The man known as “Sril” is an influential graffiti, mural, and aerosol street artist from Salt Lake City, Utah. His name, pronounced “surreal”, is a nod to prominent Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali.
I was introduced to Sril nearly two years ago, after encountering one of his artistic works off of South Broadway in Downtown Denver. Many Denverites might know the piece, the stunning and colossal Macaw on the wall adjacent to Illegal Pete’s. After seeing his tag, I decided to look him up, and have been following his projects through social media ever since.
Recently, I caught up with Sril to discuss his art, his inspiration, plans for the future, and his current project; a 100’x25′ wall of “ungodly” proportions in Salt Lake City, Utah. Enjoy the exclusive interview with one of modern graffiti’s most talented surging artists below.
Let’s start with the basics; tell us about your background and what inspired you to become an artist.
“I started at a young age just doing illegal graffiti and having an interest in graffiti around town. My background is almost entirely utilizing spray paint in some form or fashion. As time went on, I gravitated towards doing more realism and visual imagery as opposed to the lettering and traditional types of graffiti more commonly seen.”
Are you self-taught or was there anybody along the way who helped guide you?
“I’ve had a lot of mentors as far as graffiti goes, people who taught me lettering and other things. But as far as the kinds of things I’m painting now, I’m self-taught. I’m inspired by lots of different artists in all types of medium. I pay attention to what others are doing which in turn helps me progress, but no one specific artist has really helped me or guided me.”
Which artists, in any medium, do you look up to or find most influential?
“I really like Nikko Hurtado [the tattoo artist] because he really pushes what is possible with tattooing as far as realism goes. It’s always an inspiration to see someone pushing their medium. Outside of him, I really look up to Scribe from Kansas City. He was more of a cartoon style artist but he had realistic techniques and effects way ahead of his time. In the early 90’s he was achieving things people are just now discovering today.”
You are based out of Salt Lake City; but where else can we see some of your work?
“I try to travel as much as possible, but I’ve Recently taken a break this year. The Few years prior I visited to Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, And Albuquerque. nothing too crazy, but traveling is something I want to put more focus on in the coming year.”
Any plans to come back to Denver soon?
“I’ve been to Denver a couple of times but there’s nothing in the works as of right now. I love Denver and any opportunity that pops up I’m all over it. Denver has been one of my favorite places to visit.”
Are there any international locations at the top of your list?
“At the top of my list is Australia. I couldn’t tell you why really, but I’d like to go there and paint and just experience the country.”
Can you talk about your name, “Sril”?
“I used to go by a different name that was similar to a lot of established artists so I decided to brainstorm something more fitting for what I was trying to create. The name obviously comes from the style of work that I try to produce. The surreal part of it gives me an out when the work is not fully realistic but kind of stylized. It isn’t exactly on par with surrealist art, but I feel like it is more fitting than what I was using before.”
Can you tell us about the beautiful Macaw bird on South Broadway here in Denver?
“I have a lot of friends in Denver who invited me down and they secured that wall with full creative freedom to do whatever we wanted. at the time I was painting a lot of animals and I wanted to create something broadly accepted, not offensive, and something I would really enjoy painting. The Macaw was a perfect fit. We got into Denver and started at about 8 am and finished at about 8 or 9 at night, making for one full day of nonstop abuse, but I got it done.”
Are there any other areas in Denver where we can find your work?
“I think the most popular thing I’ve done there is a portrait of Tech 9, the rapper, which I did when I first came out there. That one is still there and it’s one of the longest running paintings I still have. Tech 9 has a huge following, especially in Denver, so a lot of people gravitated towards that one.”
Kansas City Rapper “Tech 9” Portrait by Sril in Denver, CO
Your most current project we’ve been following is the massive 100 foot wall you are wrapping up in Salt Lake City. Can you talk about what goes into a project that big and how do you tackle a project of such size?
“The scale of it is difficult to not get overwhelmed by, but for me I try to just focus on one small area and work outward. I never really take a step back and look at the whole wall. Focus on one specific area and then go from there.
I do a lot of my preparation in digital, so I take a photo of the wall then open it in Photoshop and mock up different concepts to fit in the space. I print out hundreds of references of zoomed in areas and try to follow it, but what happens is I get to the wall and it feels much more organic once I start painting. So, I end up painting what I feel at the time and it ends up being slightly different than originally planned.”
Where can Loki’s readers track your progress and connect with you?
Browse and purchase full color shirts and prints featuring Sril’s art at www.srilart.com.
Photos Courtesy of Sril Art on Facebook