I am definitely glad to meet and know all the people that come into my life. I have to give massive props to Leonardo di Caprio right now, he should be the leader of the USA, he gets it.

Are you creatively satisfied?
Every day, but I also always look for ways of getting better at what I do.

If you could collaborate with anyone — dead or alive, celebrity, artist, company — who would it be and why?
eeesh, I don’t know, ummmm….i genuinely can’t think of anything. that sounds so uninteresting. I have to say that I’m extremely proud to be working with Ecoalf on this tour, they are a fashion brand from Spain that has created clothes from recycled plastics from the ocean. not only are the clothes incredibly well made but they feel amazing…I guess it would be cool to collaborate on a fashion line with those guys…


In your opinion, what is the difference between graffiti and street art?
its like asking the difference between a tree and paper. they are one in the same and yet completely different…they exist in their own rights as expressions of creativity and I think that in all honesty is all that counts… but if I had to put it into terms – I’d say graffiti is about letterforms, fonts, and fighting against a system…street art for me is about promoting yourself, and is conducted via, pastes ups, or stencils, it’s generally something that is created in the studio and then placed in the street… graffiti is painted directly on the street, train or public property.

The internet innately separates the creator from the audience. What are your thoughts on social media, and how it helps or hurts artists today?
well without it I wouldn’t be where I am today. it makes life a lot easier for me, I don’t have to rely on the gallery system as much to make ends meet. I can communicate with my audience from a million miles away all around the world. I feel a lot more connected to my audience…

photo-by-zurbaran1Do you travel to do street art or do you do street art when you travel?
I travel to paint. and when I’m travelling without paint I find it hard not to spot where I could paint something…
What are your thoughts about what’s going on in the world: The Middle East, The refugee crisis, The USA elections…
wow…dude that is a huge question…I couldn’t even begin to answer that in one question…in general I think the world is very very confused…we are all being lied to by greedy world leaders that have no intentions to make our lives better…and that is a scary thing to admit to oneself, on the other hand, i do believe that we can change things…I think politicians are starting to be scared that they might not be required anymore…perhaps this is why Trump is so popular because he’s not really a politician, and people like the performance he presents. perhaps we will see more politicians like him appear across the world. I hope not as one lunatic is enough right?

Outside of the creating realm, away from screens, what activities occupy your time? Is it difficult to find a balance between “work” and “play”?
well, my work is my play. I need to learn how to separate myself from work more – I need to work on that next year…it will be my new year’s resolution I guess.

What’s something about you that would surprise our readers?
if I wasn’t an artist I would be a chef…


What can we look forward to seeing from you next? What collaborations, shows or projects do you have planned?
after this tour is done, I want to work on my book next year…I’d like to raise monies for rhino conservation, and I’ve been talking about this for years, so now is the time to get it done.

new-england-cottontail-rabbit-13-by-zurbaran1Any words of advice for aspiring new artists?
Don’t give up trying, and whatever you do isn’t wrong, its just different from what you and others might have expected to see…forwards ever, backwards never

Thank you Louis for your time, and wish you good luck in your quest in raising awareness of the endangered species!

Louis Masai 

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