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Embracing the Artist

Many people may feel a deeper calling in this life, but not everyone will dare to just go after it.

In 2005, Charlie Green salvaged some paint, some canvas and took a shot at selling his art work on the streets of his hometown in Toronto Canada. The art work he made sold, just like the others would on his first trip to New York later in 2007. By 2009, committed to his dream to support himself from his own work, he left Canada and immersed himself into the thriving culture of New York city.

Five years later, he is still here, thanks to the freedom he found after pursuing his passion to paint. The artwork he sells allows him more free time to make more artwork. The ability to produce and sell his work, on his own terms, has been a gateway for new levels of creativity.

Charlie still sticks to his tradition of salvaging paint. The pieces are typically in soft whites and blues, mixed in with pencil and pen markings with peeling paint strips.  His new series of work focuses on the beauty, or the “subconscious art”, of graffiti removal.

“There is something about obliterating all meaning.”

While he explains his newfound inspiration-from the layers of New York-a woman walks by, stops, and points to his artwork. She was explaining, to her now five year-old daughter, that when she was two they would come here just to look at Charlie’s artwork. Besides his creativity, he has also fostered bonds with many of the people and families that come through Soho. Families returning on their annual trips from Norway, Sweden, and even a gallery owner from Japan stop by to place their new orders while saying hi to their dear old friend.

The  interview.


What is the hardest part about being a street vendor?

The generalization that it’s not of quality or it becomes undervalued just because of it being placed in the street. There are certain psychological challenges. I prefer this so there is no need to deal with third party people. I know many artists that struggle with the galleries. I like that I can just paint weekly and change it out  if I want to, or go with whatever inspiration there is to make enough for a bigger show.

 What keeps you motivated?

As long as your are selling, the motivation is there to make more art.

The goal to sustain myself off of what I make is a big achievement.

 Favorite part of being a street artist?

The freedom and autonomy. Also, very low overhead, with just a little organization.

Have you ever been harassed?

Yeah, but more by people in a bad mood…the daily citizens.

There is always something to do with this feeling of entitlement, as a human. Like, one person was mad because they couldn’t open their car door after parking next to my stand. At the same time I think I am entitled to do this because it’s free speech and my basic rights to my first amendments.

What inspires you?

Charlie- I am inspired right now by post graffiti. It’s almost a form of sub-conscious art, and there is beauty in the layers that are peeled away. What was once an artistic statement has now become another form of art by the need to destroy what once was.

 Would you make political art?

I like to think that, as an artist, I can make a positive contribution to world and society, even though I still consider it to be a luxury most days. There are many themes in my art. The animals are basically totems. Totemism is my way of subliminally connecting animals and humans; and in a way connecting humans to the earth. You see the third eye marks for the brow chakra also, suggesting a higher form of thinking and seeing. I feel in this way as an individual, and I may still have the ability to create change. It is the alternative message to large budget advertising.

What about your style, will you ever go away from this look?

I tend to work mostly through abstract expressionism, like with the graffiti removal. It’s partly a result of being in New York so long, there are so many textures everywhere.

Biggest dream?

Well, since I have gone on my own I have made more art because I am less consumed with making fine art. I don’t think I could work with restraints, because I really need to work with something that I can connect to. Maybe I would do something like creative directing or branding, but otherwise my dream is to start an art farm–somewhere artists could come on a quarterly basis to have events or festivals. I would like it to be somewhere, probably on the east coast, outside of New York or Toronto.

 Biggest doubt?

Failure- not doing something because it’s a risk, and taking the easy way out.

 Did you go to art school?

No, I didn’t go to art school, but I had some classes in early grade school when I was about eight-years-old. We had a teacher where all we did was mix poetry and paintings. I learned a lot from that environment. Later on, I never could handle the structure of an art class. We did once have this polish couple live with my family.  He was a furniture designer and she was an artist, and as I grew up with that, it helped me to understand the value of the artists.

What about exposure?

I would like to find more fine art avenues, with audiences in other countries. I think tops; 10-20 galleries around the world would be good. I have people from Telavive and Rio stop by all the time and take my work back to their country.

What about New York’s Art scene, is there one?

Yes, the guys from RAAWART have been helpful, and a few others that were here, but have since gone. Some have made sure to bring my work with them for their own clientele.  Reverol & Co, iQ galleries in the Netherlands, a gallery in Pittsburgh; Chiz, and also Orbitz space.

Art in the new world is not as valued or recognized as it was in the old world.

Art is considered a profession in Europe, people have actually come up and said to me, “Let me help you with you work.”Whereas, North Americans tend to look at you and go; “ooh that must be tough.”

I feel technology is diminishing the viewer’s attention span for a real life piece…a piece of real work. But even that will be temporary, because it’s not in the basic needs. It is the same with art; the practical value is not very high. It’s still considered a luxury.

But can you imagine you life any other way?

No I can’t imagine doing anything else now.  I can finally sustain myself from doing this for the last five years.

 What’s your definition of Savvy?

Savvy is being able to navigate, in whatever the given field is, smart and intelligent.

For mor Info on Charlie Green:

Intagram: @Charliegreenart

You can also find a video on 2001films on Word Press

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