Eyez on the Preyez: a Moment with Peat Wollaeger
If you have spent any time with Peat Wollaeger a/k/a Eyez, you know that his energy is unsurpassed. I had every intention of interviewing him in person at this year’s Welling Court Mural Project. Trying to keep up with him, let alone getting him to stand still and answer questions takes a special skill, one that I did not have. Fortunately, he was more than happy to put down a few words in an email interview and what follows is your basic Q&A. I am fascinated by his experiences in the middle of the country, and by his business prowess; hopefully you will be also.
ByteGirl: First a few words to describe yourself:
Peat Wollaeger: Eye am a Lover not a Fighter; I believe my mission of my short time on this planet is to beautify not Vandalize, and to wake up the world with my EYEZ!
My primary medium is stencils and spray paint, eye use multiple layers to create very detailed portraits and repeatable patterns with my stencils.
Living and working in St. Louis, I own my home, have super cheap studio space and this allows me the luxury to travel to many places: NYC, Miami, Chicago and other cities a couple times a year as my cost of living is so low. St. Louis is also positioned right in the mid-coast and is only 4-5 hours from KC, Nashville, Louisville, Memphis, Chicago and Indianapolis.
Eyez at the 2017 Welling Court Mural Project, Astoria, Queens
BG: How did you develop your own personal style and where did your iconic eye image come from?
PW: I started stenciling back in 2001, at that time the web was pretty much AOL, pre-MySpace. I had found a site called Stencil Revolution based out of Melbourne AUS. For the first time I was able to post some of my stencils and people could comment or make critiques on my art while I was in Saint Louis. It was such an amazing community, with world renowned stencil artists like Banksy, c215 and Logan Hicks on the site and I got to know them. I quickly rose to the top ranks in the stencil game and made so many great connections.
Around that time I mostly did portraits and they all featured these straight on focused big eyes. I then took those down to just the eyes and now Eyem known globally as the Eye guy LOL!
BG: As many of us know you live in St. Louis, are you originally from that area?
PW: Yes I grew up in St. Louis, but when I was 17 I went to a summer art program at Pratt Institute in NYC and seeing the works of Keith Haring completely changed life and my motivation to one day become an artist of that caliber. From there I moved to Chicago and worked as a creative director for Camel cigarettes and Coca-Cola®. Eye had my first son in Chicago, but wanted to buy a house and be closer to family, so we moved back to the South Side of the STL. At this point I really buckled down and focused on my Art
BG: What is the art scene like in St. Louis?
PW: It is very close knit. It has seen a massive surge of artists moving to this city due to its insanely-low living costs and huge studios for under $400. Many artists I know own their homes and take advantage of tools like instaGram and Facebook to get their work out there. Prior to the internet, most artists had to live in cities like NYC to be discovered; this has completely changed now. We also have one of the largest graffiti walls in the shadows of the St. Louis Arch. It is a 2.1 mile long flood wall along the Mississippi River. There is an annual graffiti event which draws artists from everywhere called Paint Louis.
BG: How is your art received and what is the best part of working out in the “heartland”?
PW: I am very well known in St. Louis. I am a big fish in a small pond, and there are not many street artists here, so when I put up a new mural, it really gets noticed. I also am the go-to guy when businesses need my style of art and have done very well supporting my 3 sons and work 100% full time as an artist.
Aug 2016 Greenpoint, Brooklyn
BG: You are the king of merch, what advice can you give to other artists who want to enter the merch game?
PW: King? No Keith Haring was, haha. As I try to aspire to this artist, I too one day wanted to have my own “POP SHOP.” It started with T-Shirts and as a way to offer my art in a more affordable way. It then grew to many items beyond that, I offered Eye-wear sunglasses, Eye-watches, earrings, leather engraved items, beer coozies, slip mats, and with my many patterns I even decided to put them on leggings for women and bold men. I really look at this as a way to open more eyez and as a great canvas for my Art.
I currently have my own Pop-Shop here in St. Louis, and hope to grow more stores in other cities. I also have just gotten into the licensing game and I am looking to partner with like-minded national retail chains like Target and Ikea to license my designs to be marketed nationally in their stores. Also this is a great platform to produce more and spread my awakening messages that are on walls to people's bodies.
2015 Welling Court Mural Project Astoria, Queens
BG: I recently found out you do laser stencils for others... tell us a little bit about that business and what you need from the artists you work with?
PW: Yes, when I went full time as an artist about 5 years ago, i had been hand-cutting all my stencils. My goal was to work smarter not harder, so I purchased my first Laser and slowly became really good at cutting stencils on it. I then started experimenting with the engrave feature, allowing me to etch intricate designs into wood, leather, and even a banana! I purchased a larger Laser Cutter about 2 years ago with a bed size of 48x32 inches. This allowed me to cut/etch much larger. Since I had all this great equipment and usually this tech is not in the hand of artists, I started cutting stencils for other artists and businesses. I also started producing limited edition wooden etched prints as well. After the success of this I launched a company called Fine Art Laser (@fineartlaser on IG). I can also help the artist in the process of converting their art into stencils or getting ready for an etching. Artists seem to like the idea of working with me since I am an artist and I can usually understand them much better than the industrial types. I am also able improve their vision from my past experiences. If readers want to work with me on an upcoming project they can send their files or questions to create@FineArtLaser.com
December 2015 Art Basel, Miami, Fl
BG: What are your future goals?
PW: In the times of Trump America, I believe so many people are hungry to open their eyez to the real problems around us. My eyez represent that and I know that the murals I create from now on will embrace this. I also know that I will take these messages on the street and push them further through national stores like Target and Ikea with products that mirror this mission to be awoke!