At first glance, this image of a Kingfisher might look like a photo, but look closer and you’ll see that it’s actually a hyperrealistic stencil painting!
Justinas Zozo is a Lithuanian street artist whose stencil paintings could easily be mistaken for a series of photographs. To achieve that level of hyper-realism, the creative spends months editing, cutting, and spray painting his compositions. This meticulous process takes him some four to six hours a day – six months all in all to complete his work.
The result, though, is nothing short of incredible: a stunning piece of street art that pays homage to the beauty of his homeland.
Zozo recently became a finalist in the 2017 Stencil Art Prize in Australia, and has since been on an exhibition tour around the country. He just finished a show at the Stirrup Gallery in Sydney, and plans to hold more exhibits at the Muswellbrook Regional Art Centre in NSW and at the Noosa Regional Gallery in Queensland, both in 2018.
We recently caught up with Zozo to find out more about him and his work. Take a look:
Tell us about the process behind creating the epic Kingfisher.
“As a stencil artist, all my works depend on photos. Kingfisher was no exception. I started by finding the perfect photo. As I’m not a wildlife photographer, I turned to the professionals.
“After this stage, I hand-cut the stencils. First steps were figuring out what should be made to make the final piece stand out from the crowd. To achieve that, most of the time I improvised, making additional cuts or trying to implement cuts that would reflect some sort of texture.
“Then there comes the cutting. Lots of it. It took around a half year of daily work to finish.
“Then came the spraying part. Most of the colors have been matched with true colors of the bird. And after all this, I decided to have two versions of the bird – mint/purple and blue/yellow. Mint is the one with which I have applied for the competition and the blue one is the natural color scale of the bird.”
How vibrant, energising is the street art scene in Lithuania?
“Street art scene is kind of struggling to make its way to the public. There are just several legal walls in each city and just few street art festivals. The biggest one is held in capital city Vilnius and manages to bring big street art figures to the event, but this is pretty much all that we have here.
“There is a law in Lithuania, if the owner of the building has graffiti on it, he has to remove it. Otherwise, he will be fined.
“In my opinion, this brings street artists to the point where you have to decide – paint something poorly noticeable or stick a poster because, either way, it will be removed shortly after. Those who paint more detailed and complex pieces trust the legal walls.”
What’s your own background as an artist?
“I started drawing when I was six. The only problem back then was – if the final piece would not come as I have imagined in the first place, I would end up destroying it.
“And so three years ago I got into stencil art. This method of creation keeps me in a safe space, where I would get approximately the same result as planned. Looking back, I tried lots of different art branches – screen printing, linen stamping, and oil painting. But stencil art was the one which felt just right.”
Tell us about three other awesome stencil or street artists whose work you dig.
“Felipe Pantone (Spain). It may not look like it from my work, but I’m more of a static than a dynamic person. And so static, strict lines bring joy to my eyes.
“Christian Guemy (France). This artist shows the greatest example how few layers and matching colors can result in a great final piece. Also love the idea that mostly he works with photos of his followers, bringing unexpected joy.
“Shkicaz (Spray Way, Lithuania). I love how he blends colors, uses funny, funky characters in his works. Also, he had a 30-day challenge wherein he had to paint each day. That is something similar to my routine as I try not to skip any day in a week without cutting or creating.”