Artist Interviews 2022

By Julia Siedenburg

The artist mydogsights truly moved me with his work, the moment I laid eyes on it. His remarkable versatility shows in his street art and studio work. May it be his series featuring beautiful hyperrealist eyes with each reflecting a place or person in their pupil, his motivating “Everyman” stick figure paintings, or his emotional and mystical“ quite little voices” animal drawings - you can’t help but let them capture your heart.

Each of his pieces holds a strong message and purpose. What started as brain doodles for the British artist, resulted in him being flown out to different places around the world and being asked to showcase his exceptional work in multiple art spaces. I am beyond grateful to be able to feature him in this issue and I hope you enjoy his interview and artwork as much as I do. Enjoy, dear reader!

How did you get the idea for your artist’s name?

When I started in street art (nearly twenty years ago now) all street artists were ghosts. You never saw them, just the echoes of their navigation through a place. The only thing we knew about them was the marks they made and the mysterious moniker they left. That moniker didn’t need to be a ‘name’ but it was important to have something to write that sticks in the viewers’ mind. I’m happy to tell you how and why I settled on ‘My Dog Sighs’ but you’ll have to find me in a bar and buy me a beer to find that one out.

You mention in one of your art posts “ I’ve always been fascinated by birds and the way they have the ability, should they want to, to take flight, travel to places new and start afresh. “ Please tell us more about your inspiration behind the birds and other animal artworks and how has your experience been painting them on walls, book pages, and other materials.

I bundle all my ‘creature’ work under the Umbrella ‘quiet little voices’. They initially were the subconscious brain ‘doodles’ you do (well I do) when talking on the phone or being absent-minded. I liked the way they developed themselves on the page as opposed to being created by my conscious brain. Because they were made that way, in my mind they exist; in the periphery of our vision. A community, occupying the shadows of our minds and the lost spaces in our towns and cities. The birds are part of that family. Actually. They aren’t birds. The beaks are tied on and they hold a few scabby feathers. Like birds, they want to fly to new places, experience new aspects of life, and reach their dreams (often represented by stars in my work). They are triers. But they are only at the start of their long journey. Last year I extended this narrative into a fully immersive installation in a beautiful, abandoned building.

Your fantastical mysterious animal creatures series named “quiet little voices” convey sad pasts and unhappy presents as mostly one of the animals has heartbroken looks on their face. What is the message you want to convey with those emotional images?

It’s funny. I don’t really see them as heartbroken or unhappy. They are nervous (of being discovered by us). They live in the shadows and to be seen is undesirable. They are anxious. They seek the safety of their community/family. It’s important for me that they also show the full gambit of the human condition. Love, loss, desire.

Besides your touching animal pieces, you have also been consistently painting hyperrealistic eyes. Are these eyes based on people you know or have they been drawn from imagination, and why the fascination with the eyes?

I’ve never planned out my creative journey and the evolution of my eyes is a long one. But over time I’ve become fascinated by the reflection in an eye. The way a painting can become multiple paintings/stories. The eye itself is very stylistic. A recognizable My Dog Sighs eye. I think that harks back to the repetition of street art campaigns like Toasters, Obey or Invader. But the opportunity to tell new stories and embed a painting into the community by telling one of their stories in the reflection is something I’m fascinated by.

Earlier this year I was invited to paint at a festival in California. I was painting the side of a restaurant. Every day I was greeted with a smile by one of the kitchen staff. A young Spanish-speaking girl. She was one of the many ‘unseen’ migrant workers in the US. Of course, I could have painted any dignitary or politician or influential Californians but I liked the idea of celebrating the quiet unseen.

Please tell us how you got inspired to paint faces (and sometimes mouths) on the bottom of cans.

My can man was probably the thing that started my career. I stumbled across street art quite late in life and was instantly hooked. But as a school teacher, husband, and parent and the illegality of street art clashed with my situation in life. My way round it was to work on a ‘free art Friday’ project where I found street litter, painted it, and put it back on the street as a sort of free art treasure hunt. I could be a ‘street artist’ but not risk arrest. Flattened cans were plentiful and free and the perfect canvas. They also mirrored, for me, the homeless guys you see in the street. Once useful, nourishing, welcomed into the home, then used and discarded.

I liked the idea that with a little love and effort I could make the can something people wanted back into their lives. Maybe the same attitude with the homeless guys …..

Your other most consistent subjects are the stick figure-Esque subjects painted on top of the colorful backgrounds and accompanied by truthful important messages and thoughts.

My Everyman. As a teacher and a parent, I was always fascinated by the ability of young children to capture in simple marks so much emotion. We fill our homes with our children’s drawings and they tug at our heartstrings. My Everyman character was a way of tapping into that. Combining the naive image with heartfelt emotive phrases and lyrics I aim to tap into the viewers’ desire to ‘rescue’ the piece from the street and give it the love it deserves.

We currently live in a world full of conflict, war, and oppression. The situation in Iran and Ukraine is horrific and heartbreaking. As a street artist, do you feel that your public work could have the power to start a movement, spread the truth, and bring peace?

I think we don’t always realise (even as artists ourselves) how powerful a tool art can be. All art reflects life in all its glory and horror and is an amazing vehicle for holding a mirror up for us to see how fucked up we, as humans can be. I can only create work using my experience and understanding of what I see. Sometimes consciously, often completely without awareness, my work responds to the world I see around me.

Besides murals, and prints you also have made your own T-shirts and stickers. How has your merch been received and have you been working on other ways to spread your art?

My street work is for everyone but sometimes people want more than just to see it as they walk to work. I’m conscious that not everyone is able to afford an original painting or print so making merch is an important part of connecting with my audience.

You got flown out to places like Melbourne to create art. What has been your favorite place to paint so far and what is your favorite piece you have created so far?

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been invited to paint across the globe. From Australia to China, Korea to Tel Aviv, and Hong Kong to the US.

Each project brings challenges and highlights. I get to meet so many incredible people and immerse myself in their world.

Painting 540 eyes on a 900-year-old wall in Rome, Tunnels in Jerusalem, fearing for my life 13 stories up on wonky Chinese scaffold, chewing on chickens’ feet in Korea. Connecting with wonderful artists across the globe. It’s very hard to pick favourites. Each piece is part of the puzzle that is life and each collected puzzle piece informs and inspires the next step.

What’s next? What is planned for the future?

Next year I celebrate 20 years of ‘My Dog Sighs’. There are lots of exciting things in the pipeline kicking off with a museum show in Paris in March which I’m very excited about. I’m also very close to releasing a full-length documentary about my ‘Inside’ project. The opportunity to share the intimate journey of the creative process has been tough but very cathartic. No set dates for the premier but I can’t wait to finally show people. At the heart of what I love is the opportunity to create. It feeds and consumes me. As long as I can do that, I’m living my best life.

My Ted talk, which describes my creative journey, can be seen here:

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