Coursewrker Feature: Sentrock Mural Timelapse from Coursewrk Supply Co. on Vimeo.
I met Joseph Perez aka "Sentrock" at a Secret Walls event at Gallery F in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago a few months ago. I didn't know who he was at the time, but little did I know I already was familiar with his work. I just didn't know it was his. That's the interesting thing about artists—their work is their identity. As an artist myself and the owner of Coursewrk, I like the idea of being known for my work and brand but being able to retain a level of anonymity. But back to my point on being familiar with Sentrock's work and not knowing who he was. We see amazing work from artists on the streets all the time that gets stored into our subconscious and most of us will never know who these artists are or their stories. My interview with Sentrock is meant to uncover the person behind the art and give you a glimpse into who he is so that when you see his work out in the streets or at a gallery you remember his story.
How long have you been doing your work and how did you get started doing murals?
I have been pursuing art since about the 1st grade off and on. Didn't know much about art until I was introduced into graffiti which gave me a foundation. I started doing murals as a natural evolution of graffiti writing, always wanting to paint more and bigger.
Your work is usually based around a character wearing a bird mask. Can you tell the story behind your bird character? Does he have a name?
The bird mask character doesn't have a name haha. I am not sure I want to define the concept just yet. I like the idea of how it can relate to anyone. Anyone can put on a bird mask and fly. I just have always had a fascination with flying away or escapism. Birds were the first symbols of that that I can remember.
What inspires you and the themes you incorporate into your work?
I am inspired by life, struggles and the come-up. I am all about pushing yourself to the next level or empowerment of the audience.
What's your process from start to finish on any piece?
It starts with that lightbulb idea, I sketch out the idea, and either paint it on canvas or a wall. I like to make sure it all flows. Being able to execute an idea in it's entirety is a great achievement.
Do you ever feel constricted creatively by having a character that you repeat in your work? What are your thoughts on artists using a character?
I do, at times. I feel I have a hundred other random ideas I want to pursue. For my artistic voice at this moment it's all about this visual narrative I am creating. Who knows maybe when I turn 30 I'll only do clay pottery haha.
How do you keep growing and keep yourself from plateauing?
Good question, that's hard to do because as an artist you always want to push yourself but then again you have to find value in what you are making at the moment. For me, I like to look back at paintings or sketches I did years ago and see how I have grown. Sometimes I like my older stuff more because they are more raw and organic and my new stuff can be a bit more defined. Either way, I am always looking to grow but define my voice.
What project are you the most proud of so far?
All of them. Not one really sticks out more than the others. Every opportunity means a lot to me. Whether a show in a small gallery for 10 people or a huge event with hundreds. It's all about the connection to the audience on a genuine level.
Are all of your murals done by commission? Have you ever done a mural without commission (aka illegally)?
Most are now a days. I have, I am in my late 20's now and I am not looking for that risk as much these days. I love painting and expressing however I can and whenever I can.
What music do you listen to while you work?
Mostly, rap. I like jazzy, soul, ambient, folk music as well. I feel a lot of rap music gets me hyped and I can relate to a lot of the storytelling. I do appreciate music that can allow me to vibe out as well.
Where do you hope to be five years from now?
I am not sure, that question only seems to get more difficult as I get older. As for my art I want to show out of the country.
If you weren't doing this, what do you think you'd be doing?
I don't know. haha I would most likely be working with youth though, I love inspiring the next generation.
What advice do you have on developing an authentic style as an artist?
Know what you want to say, visually and conceptually. Look at your environment but also acknowledge the bigger art world. Be a part of the bigger dialogue with your art.
Mural commission at the office of digital design studio Truth Labs.