TONA Paints Everywhere
Street art is powerful for so many reasons. It completely changes its surroundings, it is undeniable, and it is free. A street artist can do whatever he or she wants. They put their message out for the world and the world cannot do anything about it but see it, well, and maybe paint over it… But there is a lot of power to this freedom. TONA takes advantage of this with his powerful paintings of children that he has painted all over the world and his partnership with Viva con Agua. Please read Jejune’s exclusive interview below.
Where are you based?
Hamburg City, Germany.
How did you get interested, and eventually started, in street art?
It all started with graffiti in ‘99. I started my first stencils in 2002, and in 2008 I started doing silkscreen and linocut prints, as well.
Can you tell us a little bit about your process?
I travel a lot and take a lot of photos. I work a lot on them, in analog and digital, and transform them into stencils, by hand, so I can paint them wherever I go.
How much time does it take you to get a piece up?
For the stencils: The cutting itself can sometimes take some days, but the painting alone is between 15-60 minutes, depending on surface and size. For everything bigger (like murals): 2-5 days plus planning it.
What is it about decay that draws you to paint on it?
Since my artwork is quite clean and detailed, I love to put it on ragged surfaces and like how it plays together in your eyes.
Have you painted on walls all over the world?
I try my best to paint everywhere I go, but the world is a very huge place. :)
Do you have a favorite place to paint?
I like the streets and lost places, especially old steel things (like doors) are nice.
What is it about a wall that attracts you to paint on it?
Surface, substance, context, colour, visibility.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I travel a lot, and meet a lot of people and cultures. Basically everything around me can be inspiring.
You often paint children. What is it about them that you find so meaningful?
First of all: I like kids because they show real emotions and don’t wear a “mask” like everyone else in daily life. Most of these kids that I paint, I did meet on the streets while painting there. They spend most of their time in the streets and are always the first at the spot. Most of them are very interested and keen about everything related to spray paint. It’s about these real emotions, that you just can’t put into words, that I try to capture in paint over and over, again and again.
Do you have a particular child who stands out more to you?
No, not really. But some of them have some unique or personal stories behind them.
How do you know which kid you want to paint where?
I walk and cycle a lot, and if I see a good spot for one I try to do it.
Jejune found your paintings of the kids with the sign “Water is a human RIGHT” very powerful. What inspired you to paint these? Can you tell us a little bit about this project?
For the past eight years I have supported “Viva con Agua”. #vivaconagua
Viva con Agua is a non-profit organization committed to ensuring that all people worldwide have access to clean drinking water. To achieve this goal, they promote water projects and actions at home and abroad. One of these projects is the “Millerntorgallery” at the St.Pauli stadium, where a lot of supporting artists come together from all over the world and transform the stadium into one of the most important art events in Hamburg every year. #artcreateswater
The two stencils of the kids with signboard are my contribution to this year’s Millerntorgallery with the motto #waterisahumanright. The Nepali girl is a collaboration with photographer Marco Fischer. The photograph was taken in last year’s VCA “Wash” project to Nepal, where we both took part and decided to collaborate.
Do you have any fun stories you can share from painting on the streets?
Haha. Yes, but they are better told than written ;)
Do you have any upcoming projects?
Yes, I will be in Japan soon for “Wall Art Festival Fukushima”
To learn more about TONA, please follow his Instagram here:
Cover image: photo © TONA