Friends and family call her “the spray paint lady.” Ari Krasner is a 35-year-old artist specializing in hyper-realistic spray paint portraits on canvas and clothing. She moved to Washington from her native New York City in 2009 for a job at a nonprofit. About a decade later, she decided to focus more on her art and take on large projects. In October, she launched a virtual storefront on Etsy.
How did you get the nickname “the spray paint lady”?
My mom and my dad came up with it years and years ago when we were trying to write the cards that you give out at gallery shows, where it has all your information and your story and your art. They came up with calling me the spray paint lady and my friends started calling me that, too, just because I had such a love for, not only just spray paint, but I am obsessed with finding street art and taking photographs of it.
That leads into my next question: Why spray paint?
I became really obsessed with street art walking around in New York City and Tel Aviv. There was just so much amazing street art that was creative and artistic. It was political. It was funny. It was all at the same time.
When I was an acrylic oil painter, I was always bored. It didn’t fulfill this unanswered need in me. I decided, instead of looking at all my photographs at the street art that I had taken, that I was going to make it my own. I spent two years, trial and error, and then it finally clicked and I’ve been doing it ever since for the last decade.
How do you make your art pieces?
I start with a photograph. I put it into my computer, into a graphics program where I really play around with a photo, isolate what I want to paint, what I don’t want to paint. And then I draw over the photo to create different layers. Then I’m able to print those out. And I hand cut them by hand with an Exacto knife, which is really fun. I start spray painting it, laying layer on top of layer, until the end where my favorite part is I can pull it all off and reveal what I’ve done.
How did you first get into art?
I’ve been doing art my entire life. I was really lucky. My mom was an artist, a graphic designer, photographer. My dad was a writer. He wrote novels. Every morning I’d wake up and he was writing at least two hours a day. So they really, really embraced my passion for art. And my mom always had art supplies around. And the joke that I often [say is] I came out of the womb with a paintbrush because, true story, I was painting before I could speak.
What drives you to create?
Well, if I didn’t create, I think I would be nothing, I’d probably just lay in my bed all day. And probably be depressed at the world. It’s hard to do things now. And art, for me, is a way that I can get through it, not just painting it, but being able to use my art to support my community. It’s just a way that keeps me going. And without it, I don’t know what I’d have.
How do you express yourself as a Jew?
I question everything. Is that a Jewish thing, questioning everything? I think it’s really important that we’re constantly questioning the status quo. And it’s also really important to me that that reflects in my identity as a Jewish person, and how I act and how I put myself within the Jewish community.