Sewp and Waves Apparel
Sewp is a Toronto based artist who hones a distinct and precise style and a passion for illustration, focusing on predominantly black work. Today you can find him tattooing at Elevated Ink in Toronto.
Growing up in Whitby, Ontario, he was always on the look out for ways to express his artwork. Conducting petty theft, and causing a ruckus in his neighbourhood in his youth, he was addicted to the adrenaline rush that came with it. Having drawn from a very young age, an obvious way to mesh his artistic skills and have an outlet for that rush, was through graffiti.
It was during a 2007 trip to Europe where Sewp found himself at the global Street Art Exhibit at the Tate Modern. He was blown away. The massive murals captivated an entire nation, the different techniques and potential fascinated him. He returned home with intense desire to hone his can control and aspire to create large scale murals.
Why write the name Sewp?
Born from a trip to Spain and staying in a house where there was nothing to eat but soup, the name was born. Originally messing around with different variations such as Soop, Soupe and eventually settling on Sewper, he began tagging it in 2009 before changing to Sewp in 2012 when he made the move to Toronto. If it were up to him now he'd change it to something darker, but the name is now associated with his pieces all over. He finds humour in the juxtaposition between a "dumb-ass name like Sewp" and the dark art that he creates.
Now in Toronto, Sewp thought he may as well go to school. He enrolled in both graphic design and illustration programs – dropping out of both within the first semester. He wasn’t feeling it. The regimented structure wasn’t for him. He had a burning passion to create art his way. He switched his focus to working a 9-5 and then going home and either practicing drawing by himself, or hitting the streets with a spray can. The whole time having a goal of getting to a point where he could pay for all the art supplies he needed in order to satisfy his habits and hobbies, as well as being about to afford to travel. Days were spent working to support his night time creations.
From there Sewp managed to land himself a tattooing apprenticeship at Elevated ink (having initially been shown the ropes by a family friend at a young age) – continuing with his 9-5 to pay the bills and working full weekends at the tattoo shop. The hard work was paying off, but was becoming a little much. So along with his girlfriend he took a trip to Asia, and experienced a solid dosage of culture, and helped him refocus on his passion.
When they returned home Sewp quit his day job to focus solely on the art of tattooing. At this point graffiti began to take a back seat, the thought of spending nights in jail or maybe even having his passport blocked suddenly didn’t seem worth it – especially now that he had found away to satisfy his passion through another medium.
Sewp was a natural from the beginning, he found his art translated well into the medium, and within less than a year has been receiving acclaim for his style.
While he admits nothing can compare to the thrill and rush of illegally painting a wall, the feelings he receives from tattooing and graffiti are not mutually exclusive, he is still able to get some semblance of the rush he craved, knowing that he was creating art that would last a life time. This is not to say he doesn’t write graffiti any more. He has recently been on some large scale murals in Toronto, including painting the Collesium with his ABM crewmates Poser and Frens as part of a city run project to recreate the 7 Wonders of the World.
When using a can Sewp loves the different layers and effects that can be achieved with the use of colour. A stark contrast when you compare that with his tattoo work, which is exclusive monotone. A style derived from inspirations such as Ralph Steadman, McBess, and Gerald Scarfe among others.
Other than individuals, Sewp is inspired by his love of “the dark stuff” and especially the juxtaposition when applied to the elegance of a woman’s body.
“Having really dark and gothic subject matter, even when it’s a female body, it has a built-in contrast. It just looks fucking hot.”
Equal to the art, it’s the connections made within the tattoo industry that he loves. Whether it’s spending hours at a time just inches away from a stranger, or through getting tattooed by other artists, he is always learning. Which is something that became very apparent through speaking with the man, if he’s not at the shop tattooing, at home doodling or on the streets spraying, you’ll find him at local art classes practicing all kinds of new techniques. Oh yeah, and he loves cats. His realistic drawing of his cat went viral last year online after he uploaded it to reddit.
His passion for art is obvious and his talents seem almost endless. On one end of the spectrum you’ll see “a lot of animals and vicious looking stuff with ink splatters everywhere and then on the other end of the spectrum there’s super clean graphic girls that look like they could be logo”’. The next step for Sewp is to “find the middle ground between the two and to use the detail and energy of the animals and the gothic shit, and apply that into an elegant graphic tattoo”. Which is where the inspiration for the design for this collaboration piece was born.
Follow Sewp's story here
Or get your own tattoo from the man at Elevated Ink
Sewp's shirt and print will be available for a 2 week limited period from March 16 - 31st, and then gone forever. Shop online
- March 16, 2017
- James Blackmore