Meet Sonny the British/ South-African Streetartist who had us all excited over the past year while he travelled the world to paint large scale murals of endangered animal species in places including NY, Canada, Ireland, London, Russia and Johannesburg. The Murals are part of his project ‘To The Bone‘ which heb launched to raise awareness for animal extinction. The project is about to reach its peak with Sonny’s upcoming show in NY. Tim Jentsch went to meet Sonny to find out more.
(ISSA) – Tell us a bit about yourself
(Sonny) – I paint for love and a living.
ProjectCAT – NewYork, USA – Photo Credit Karin Du Maire
– What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Coffee. Always coffee.
– You’re British but live in South Africa. Does this play a role in your Art?
Definitely! My African surroundings have always influenced my art I think. I moved to Johannesburg when I was 11 years old and spent lots of time in the bush. South Africa was such a massive change from all the grey English skies. Seeing the wild animals roaming around free was something that made a huge impression on me from a young age and has stayed with me ever since. I’ve always been amazed by their beauty and how different they all are – something that I try to recreate through my art.
Nanuk – Miami, USA – Photo Credit – Daniel Weintraub @Halopigg
-How did it all start for you, and what is it nowadays?
I always really enjoyed playing around with pencil drawing and sketching but never took it too seriously and never had any formal training in art. It was only later, when I was around 23 that I started painting by chance – a random decision to do a mural in my friend’s band room. From there I became fascinated with colour and started learning as much as I could about how painting and colour-mixing worked. I guess I got pretty obsessed and as soon as I started painting on the streets I was completely hooked. That obsession with colour still plays a big role in my work.
-You dedicate a lot of time to animal conservation, whats led to this and do you feel it has helped the progress of this cause?
I paint what is important to me. So, wildlife has always naturally been at the centre of my work. Then a couple of years ago I started becoming more aware of the issues that are causing these animals to become endangered and extinct around the world and it had a big impact on me. At the same time, I was toying with the idea of creating a full body of work for a solo exhibition and decided to use the work to communicate a message about these issues. From there it was a no-brainer to use my murals to bring the message to the public, as a way to start a conversation both in the streets and online. It’s been really cool to see how different people around the world engage with the murals and the issues that they raise. It’s been a really rewarding experience. Beyond raising awareness, I am also donating a portion of the proceeds from my upcoming exhibition to Discovery’s Project C.A.T that is helping to secure almost 2 million acres of land in India and Bhutan to help protect the world’s wild tiger population.
Amur Leopard – Vladivostok, Russia
-What music would you pick to work with while creating you art?
It’s always different – I listen to music for so many hours a day so I mix it up a lot. Sometimes it’s hip hop, sometimes it’s bluesy psychedelic rock, sometimes is techno or house…
-In all forms of art, inspiration is crucial. What is it that inspires you?
Many things inspire me, but travel has to be right up there!
Kicking Up Dust – Cambridge, Canada
-What is the hardest part while working on a piece of art?
For me, the hardest part is often finding the right materials to use to bring my creative vision to life. It’s a lot of trial and error, but worth it in the end if I can create something that is unique that I am satisfied with.
-Do you have an artist(s) you admire and what for?
So many, and for loads of different reasons. You don’t want to get me started 😉
Looking To Tomorrow – London, UK
-Which cities are the most inspiring for you?
The more I travel the more inspired I become, mostly by the people of the places I visit. I love how no matter how different we all may seem, there’s also so much sameness. At the moment in terms of the art world, I’m really inspired by what’s going down in the US – there’s always something fresh around every corner!
NY Lion – NewYork, USA – Photo Credit – @JustASpectator
-What other passions do you have apart from art?
I used to play a lot of music, guitar mostly, but that’s kind of taken a back seat since I’ve been focusing on my art. These days art and travel are pretty all-consuming for me, so when I have time off I tend to just hang out and drink beer with friends…
-Do you have a wild project that you dream of achieving some day?
Plenty! Hoping to bring some of these to life soon, so you’ll have to wait and see 😉
-Do you have a secret you would like to share with us? 🙂
A secret? I’m pretty good at keeping them…
Embers, Amsterdam, Netherlands – Photo Credit – Marco Buddingh
-What are your creative plans for the future?
I have my first solo exhibition in New York opening May 17, and then a couple of cool festivals and projects over the Summer. Creatively I’ll be taking my art in a slightly different direction, keeping the animals close but also introducing a human element which I’m really excited about. I’ve had this new concept in mind for a while now so will be cool to bring it to life finally! In between travels I have a couple of different creative projects I’m planning to get started back home, but you’ll have to wait and see…
-Thank you! It’s been great to get to know more about the mind and person behind such talented and inspiring works.
Interview by Tim Jentsch – ‘’I Support Street Art’’ team.
Jelani – Johannesburg, SouthAfrica
Artist Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/sonnysundancer/?hl=en
Artist Website – http://sonnyonline.com/tothebone/
NY Show – To The Bone
ISSA Artist Page: