Mr. Allan Detail Steven : “I’m not an activist, I just love painting

Published on Saturday,  4 July 2020 | Allan Detail Steven by theSystem *

Can you tell us a bit about your background and what you do?

Im a visual artist/Graffiti artist based in Nairobi,Kenya. I specialise in mural creation, customised apparel and canvas paintings

Of all the Nairobi artists I know who also use the street as a canvas, you may have been one of the few ones out there almost daily at the height of the pandemic. What spurred you to hit the streets at a time when so many folks remained indoors or only went out for essential items?

A combination of a desire to paint and commissions ( getting paid),,

But mostly an unending longing to do graffiti

You mentioned that you merchandise your work which is apparent on your social media, is that part of your brand extension or is it just a commercial project to keep you going?

Actually both, I want to expand my brand and also, create more streams of revenue with my art, I feel there’s a lot of ways to make money in the art industry and it’s important to be open minded and try new things,,

You are one of the Artists who celebrated George Floyd with a mural , how does global politics affect your work, today and before?

Not that much actually, probably just a bit,, I’m more of an artist who just loves beautifying spaces.

How did the George Floyd come by , you must have been triggered by the movement right?

A friend called me to do the mural , and we spoke on the injustice going on around the world.

And that prompted you to make the work , it was amazing btw , most of your work revolve around personalities , icons i would say , what is your relationship with the celebrity types? why is it important for you to portray them ?

It might seem like I do only celebrities, but in reality I just love doing portraits, painting faces intrigued me, but I’m planning on widening my pieces and adding more to the faces I normally do.

What informs your projects ? what inspires what you put on the canvas streets or otherwise?

A deep desire for aesthetic,, I love beauty , colors and how everything falls into place at the end of every piece.

So you are more biased towards beauty rather than the function of your work? Are you ever communicating beyond just beauty ?

I’m not an activist, I just love painting, if there is a need to talk about something through my art, I will,,
Art on the wall or on canvas is sometimes enough to brighten up someone’s day, without necessarily talking about something,,

My opinion might change, but as of now, i just want to create.

Fair enough , you use the phrase Yahweh Reigns in most of your social media alongside your works , is that some sort of philosophy and is it religion based?

I believe in God, Jesus Christ,,
It’s a daily reminder that I couldn’t have made it this far without Him. Hence the Mantra “Yahweh Reigns. And that I need Him every day too.

Sure , How has publicity impacted your career , do you get a lot of press or enough of it and is it relevant for your brand , eg this interview ?

Positively, it helps with putting my brand out there,, yes I get calls for interviews , but I don’t usually participate in all of them.

Are you particular about positioning in that sense and how do you choose who you get to associate your brand with?

I haven’t given it much thought but for sure , I have to be picky about that, so that I can associate with people who will help my growth,,,

Then again they say all publicity is good publicity so.

Don’t fall for that…….. did you ever study Graffiti in a formal setting or how did you actually get into it?

I didn’t go to school or anything, just had mentors , more established artists, I followed them around a lot , that’s how I learned.

Are there any particular artist that you followed around , locally and internationally ?

Yes ,Swift , Bankslave ,, the whole Spray Uzi Crew,,
They are my mentors,, I recently got inducted in the crew actually,, so that was quite an achievement for me.

Congratulations on that one , what are the challenges that you face as a graffiti artist ?

Pricing, being forced to under value your work in order to sell, not all the time though,, there are clients who don’t bargain. Having the pressure of always trying to prove that what you’re doing is a real job. But, there are highs and lows just like any other business.

How do you get this clients , do you solicit or do they just come to you?

Referrals, word of mouth. Instagram is a big help, Maintaining good quality of work helps bring in more clients.

Quality is important , what impact do you aim to make with your work?

To make art a respectable career in Kenya and Africa,,
So that creatives won’t feel that their gift is useless, make them know it’s their purpose.

What works do you have in progress at the moment and what can we expect from you going forward?

At the moment I’m doing commissions ,portraits .
Just recently started doing digital art, and I love it, there’d definitely be more of that,
Probably a slight change in style,, as I mentioned earlier,,

And bigger and better murals

What advise would you like to give to emerging graffiti artists to help them navigate the field?

Put God first.
Focus on sharpening their skills then the cash will follow, be open minded to becoming an all rounded artist.

This interview has been edited and condensed for purpose of clarity and precision, we value your time.