VIDEO: Artist Big Sleeps talks about his lettering style and giving back to the community

Wanting to bring life to their building on the corner of Cherry Avenue and Anaheim Street, officials at Long Beach Transit reached out to the Arts Council for Long Beach for help in creating a mural.

What ensued was a three-part collaboration with Los Angeles artist Big Sleeps who is known for his unique lettering style that could be hard to read to the untrained eye but has taken him all over the world.

The project began with a series of workshops that he led earlier this year in collaboration with Centro CHA with local youth and eventually led to the design for the mural, called “Determination.”

“It’s something that will give life to the neighborhood,” said Big Sleeps as he was finishing up the mural days before Thanksgiving. “We feel like every community needs that.”

It focuses on positive words like “peace,” “love,” and “respect”—words that Big Sleeps didn’t live by as a youth in the gang-infested streets of Pico Union.

In and out of juvenile institutions and prison until about a decade ago, Big Sleeps said he used to influence kids in a negative way, but he has since changed his ways. He continues the one aspect of gang life that now gives him success.

“I took the art part of it and made a career out of it,” the self-taught artist said.

While he has found success with his tattooing and clothing line, he also gives back to the community in a positive way. He holds workshops teaching youth the lettering style he invented.

Big Sleeps poses with Cal State Long Beach illustration major Pedro Garcia on Tuesday, November 26, 2019. Big Sleeps met Garcia during one of the youth workshops he led in Long Beach in preparation for his mural “Determination” at Cherry and Anaheim. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

While Big Sleeps is off to Mexico City next week for a tattoo expo with his crewmate El Buster, he’ll be back in Long Beach to finish the third leg of his collaboration: painting two electrical boxes in front of Long Beach Transit.

“It’s been pretty awesome,” Big Sleeps said of his time in Long Beach. “Honestly it’s been an honor to come out here and paint.”

See more art by Big Sleeps on Instagram here or his website here

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Stephanie Rivera is the immigration and diversity reporter for the Long Beach Post. Growing up as one of six kids in the working-class immigrant suburb of South Gate, she was taught the importance of civic engagement and to show compassion for others. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015. An avid Harry Potter fan, Stephanie now lives in Bixby Knolls with her boyfriend and their bearded dragon, Austin.
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