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Hustle, grind, repeat: Making art with Kazilla

Kazilla is easily one of the most prolific female street artists in Miami. A New Mexico transplant, Kazilla came to Miami in 2007 for the hip-hop scene, but wound up staying for its blossoming arts culture. We sat down to talk about how she got her start making street art, what she loves about Miami, and what’s next for the one of South Florida’s most in-demand artists.

How long have you been making art?

Courtesy of Alessandro Abate
Courtesy of Alessandro Abate

My mom told me my first drawing was when I was 11 weeks old — I kinda popped out with a pencil in my hand. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. I like playing around with whatever I can get my hands on.

How did you get started painting?

I’ve only been painting for 6 to 7 years now, and at first I hated it. I always worked with pencils, so working in color was a challenge, but I didn’t back down from it. I used to tag back in the day, and when I discovered I could use spray paint for painting it was a game changer.

Then I started painting live for bands and events, and the more I did it the bigger I wanted to paint. The street art game was just starting to pick up back then, and seeing so much street art in one place definitely inspired me. I think it definitely gave me a canvas.

What was the turning point for you with street art?

For the longest time I wanted to be an illustrator, do posters for music events and illustrate books, but then I started getting gigs and I just got completely bored by it. That’s when I started doing live art. Being around people and seeing how they react to it was kind of the game changer for me, because you physically get to see how the art affects people. And being out in the streets is very ephemeral for me, because street art is a live performance and people see how you work, but then it stays around for a long time for people to experience. So being able to brighten people’s day and influence them and touch them without even being around, and still having that connection where I can create in front of them, that’s what really got me into it.

Do you plan your murals before you tackle them when you paint live?

Actually I don’t. I usually just go straight for it. I get inspired by everything around me. When I create a piece off the top of my head, I’m pulling from my energy, space, vibes, color, people, smells – whatever is around me. I also listen to music 24/7, which is why I started doing live painting at music events, because I wanted to be inspired by that.

How often do you paint? How long does the average wall take you?

I paint pretty much every day. Lately its been on walls, but I do paint on canvas, too, if I’m commissioned for a project. Depending on the size of the wall, a mural can take me anywhere from a day to about a week. I can sometimes do a piece in a couple hours — I can get a good basis, and then go back and add more details.

Why Miami?

I love the arts scene, I love the artists here, and I love the music. By now, I usually would have moved around a long time ago, but Miami kept me here because of the amazing music and producers. And the arts scene is just getting better and better every year. It will definitely be my home base for the next five years, if not longer.

What upcoming projects are you most excited about?

This summer I’ve been on an art tour all over the country, but I have a couple other trips coming up — Cali, South Dakota, New York, Greece next year, and maybe Istanbul.

I just did a Wall Brawl in Wynwood, and usually during Basel I have a lot of good ones that I do too. For Basel, I have a few collaborations planned with artists coming in from out of town, I’m painting at a few festivals and then I’m hitting the streets. Art Basel is like Disneyland for artists. There’s things to do everywhere.

What keeps you going?

My motto is hustle, grind, repeat. Every single day I’m doing something. I’m constantly working and constantly out there and always producing.

By Nicole Martinez
Nicole is a freelance writer and crop top enthusiast based in Miami Beach. A lifelong 305-er, she loves finding new stuff to love in her city everyday.