Interview with Street Artist, Hello The Mushroom, on collaboration, inspiration & balance.

On the second episode of ‘Promote The Hell Out Of It’ I had the absolute joy of catching up with our good friend and incredible street artist; Sara Lucas (aka Hello The Mushroom). We talked about some of her incredible collaborations, finding work/life balance, using art as an escape and lots, lots more. These are some of the highlights from that conversation.

You can check out and follow Sara Lucas on Instagram.

You can listen to the whole interview here on the ‘Promote The Hell Out Of It‘ podcast, which is also available on Spotify, Acast, Apple Podcasts & on YouTube.

Collaboration seems like a crucial factor in your art, what advice would you give for people who are looking to collaborate with other artists and don’t know where to start?

I get a lot of enjoyment out of collaborating. I don’t think I’ve ever had a negative experience to be honest, but the people that I normally end up collaborating with, it’s because we have something in common that makes our pieces gel together in a good way. You know it’s always the fact that I’m into it and they’re into it as well. They see potential for creating something in collaboration. If you want something, you have to go out and get it, you can’t just sit in your room waiting to be discovered, so you have to always be out there putting stuff out on the street, which I don’t do enough these days, because of other limitations. You have to be out there on the street, you have to be putting your stuff out on social media, you have to talk to people and go to shows. There’s always open calls for artists here and there, for this or that, an exhibition, or a magazine. The same thing with collaborations. I mean, a lot of the people that I’ve collaborated with, there’s been some sort of relationship that was previously built before jumping in, whether it’s just been following each other on Instagram, meeting in an exhibition and then having a chat, etc. Especially if you’re asking an artist that is a bit more popular than you are, you have to be mindful of their time and what they want. You can’t just expect people to stop everything they’re doing to do something with you. So it’s good to build a relationship before that. I find that having had that previous connection really helps people be open to listening to these ideas

You’ve recently worked on large scale murals which is a step away from your usual work, what are some of the challenges that entails?

I think it’s a lot more challenging, not only because of the scale, but also because, unlike people who work spray paint, I can’t just rock up and whip something up. I work with printed paper that needs to be painted, there’s a lot of preparation involved. So that can be a little bit limiting sometimes. I’ve been asked to do collaborative murals and sometimes I have to say no, because I don’t have the time to get the prints done. I mean, it’s not something I can do unless I have some prints lying around that might be adaptable, but that’s usually not the case. It’s not something that you can say to me in the morning, come out and do something this afternoon. It’s a bit restricting in that sense. But so far, the few things that I’ve done have worked out well, sometimes there’s that limitation of the size of the paper and this and that, but I think we’ve managed to turn it around and make it look good.

Hello the Mushroom Mural in collaboration with DRT London

If you were giving advice to someone that wants to get into street art, what would it be?

I mean, I think it’s just a case of jumping in really. I’ve always liked street art and had that thing of sometimes feeling like an outsider looking in. You want to do something, but you don’t know anyone, you don’t know how it’s going to be, blah, blah, blah. Really, that’s not even a thing to be honest, the street is there for everyone. You just have to be careful not to get caught, you can get fined. Other than that you just have to be careful to not go over other people’s work because that’s rude. Just knock yourself out. Do what you want to do. The thing is, you might not know anyone, but once you start doing it, you will definitely start forming your own community, or getting to a community of artists. So if you want to get into that kind of world, everyone is super nice and welcoming, so just do it. It’s very simple, very easy to just get into it. Don’t be afraid to not fit in or do something different. Not everyone has to do stencil art, or try to be a new Banksy, just do whatever you want for your enjoyment.

I loved the fact that you were part of the book that Carrie Reichardt & Bob Osborne put together ‘Cash is King’. How was that experience?

That was an amazing experience and again is proof that if you want to do something, you ask and you might just get it. What happened was I saw some people post on Instagram and this was before I even met Bob or Carrie. I followed Carrie, but I didn’t know about Bob. I saw someone who posted something like; ‘I just made this note for Bob Osborne blah blah blah’. So I looked at his Instagram and I really liked his work, he has a lot of stuff in common with mine, mainly the saucy pictures! I really liked it and it really resonated with me, so I just dropped him a message saying ‘hey, I’ve seen some people have been doing this, can I can I play too?’. He looked at my stuff and said yeah, absolutely. It was amazing how it turned out. I was very proud to be part of this amazing project that Carrie Reichardt and Bob Osborne put together, I think it’s just an amazing idea. It’s just started going from strength to strength. Again, it’s one of these things that you start with a little idea and then it starts growing and growing exponentially. In the beginning when I sent him the initial two pieces that I made for it, I got told we might be doing an exhibition at some point and then the exhibition ended up being at Saatchi Gallery you know! So it doesn’t get any better than that. And recently there was a pop up show in a gallery in Paris with some of the notes, I know that at least one of the ones I made are going to be showing there. Artists are defacing dust jackets as well, those are being made and I’m in the process of finishing mine. The book (Cash is King) has been purchased by the British Museum for their collection, that was like, wow! It’s one of those things that you think okay, when I die, this book will be in the British Museum and might be seen by future generations. I don’t think anyone will really care. But it’s gonna be there anyway.

An extract from the art book, ‘Cash is King – The Art of Defaced Banknotes’

How important for your art is drawing inspiration from personal experiences and how vital has art been as a form of cathartic release to you personally?

Take in everything and learn from it. If you’re an artist, turn it into art. I mean, I personally find it a lot more rewarding to dig into the pool of ideas and feelings of things that I’ve seen and experienced. It’s a bit of a cliche, you know, the tortured artist and everything, but at the same time, it does happen a lot and all these things really can become inspiration. We just have to be careful not to get into a cycle of just making bad decisions so we can create art, but you know, we always have problems and things that trouble us, so I find that art has been a big thing in helping me cope with those things. So yeah, art can be therapeutic, you need the low points to be able to appreciate the higher ones. Also, remember that just because you’re in the low point doesn’t mean you won’t be on the high point again, you know, nothing lasts forever. Not even that bad moment. I’m saying this to myself. I’ve recently done a talk on how going back into doing art really helped me cope with the fact that I had cancer and that my life was completely turned upside down after that. I had spent so many years without painting or anything, it just made me go back to painting and finding a new meaning to what I’m doing with my time.

How do you find time to balance work, art, social life and social media?

It’s complicated, never easy. The thing is, it’s very rare that you can as an artist live off your art. I certainly can’t. I have to do other work apart from this. It’s a bit frustrating when you have to go and spend all your time on Social Media when you have so many ideas that you want to put out. You have to spend time on Instagram and it just becomes tiresome. Sometimes you need to go away and work on your ideas without interruption or background noise. You need that silence sometimes to have some clarity. But the way that things are geared these days, it’s very difficult to have that time to think, time to meditate on things, to ponder on what you are doing. Time to solve those questions that you want to put out with your art, to work on your ideas. I find that a little bit frustrating, because I’m one of those people that I can be at once, quite social, and happy and bubbly, but at the same time, I also like having my own space and being by myself. You keep getting pushed in all different directions all the time. Also, a city like London is the same, you keep getting pushed around, go to this event, do this, do that. Sometimes I have to say no, because I need time to rest because of my health. You have to work to pay your bills, then you have to do your artwork as well and that doesn’t leave a lot of time for socializing these days. Which is unfortunate. That’s one of the things that frustrates me the most about living here, is that you really have to be rushing around all the time and it can be exhausting. I don’t see that being helpful in any way. I’ve started to learn to say no. I spend a lot of time at home these days because I’m constantly broke being the starving artist, but sometimes it’s because I’m not feeling well, I don’t have the energy to go out. Even if I don’t spend that much money on alcohol when I go out, someone will buy me a drink and someone will buy me another drink, and then the next day I’m hungover and I’m not gonna be able to achieve anything.

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