Interview by T.K. Mills - Images Provided by Polly Dawson and Thirdrailart
Hailing from Leicester and now based in Sheffield, United Kingdom the artist known as Peachzz returned to Akumal this year to showcase the latest evolution of her style. Another legacy creative of the festival, she was one of the few tapped to paint deeper in the Akumal neighborhood, where she rocked the security booth with her second official portrait in colors as vibrant as her hair. The piece, an homage to both Mexican and Mayan culture, represents an offering of gold to the sea goddesses who watch over Akumal and its turtles. As a street artist, Peachzz has long worked with wildlife images, but after overcoming the stagnation of COVID, she has pushed her work forward into a new approach, focusing on portraiture and faces.
Beyond her impressive can control, Peachzz’s bubbly spirit and cheeky humor have earned her a home in the Akumal community. She laughed while recalling when she initially reached out years ago, she was still fresh in her street art career and only had a handful of Instagram followers, but her passion and keen attitude won her an invite and she’s made it count.
During our interview inside, Peachzz explained how the community support she found in street art helped foster her creative spark.
This interview has been edited for concision and clarity
T.K. Mills: When did you start spray painting?
Peachzz: I started spray painting 6 years ago in the abandoned buildings of Sheffield in Yorkshire. It was an interesting place to start learning where to paint. I feel lucky that I got to experience it because a lot of the original building started getting torn down. It’s definitely changed quite a lot, but it was a great time.
T.K. Mills: So, you just started right away with using spray paint?
Peachzz: No. I've been painting or drawing all my life like, you know, my grandma Iris taught me; that wholesome thing. I didn't really stick with any medium particularly because I just never found anything that would fit. I would try charcoal and I started with that. I would always do pencil drawing fine. However, anything color based, like acrylics, I just couldn’t get into. So, it was very black and white. As soon as I tried spray painting, I got proper addicted to it. I was painting full color. It was so weird. I used to only paint in black and white and I just went straight into the most ridiculous color palette.
I was like “Now, I can do whatever I want.”
T.K. Mills: So, was it a friend or someone that showed you or did you just pick up spray painting because you were able to practice it in private spaces?
Peachzz: That’s another interesting story! So, I started painting in Uni because I realized that I hated university and I didn’t get on with it. I ended up in the last year basically just painting a lot through my last year of it, which I do not regret at all.
Then I’d see my friend just start painting randomly in the abandoned buildings. He drew these types of fish-people designs, which was inspiring to watch. So basically, we went as a group, about five of us all together, having never painted before, and just out there trying to learn. We did this for months, but then towards the end, nobody else really painted anymore from that group apart from me. However, somebody from the Sheffield scene began to take me under their wing a bit, which I really appreciated. Moments like that are so important in the street art community.
T.K. Mills: Similar to a mentor-like relationship?
Peachzz: Absolutely. It really makes you the person you are. People have had bad experiences with some spray painters, like being a bit controlled. Thankfully, I was incredibly lucky. Colour, an incredible artist — showed me a lot about painting. Then later on in my life, there’s been other people who have been teaching me from around the UK area. I’ve had so many inspiring people come into my life and I don’t think I would be here doing what I’m doing now without the support that the community gave me.
T.K. Mills: Where did your art name come from?
Peachzz: I got asked this today and I was like, “Oh, it’s so lame.” Basically, when I was younger, I used to have “Peachzz” as a sort of pseudonym for everything that I did on the internet, like MySpace and Bebo. I couldn’t have Peaches spelled normally since that name was taken online already, so I would just have 2 Z’s at the end. Then, I just ended up sticking with it. The next social media site that popped out and I always had this name as my weird pseudonym for no apparent reason. It’s like it was waiting in the background for its time, its moment.
T.K. Mills: So, how would you describe your style and how do you feel it has developed into what it is today?
Peachzz: I would say that my style is constantly changing, quite slowly. It is not like I’m always darting around. It’s just evolving fluidly and naturally. I started off painting quite cartoon-y wildlife because it was the thing that sat with me at that time. I was just trying to figure out who I was going to be as a painter. There’s a point where I was going to quit. So, I was just painting random things. I was like none of this sits with me right and I don’t know what it is that’s going to make me want to carry on painting, in terms of my subject matter.
I was enjoying painting, but I also didn't get it. I needed something that I’d get. So, I started painting some animals. I think the first thing I drew was a cat. I was thinking, “Oh, that was really fun” because I could do textures. I think that’s the thing which led me in. I started focusing more on the texture and blending side of it rather than the straight line.
Slowly, I just started pushing and trying to get a little bit more realistic. I was always playing around with a painterly style with an element of realism, but also quite bold colors. I love vivid colors. So, at the moment, I still paint a lot of wildlife, but I’ve started doing portraits to learn how to do faces, which has only been over the last year. I felt like it was stifling a little bit with what I was doing because a lot of artists get really bored. So, I love spray painting because it's very active, but eventually, you realize you're painting the same thing over and over again.
So, you try to push that further.
The next thing for me was painting portraits because I thought if I could paint a face, I could paint anything. So, that’s where I’m at, at the moment. I’ve done my first portrait from the portrait grant here in Mexico, and it’s the second one I’ve ever done. It’s been an incredible experience so far because I love feeling that I’m learning things and improving myself. I like feeling like my brains on fire; taking things in and actually learning rather than feeling like “Oh, I know how to do this”. I’m a bit bored now, I find myself thinking, “what’s the next thing?” So, my style is always changing, and I hope it does always change because I think it’s important as an artist to constantly push, develop and get out of your comfort zone. Comfort zones are no fun.
T.K. Mills: How did you first hear about the Akumal Arts Festival and how did you get involved?
Peachzz: I think I was really lucky; I found Akumal Arts Festival the first year. Somebody had asked Annatomix to do it and she posted online that she was going. I must have been one of the first people to message the Akumal Festival Coordinators because I had maybe 200 followers, maybe less than that on Instagram. I just wanted to get my foot in the door, so, I literally manically messaged them. It wasn’t how it is now, to just wait until the application is in. They were accepting artists as it went along and luckily, I think they responded quite quickly, “Oh, yes, come along!” Then, obviously, all of these artists started hearing of the festival. Loads of people started saying they were going, but nobody knew how it was gonna run. It was a stab in the dark. We were literally going into a different country and trusting in a bunch of strangers in a sense.
However, I do think a lot of people knew Jake [Klonism]. I didn’t know that at that time, so for me, it was a little bit a stab in the dark. Nobody really knew how it was gonna run, what was gonna happen, but we all felt so lucky and honored. We still do! It’s just such a beautiful festival.
T.K. Mills: What concepts or ideas have you felt yourself gravitating toward?
Peachzz: I’m really quite obsessed with my portraiture at the moment. I really zone into things if I like something and currently this is what I’m leaning towards. I’m just totally immersed in my art. I quite like that. I’m focusing on my portrait. Soon, I’ll be coming out with new ideas though to be honest..
At the same time, I’ve also obviously been traveling and experiencing different communities again since COVID has eased up a bit. I’ve missed it so much. Since coming back to Akumal, like I said, it’s been quite emotional. It’s quite stressful with the travel, but that’s something that inspired a lot of my work. I love traveling, going to new places, experiencing different communities and drawing inspiration from that. I feel like I’ve had a fire lit. I’ve always felt really inspired to travel.
T.K. Mills: What is your long-term plan? Any outstanding goals? Anything that you hope to achieve?
Peachzz: When I first started painting, I was like, “Oh, I enjoy doing this!”, I just want to be able to afford my paint. So, you do that; you get the paint paid for. You’re like, “Brilliant.” Next thing I want is to earn a little bit of money from that. So, I earn a bit of money. Now, I’m at a point where I actually want to be able to cherry pick things a bit more because I’ve got a lot of corporate-based jobs, which are fine, but I think especially pushing conceptual things, I really want to be pushing myself as an artist rather than a corporate artist. These are the next steps. I want to be able to balance my commissioned work with more interesting types of projects. I’m so grateful for the jobs that I do get though, obviously! Utterly grateful about it.
It’s just achieving more creative freedom, which is like my next step.