“The writing’s on the wall,” is a cliché that simply refers to an inevitable conclusion, or an
obvious ending. For those who live on the edge in the aerosol-covered inner city areas of urban
sprawl, life often reflects a much more tragic inevitability; leaving behind a trail of lost souls
immortalized through candlelit curbside memorials and tribute t-shirts. One wayward child of
the ghetto destined to follow this unfortunate path was Los Angeles artist Big Sleeps. Luckily
for him, the inevitable fate he was headed towards became quite different and anything but
tragic. Unbeknownst to the aspiring artist at the time, he was to transcend and translate these
urban writing styles of his childhood neighborhoods to the rest of the world, becoming an
ambassador for the many fallen concrete calligraphers who never survived the rough canvases of
Los Angeles they painted on. Big Sleeps is truly a survivor in every sense of the word, and the
streets that nearly swallowed him whole remain bound by intricate, spray-painted letter styles
which act as a code of survival called “the placa,”− a localized from of graffiti writing found
on neighborhood walls, park benches, bus stops, and fences. It is self expression in the most
territorial sense, and while it serves many purposes to those who live amongst these writings,
it served more as a silent mentor and inspiration for Sleeps, who absorbed the intoxicating
perfection found in the carefully stylized scripts. “My influences came from the stuff I saw
growing up,” he says. I think my whole life was an influence in a way. Seeing everything around
me on walls, fences, and buildings just walking to school, it just motivated me to try to make
my art; I find beauty in different shit.” Stints behind bars couldn’t even deter the young artist’s
obsession as even without a can or a pen, Sleeps would find himself perfecting these styles with
his finger in the air; obsessing over the creation and perfection of new lettering styles − even if
he was without the resources to properly do so.

Fast forward to today and the second chapter of life is in full swing for Big Sleeps, having finally
shed the troublesome trials and tribulations of his neighborhood upbringing. After receiving his
introduction to the world of tattooing in the late ‘80’s, Sleeps has since come into his own as
one of the culture’s most well respected artists; earning him stints with Lowrider Tattoo, Will
Rise Tattoo, and Modern Ink, to name a few. He’s collaborated with a slew of well-respected
artists and companies including Sullen, OG Abel, Boog, Norm, Slick and Dissizit in a variety
of critically acclaimed and commercially successful mediums. His third book, “Neighborhood
Offerings,” a joint documentation of placa street styles Sleeps put together with his mentor
and street legend, Prime, has even been picked up at the Getty Research Institute, where it sits
alongside hieroglyphics and ancient parchment scrolls in a further exploration of mankind’s
intrinsic need to express itself. Big Sleeps also garnered a 10-page spread in Bound By Ink
Magazine, where he opened up about his career, upbringing, influences, and how he coped
with the loss of his mother. In September of 2012, his hand-painted skate decks were displayed
alongside mentor and fellow K2S crew member, Jose “Prime” Reza, at the Plaza De La Raza’s
Boathouse Gallery for a show sponsored by the Baurmann Gallery.

These days it would seem as though the time he once had too much of behind bars has now
become a scarce commodity, as Big Sleeps’ appointment calendar remains full with projects,
appointments, and collaborations, all furthering his career as an artist. While Sleeps is working
hard to earn his artistic stripes, his passport is collecting stamps as travels to tattoo in places like
Copenhagen and Amsterdam, spreading the gospel of the placa worldwide. Rather than speak
about his own exploits, the accomplished artist is quick to salute those who came before him and
those that inspire him to succeed; artists like Prime, Defer, and Cricket, as well as his musically-
inclined peers Sick Jacken and Big Duke of the Psycho Realm, whom he credits for schooling
him in business etiquette while giving him his first break in artistic design.

Despite his newfound worldwide perspective, Sleeps maintains a humble, community-based
mindset, speaking to local Los Angeles at-risk youth and working with Second Chance,
a company which works with Homeboy Industries to give rehabilitated former prisoners
employment opportunities. Though he lost his mother to cancer before she could see him
blossom into the artist he is today, Sleeps is steadied by his girl and his family, respected by
his peers, adored by his customers, and poised to continue his upward flight into the clouds
of creativity and the annals of contemporary art. His is a tale of redemption, and it is certainly
poetic justice that the man who once saw the alleys of his neighborhood as his only artistic
refuge now sees the entire world as his canvas.

13 Comments

  1. Shady
    July 14, 2011

    Just wanted to tip my hat off to Big Sleeps AKA Father Time and say props to you carnal!! It’s been a journey for you I know,but it has certainly taken a turn for the best. I wish you nothing but continued success in all your endeavors…

    Shady

  2. Frank
    July 15, 2011

    Much LOVE big sleeps, Frank

  3. Sergio Cavazos
    July 18, 2011

    Anything he touches turns to gold! This is a man of true raw talent whose time has come. If he has inked you consider yourself fortunate that his art is permanently placed on your skin- and soul- because that’s what it was done with, along with passion and true skill. Every generation has it’s masters. He is one of the few of his. From street life to high life, Big Sleeps is here to stay! A true force of nature…

  4. BIG RALPH
    August 17, 2011

    YO BIG DAWG IVE KNOW YOU FOR A SHORT TIME BUT KNOW WHAT YOU WENT THROUGH AND WHERE YOU COME FROM. MUCH RESPECT TO YOU AND YOUR WORK. KEEP MOVING FORWARD AND KEEP AMAZING US WITH YOUR WORK…

  5. johan van mourik
    September 26, 2011

    thanx for my crazy tattoo maybe see you in brussels take care
    greetz from holland

  6. JOSE JUAREZ
    March 16, 2012

    HEY MAN, JUST CHECKING WHAT YOUR SCHEDULE WAS LIKE FOR THE MONTHS OF APRIL AND MAY SO I CAN FINALLY COME IN AND GET THAT TATT.

  7. lanas
    May 7, 2012

    hey man,, un placer tenerte por copenhagen y compartir un rato con uds..
    a ver si nos vemos pronto,, salud lanas

  8. Chicho
    May 8, 2012

    Hej Hommie…..Gracias por el tattoo y la onda…….
    Un placer conocerlos…..Cuidense …Saludeme a la Doña..
    Salus y Fuerza
    Chicho

  9. tony
    August 19, 2012

    Where is he located? I want to set an appointment. I’m in Long Beach.

    • BigSleeps
      August 27, 2012

      Will Rise Studio on Fairfax in Los Angeles.

  10. Terry
    March 25, 2013

    Nice artwork I am the craftshop officer over three shops and an offender ask about letter to live by so I told him i would check it out. Nice

  11. Cortez Lopez
    September 2, 2013

    When I was looking at 12 years in Prison for something everybody knew I did not commit, A peice of Big Sleeps art “don’t fight the feeling” helped me get through the false incarceration. That was in 2009 when I was 18. I have to give it up to BiG SleePs for giving birth the artistic script flame of Gothic cursive I do today. One day all this skin crack will unravel and people will see what happens when you false incarserate someone and don’t give them compensation for their time. God blessed me with the influence of biG sleeps

  12. CAER
    November 10, 2013

    keep up the good work !!!
    big up !!!