ABOUT

“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 Responses to ABOUT

  1. Shady says:

    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 says:

    Much LOVE big sleeps, Frank

  3. Sergio Cavazos says:

    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 says:

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

  6. JOSE JUAREZ says:

    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 says:

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

  8. Chicho says:

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

  9. tony says:

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

  10. Terry says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

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