Over his 20+ years as a graffiti artist, Germany’s ECB has done it all: traveled the world, painted with some of the today’s best living artists, published the book Straight Lines (Gingko Press, June of 2004), and has established a strong international career in the gallery world. Yet when you meet him there is none of the bravado often seen in artists with only a modicum of his success – just a very humble guy with a love for painting…and New York pizza. Yesterday, after a long day of painting in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, he was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for The Street Spot.
Can you share a little about your background: where you’re from, how long you’ve been painting, and what kind of formal training (if any) you have had.
Hendrik “ecb” Beikirch from Koblenz, Germany. Started spray painting back in 1989, went to University for Art but left before I finished. Anyhow, I would say my background is classical graffiti writing, even though it might not be really visible in my work today. Art wise graffiti taught me the most, far more than any school or University could ever do.
Do you feel that there is much of a difference between painting in Europe vs here in the States? How have your experiences differed?
In terms of the tools there is hardly any difference nowadays as you can get all the supplies we got back home over here as well. Over here people would show their emotions more than they would do back home. So if someone likes what you are doing he will let you know. This direct feedback is what makes working in public space interesting to me.
I know that you keep a busy travel schedule – where have you gone and what have you been up to recently? Any plans for the future that you would like to share?
I have been to Siberia a few weeks ago, then Belgrade/Serbia before I came to New York. I will go up to Canada from over here. Then it is a few days back home before I am off to China for another two weeks to work on a mural for a museum in Shenzhen close to Hong Kong.
NYC seems to be a yearly stop for you – what is it that keeps bringing you back?
To me, the perfect day ends after all day painting with a slice of New York pizza and some milkshake from a Mister Softee ice cream truck:) Besides that I have some great friends over here, too.
Who are some of your favorite artists, both past & present? Do you feel that they have in any way influenced your art?
This is a tough one. I really like a lot of stuff. As far as influences for graffiti go it was what I saw in the Subway Art book way back in the days. But pretty quickly I went into another direction because I was experimenting a lot with different styles and techniques back then. The history might be another reason why NYC is special to me. I think you can still feel it somehow.
With the mainstream popularity of artists such as Swoon, Shepard Fairey, KAWS, Steve Powers & Banksy, street art & graffiti appears to be experiencing a resurgence in popularity & acceptance that hasn’t been seen since the 80s. What are your feelings on this & do you think that it has had an effect on your career?
Graffiti or urban art definitely deserves even more recognition and acceptance within the art world. It is still a long way to go especially in the art market, but I feel it is taking the right direction. For my personal career I guess that can only be helpful. So I hope that this time it will be longer lasting than it did in the 80s.
On most of the walls that I’ve seen from you, it seems that you typically paint on a rather large scale. What are some of the challenges that you have faced when translating your work on walls onto canvases?
As I use a slightly different technique working on canvases – I will go for brushes and marker pens in combination with spray paint – it is actually not that much of a challenge. And most of the canvases I do nowadays are kind of large scale as well. What I find more of a challenge is when I have to do a wall painting on a rather small wall or scale. That I find sometimes really difficult…My stuff needs distance and large scale, as all the bleeding and dripping of colors then comes to the best effect. What I also love about painting large scale murals is that you make use of the given space up to its possibilities. So I will always try to paint a wall top to bottom, no matter how high it is.
Last year Molotow paints dedicated their color Prussian Blue Dark to you – that seems like a real honor for an artist. What did that mean to you and how did that come about?
Besides the grey scale blue, and especially the Prussian Blue Dark is really my favorite color which I have used on a lot of canvases and walls. And with Molotow being my favorite paint it is really great to see my name on that particular can. Being friends of the Molotow family for quite a while this just was a really nice project to do.