For this dose of art we had a one-on-one with Egyptian Graffiti Artist Shaheen (Toxik). Shaheen started his studio, Kraks Kustoms, in 2017, where he does custom paint jobs on motorcycles, classic cars, and mastered 12 different surfaces. His work can be found in different cities around the world like Bandung, Jakarta, Bali, Yogyakarta, South Sinai, Cairo, and El Gouna. He’s also created outfits for superstars like Mohamed Ramadan in his latest music video TikTok, and Maged El Kedwany for his latest Molto Ad.
How did you get into the art of Graffiti?
It started with my passion for the extreme sports as I used to play Tony Hawk , NBA Street, and GTA for hours when I was as young as 8 years old. I started to see graffiti on the walls of the street inside the game, and it was very interesting for me, as I was in love with the comics and letters. So I started to pause the game whenever I see a piece just to copy it. Then, I started creating my own pieces inspired by this culture. I started sketching the names of my best friends on papers and give it to them as gifts.
I got my first spray can when I was 13, and since then I became hooked in this. I wanted everyone to see my style. There was little inspiration back then as not many people used to draw comics or letters. I also wanted to create my own cartoon comics back then for people to see my art. I started painting with brushes and handmade tools, as I couldn’t find the right tools, and when I did find the proper supplies I took things to a whole new level.
Talk to us about your trip to Indonesia and how it influenced your art career.
After working in the motorcycles field for 4 years of painting helmets and motorcycles tanks and teaching people how to ride, I decided to go somewhere else where I can learn something new and be exposed to more experienced people in my field. I went first to Bandung Indonesia (Free Flow Kustoms) Which was a dream as this customization garage was my favorite. I’ve always wanted to visit them and learn from these guys as much as possible after spending time with them I decided to give Bali a visit as it was always known as a meeting point for graffiti artists from all over the planet.
The first thing I decided to do was going into a skate park as it was a dream since I was young we didn’t have any in Egypt back then it was covered in graffiti and I asked the owner where to get my spray paint. He saw my work and liked it very much and introduced me to his friend who organizes Tropica Festival which was one of the most important graffiti festivals in the world where famous graffiti artists gather.
I went there and got the chance to meet and paint with my role models and people that I look up to and also made many artist friends from more than 50 countries. I spent every single moment trying to paint as much as possible with different artists especially that I found everything that I needed from supplies and support. I was living the dream.
When I came back to Egypt I was super hyped as I wanted to create everything that I saw and learned there here in my country. I started my studio with my brilliant brother and filmmaker Ali who helped me put things together as he really believed in this culture and worked so much on himself to be able to understand the culture that we’re trying to expose.
How did Kraks come to life?
After experiencing my style on many surfaces, I got into the sneaker customization where I decided to launch it separately from the rest of the studio as i launched this page with my childhood best friend Ahmed Hosny as we always had the dream of doing something together.
How did you get into mainstream/pop culture projects with celebrities?
After working so much on my style and improving the quality, people started to get convinced with this. Clients started asking for this style where I got the chance to work on customizing a full out fit in my style for the superstar Maged El Kedwani in an ad. for Edita (Molto) with Ahmed Malek and Ruby. 5 months later, I got a message from Bosaina and Seba who decided to commission me to customize a full out fit for superstar Mohamed Ramadan in his latest music video ft. Super Sako, Tiktok.
What are your influences?
I’ve always loved the idea of being unique, I chose a color chart and a style of strokes that identify my style, as I don’t copy it’s always fresh original piece from A to Z, which is part of the graffiti culture; every time I try to copy I end up mixing it with my style.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic influence your art?
It was a pause phase where all my projects got postponed. I had a phase where I was doubting everything like everyone else, but I decided to take advantage of this free time and took an online graphic designing diploma to open doors for illustrations; as I’ve always wanted to learn this to enter storyboards and illustrations industry.
What’s your take on Graffiti artist in the region?
I believe that this generation of graffiti artists in the region is taking graffiti to a whole new level. As many talented artists started to hit hard in their careers. We’re all working in parallel lines which creates inspiration and motivation also crews started to appear in many countries in the Arab world. I feel that I’m lucky that this is my generation, and I’m really excited for what’s next.
Why do you think graffiti is booming in Egypt?
One of the main reasons why this type of art is booming in Egypt now is the people who took it seriously and did their best to provide all the supplies that an artist might need with the highest quality ever like Mr. Omar Herrawy, the founder of Egypt’s only graffiti shop in Alexandria (vlukt) (montanacamsegypt).