Danielle Mastrion


Brooklyn, New York 

How did you get your start in Art?

I have been painting and drawing since I can remember. I was in afterschool programs and always excelled in the arts there. My mom and I would visit museums on the weekend and I would draw from the master paintings when I was six-years-old. I was in an art curriculum at a public high school in Brooklyn where I was taking college level oil painting, which leads me to Parsons School of Design where I majored in Illustration. After college, I was working in graphic design and as an art assistant in galleries. At night and on the weekends I was live painting at events all over New York.

What lead to you being a street artist?

I started live painting with Art Battle International, a large, live painting organization which pretty much changed my life. I got to travel all over the world and met some of my best friends through the group. A lot of the artists who paint live happen to be graffiti artists and muralists, due to the canvas being so large and you only have a short amount of time to complete it. As I traveled to places such as Paris, Germany, and Poland, it opened my eyes to how these international artists are using walls like a big canvas and using aerosol the same way I use oil paint. My paintings have always been really large, and I know how to paint fast, so I thought, "Why am I not putting my paintings on a wall?" The first mural I ever did was a Beastie Boys tribute that I did all with a brush, and it took me forever. Another artist name Bishop was working next to me and told me "You know if you use aerosol you can cut your time in half." I totally winged my first aerosol piece, a tribute to rapper MCA (Beastie Boys), on 5POINTZ  in Long Island City Queens and that set off my mural career.  

From where do you draw your inspiration?

Hip Hop always has a big inspiration. Along with the Beastie Boys mural, I did a Biggie mural with the Bushwick Collective in 2012 and it's been up for five years. When I'm painting, I'm usually listening to 90's Hip Hop. I'm a Brooklyn girl, so the art form of the aerosol is one of the five elements of Hip Hop. So I think it all goes hand in hand. 

My work has shifted to more community-based projects. I paint a lot of strong female figures. One of my first was Malala Yousafzai with the Bushwick Collective in 2013 -- this was before her winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Knowing that she risked her life for an education, I thought this is someone that deserves a memorial. It was the first time it clicked that I can use artwork as an educational tool. I have a responsibility on what I'm doing and the community for which I'm painting.

What message do you hope to convey with your work?

I'm very pro-education and equal rights. I tend to do a lot of pieces to educate young women. While I am working projects around the world, little girls will come up and say "I have never seen a girl do this." That has resonated with me. I work in a male-dominated field, like many others. I want to encourage more women to paint, so I want to send a message of female empowerment through my work.

How do you prepare for a big project?

I like to visit the wall first, touch the wall and the size of it, and check out the condition of the wall. I do a ton of research working with the business or neighborhood to get ideas of what they want painted. I will lay out a sketch, so I know what I'm working with when I get there. The sketching and image research process can take longer than actually painting the wall. The day of, I make sure I get a lot of sleep, make sure all my devices are charged, and I have a ton of music.

What’s your take on street art vs. other styles of art?

I think knowing as many techniques as possible is always better because you can pull different techniques into painting murals. I learned glazing techniques, the layering transparent colors of areas of light and shadow to bring out the colors, which is an oil painting technique. For example, I will hit a black aerosol with a transparent blue, and it makes the color black pop. I pull from every skillset that I can when I paint.

 Do you have a favorite piece?

My favorite mural happens to be a little piece that is on Lafayette Street between Grand and Howard in SoHo; its two iron doors I painted for a friend's business. It took me 3 hours to paint the image off of the top of my head. That piece has been up for three years. The business has been shut down, but the piece is still there. I get more emails and feedback from that little piece than any of my other murals.

My second is the massive mermaid piece I did for Coney Island last year. It is the biggest piece I have ever done. I was on a boom lift for two months working on it. It is the largest mural in Coney Island/South Brooklyn, which is special to me because I grew up in that area. It’s like my love letter to my neighborhood.

What’s next for Danielle?

I'm lining up all my projects for the spring and summer. I have two more murals with Luna Park in Coney Island, one will be completed by Memorial Day, and the other one will begin after Labor Day. I have a few restaurant commissions upcoming and a mural for an anti-gun violence organization.

What motto or mantra do you live your life by?

My mantra, while I'm working, is to repeat "Just keep painting"

If you are tired, have a lot on your mind, or stressed, "Just keep painting."


For more on this artist, please visit daniellemastrion.com and follow on social media at @daniellebknyc

antonio rainey