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About This Creator

MADSTEEZ aka Mark Paul Deren is a Southern California based artist who was born with his left eye blind, but not in the traditional sense. His right eye can see what everyone else sees, but the left sees a mashup of colors with crazy gradients and lines going through everywhere. There's nothing tangible. If he closes his right eye, within a couple of minutes he'll feel sick because of the acid trip of colors. His work is a reflection of his condition as he sees the world as a brilliant kaleidoscope of colors. Needless to say, it makes for very interesting art work. He is the featured artist of the first Mondrian Mural for 2015. See the finished mural during the unveiling at Skybar on February 26th.
Where did you grow up?
I've been in Northern Virginia pretty much my whole childhood from when I was 6 until I was 17. I had been to California a couple times and the first time I came out here, I was like "I have to live here." I moved to Huntington Beach for senior year of high school and then I've been in Newport ever since. I've been here [in Southern California] since 1997. 

We saw that you were just recently in Barcelona. How was that?
It was fucking awesome. That place is like a candyland for artists. I was there for 10 days and spent most of my time painting. The place I was painting was in the barrios and I could see how people really lived. They were so appreciative of me painting for them. I was invited by Montana which is the spraypaint company I work with. They had me come out to their facilities outside of Barcelona. Then there was this mural conference, Open Walls, going on at the same time that they put me on. I think it was 20 international artists from around the world who got to paint in spots in the hood. I painted my weiner dog three different times. The curator wanted me to do something social for the neighborhood and I didn't really have much to go off of besides there was a higher class, middle class, and lower class and that there is a huge separation between the three. At first I wanted to do my weiner dog, WEENseuss, as a conquistador (a WEENquistador), and then it evolved into three different social classes: WEENseuss as a king, WEENseuss as middle class, and WEENseuss as a serf. 

How do you come up with these characters?
Everything falls under the WEEN. One of my main characters is named Mr. WEEN and they all spawn from that. WEENshark, WEENgiraffe, WEENcow. They all have the same eyes and eyebrows and they take on different forms. Also WEENtilian, a girl with four eyes who's reptilian/extraterrestrial. 

Where is your next trip?
I go to Art Basel next week. There's been millions of dollars worth of art sold in that small area of Wynwood in 5 years and there hasn't been an art teacher at this one middle school in the neighborhood this whole time. Alonzo Mourning's charity is trying to raise $500,000 by having artists paint murals on the middle school and I'm painting one of the murals there, actually of Alonzo Mourning. It should be cool, hopefully they'll be able to raise the funds to get an art department.

What are your thoughts on Art Basel? Is it even about the art anymore?
I've been going for 7-8 years and it's a mess now. There are a ton of walls that people paint over and I've heard that buildings are charging $40,000-$70,000 for artists to paint the walls now. So essentially, I would have to find a sponsor to fund myself to paint the wall. It's basically buying advertisement. The year before last year, it was really an awesome community and then last year, it got out of hand. Our community of artists is this tight-knit group but then everything else grew above us. It's been happening for the past 3-4 years but last year was the turning point. 

It depends on what you want though. I've done the experience where I've been with the top 1% of richest people in the world then I've had the ghetto real graffiti artists who are sleeping on my floor. There's nothing in between, it's either super rich or super poor. 

What other artists are you into right now?
I really like this guy named Richard Jackson, who I didn't know until he had a show at the Orange County Museum of Art. He did a giant dog pissing on a building. That motherfucker has been around for a while, most of his work was from the early 80's and late 70's — giant sculptures and installations — which are current now even though he made them back then. It makes sense with what's going on in pop culture. I think he was ahead of his time. He blew me away.

I just saw the Jeff Koons show which was really rad. He's one of those artists who doesn't make his own art but I understand it. I'm really into installations even though I paint paintings (which bore the shit out of me sometimes), so I want to hang something from the Empire State Building -- that would be fun. Something so off the walls stupid. That would definitely be a goal of mine, make some stupid shit. 

Well if you had unlimited funds and you could do something crazy, what would you do?
Hmm something with a weiner dog. Maybe a weiner dog the size of the Empire State Building standing up. That would be so sick. Like the thing in Barcelona..  I was laughing and thinking, how did I even get permission to paint weiner dogs 20 feet high?!

What's your favorite collaboration and piece you've ever worked on?
For me personally, I did a shoe with Nike. I've been a Nike supporter since I was 6 and since I've been working with them, it was a dream come true to get my own shoe. I know that doesn't happen to a lot of people and not that I'm anywhere near having Jordans, but I can say I have my own shoe. It was actually a mentor project where I brought a kid, Stink, who wasn't known and mentored him through the process of a big corporate collaboration. We created a character called the StinkWEEN — his guy is on one side and my guy is on the other side of the sole.

My favorite piece I've done is probably the 50 feet WEENasaurus Rex in North Park, San Diego. It's one of those things that's so stupid and dumb and you can see if from a mile down the road. It's just this dinosaur walking across a building. It took me 5 days. Stink helped me on that, but most times I do it by myself. There's always a time where I feel overwhelmed with something that big and I feel like it looks like shit. I battle through every piece but it usually turns out looking ok. 

Any you would consider a failure?
I just painted these roll up, super deep corrugated doors in NYC before I went to Barcelona. I did these four Grace Jones heads and they turned out like shit, it's awful. It took me 5 days because I couldn't paint until it was closed at 5:30PM and I only had 40 minutes before it was pitch black. That was one of my few failures. It took me longer to paint that than to paint a 100 foot mural. 

We saw that you have done paintings for The Game, Shaq, Dennis Hopper... Who had the best reaction to what you produced?
Shaq smiled at me, then turned me sideways and picked me up like a log. I was like "Holy shit, Shaq just picked me up" — that was insane. The Game had the hugest smile on his face and said something like "I'm a gangsta rapper and I don't smile. Besides my kids, this makes me smile." I can't believe he even said that. Dennis Hopper was so cool — he wanted to know everything about me!

Where are some of your current pieces of art in LA?
I had one on Melrose but that one's painted over. I also had one at The Montalban Theatre [in Hollywood] but that one's gone as well. Fuck I don't have anything else. That's the thing about street art -- it's temporary. I think The Well is the only one right now.

Favorite Places?
To eat: It sucks around here. I'm such a simpleton when it comes to eating. I like the Yard House which is a shitty chain but their food is consistent. [But they have a late night happy hour!!] Yeah, it's the best! I just came from there.
To escape: I'm usually gone for a week or two out of every month. I like being home when I'm home, but when I'm sick of it around 3 weeks in, I need to go somewhere. I go to LA a couple times a month too. 
To travel: Indonesia — that place is insane. Fuck Art Basel, you can spend a fraction of the money and go there. And they have a smile on their face always. 

What or who has inspired you recently?
Gaudi. I didn't know who he was and I saw La Sagrada Familia. It was the most beautiful piece of architecture, even on the inside with the stained glass and the lights bouncing off the walls. I was inspired. He had the plans so long ago and yet was ahead of his time. Unfortunately I did not get to see his other stuff. 

What's one place in the world you haven't been to yet that you'd like to?
I've always wanted to go to Egypt. 

Top 5 artists you're listening to right now?
Beach Fossils, Growlers, Case Studies, Connan Mockasin, Grace Jones. I had never really listened to Grace Jones until I painted her. It was really experimental and I loved it. I was going to do a canvas piece of her and it didn't work out. The way the roll up doors were, I wanted four heads (I had that vision) and I don't know why Grace spoke to me. The image I used, I made her purple and then on the album I bought, she's actually purple and I didn't even know that [when I was painting her]. It kind of tripped me out.

When you work with brands, is it ever a battle with creative direction?
With Google, they had all these parameters of things I couldn't do and things I had to do. I spent a week going back and forth with them then it just fell through.

Sometimes it's helpful with some little parameters or direction though. For instance with The Hundreds, they were literally like do whatever you want — just put @TheHundreds on it. I was kind of a mess because with brands, there's usually a style guide with items you have to hit. This was the first time where I could literally paint whatever. That was really cool of them. 

If you could pick any brand to do something for, who would it be?
I've done something with Audi which was a dream so I don't think there would be another brand. He gets a lot of hate but I would want to do something with Kanye. That motherfucker is a genius. Even just his last tour was so sick. I just know he has crazy ideas. It seems like everything he does is over the top and awesome and that's what I like to do. I respect him creatively.

What have you been working on here in the studio?
I've been painting for a solo show for like two years now. There are probably 20 paintings all stacked in here. I was going to do abstract to show how I see out of my blind eye but then my portraits get more recognition so I've been having people come and give advice. I think my next step is portraits so I'm going to paint them over these abstracts. It's been a roller coaster of me being like where do I go, this and that... But I think I just figured it out. So it's a mess. I'm not even close to being ready for the show now. When I'm ready, I want to do my own gallery. Rent out a place for two days and have a private viewing. That's more attractive to me than a gallery that sits there for 6 months and no one even goes in besides the opening and closing. I wanted 44 pieces but I was told that's too many. I don't know, it's debatable. And people want me to paint small ones but I don't want to paint small ones because I want to own the room. Let's say someone puts it in their house, I don't want some little bathroom piece — I want it to be a centerpiece.

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