Meet Mark Paul Deren, or, as he's known in the art world, MadSteez. The 33-year-old artist hails from the Washington, D.C., area but now resides in Costa Mesa, Calif., right down the street from Armada. He's done commission work for the ski brand as well as for Nike, Capita, Von Zipper and other action sports companies -- not to mention partnered with MINI Cooper to make an art car and, with the actor's permission, painted an epic, complex portrait of Dennis Hopper.
Deren recently tagged the side of the Armada main offices with a gigantic mural of rapper Eazy-E laying out a backflip (see the video above). This fall, he's embarking on a new mission to show the world how he sees it through a blind eye.
I grew up on the East Coast. No one really has a bad attitude regarding ego. Maybe artists do -- I don't know. I think being personable is way more rewarding than thinking you're better than everyone else.
Now that I'm an adult, I feel weird when people introduce me as MadSteez.Mark Paul Deren
When I was younger, I wanted to be a football player. That didn't work. Then I wanted to be a stockbroker, which turned into wanting to be a meteorologist, and then I fell into being an artist by way of graphic design.
Probably 10 years ago, I knew [Armada co-founder and photographer] Chris O'Connell. He said Armada was trying to do something different in skiing and he asked if I'd be interested in putting my art on their skis. I was like, "Hell, yeah!" It was as easy as that.
It's kind of a weird thing. The name came from [the fact] that I used to wear crazy outfits. Fluorescent-neon jumpsuits -- I'd wear Halloween costumes, like dinosaur-headed things, to events and as normal day-wear. I was dressed super crazy. Everyone used to tell me I had steeze, or style, and that translated into me being MadSteez.
I used to work at Rusty, the surf company, when I was, like, 17. It was like "Office Space," the movie, where you're sitting in these meetings about meetings for meetings. I was a kid and that was the last thing I wanted to be doing, so I started drawing [fictional character] Mr. Ween. ... He went from the head and eyebrows and eyes to where I was drawing him as different animals, which then evolved into the Ween!mals. It was me being bored in marketing meetings.
I'm not trying to tag things illegally. It's not hard for someone to Google something after you've put your name on it. The graffiti task force will Google your name and find you. I've had some friends go down. It's not part of my repertoire anymore.
My favorite thing right now is painting outdoors, on the street, legally. Chris [O'Connell] asked, "What can we do to get you to come over and paint the Armada headquarters?" I have a bunch of projects coming up, but I had two days and said, "You know what? I'm ready."
I was like, "Oh, my God. I want Eazy-E to be doing a back flip over this awning that sticks out." I could just visualize him doing a perfect laid-out back flip right there. It was very architecturally inspired. I was painting his body first and then I noticed the way the sun came in, because it comes in from the right, so I portrayed how his shadows would be against the real shadows so it'd look real.
The main thing I've been working on -- [which will] hopefully [be complete] by the end of this year or [the] middle of next year -- is a big solo show. I haven't had a solo show since 2008 in New York. This next show is the first time my show will be 100 percent personal.
I was born blind in my left eye, [but] not to where I see [only] black. I have some rare disease where I see almost, like, a kaleidoscope of colors. There's no tangible form. It'll be, like, crazy color gradients with lines cutting through and very abstract. What I'm trying to portray in my next show is how I see out of [my] blind eye.
The goal with the new show -- I'm talking with a few agents and stuff -- is to do a show in L.A., New York and London or somewhere overseas. Venues are gnarly. That's, like, the real, real art world.
Mark Paul Deren, the man behind the moniker MadSteez, got his start in action sports at the tender age of 17 and has marathon marketing meetings to credit for his doodling start to art. Now 33, Deren's commissioned regularly by some of the biggest names both in the industry and beyond to create murals, cell-phone covers, art cars and more. "I absolutely love action and spontaneous abstract paintings," he says of this particular project. "I have so much fun with how intuitively the pieces evolve." Click on to see more of his artwork and get Deren's own take on his process and products.
BL!SS magazine is me and two other guys. I'm technically the creative director, which means laying out the entire magazine and [that] all of the art content goes through me. It's an extension of me and the other guys I do it with. We all surf, skate, snowboard. It's what we'd want to put in a magazine and it's really fun. It keeps me in the loop with what's going on in action sports. It's really fun to do every month.
A dream of mine has been to do a cartoon, which actually led to a development deal with Nickelodeon to do new characters. Not my [existing] characters, because they'd end up owning everything outright. They said it was in my best interest to do [new characters], but it didn't work out as planned.
I like all mediums. I really like film. I did a short film last year in Detroit, which was a new medium for me. I think it'd be fun to do large outdoor installations. Jeff Koons is doing a $200 million train that's going upside down in New York City somewhere.