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Pablo El Tigre’s Adventures To Paint With DVATE

On the Street Art Unearthed podcast recently, we caught up with Colombian street artist, Pablo el Tigre, who has recently returned home to Bogota after some years leaving his mark on Melbourne.

What’s amazing about Pablo’s story is the incredible focus he had on his goals. He had followed DVATE’s work for years, admired him immensely and decided to learn English in Melbourne just hoping there might be a chance to one day meet him.

For almost three years, Pablo el Tigre spent every spare moment and dollar improving himself and increasing his chance to paint with his idol.

This is that story, in Pablo’s own words, taken from the podcast. Below is the full episode, and what follows are excerpts about how Pablo el Tigre met, and eventually got to paint with his idol, Jimmy DVATE.

Coming to Australia

It was because of DVATE. We got magazines, and I used to sit with my mates and see these guys. In 2015, I went to see Sofles in Colombia. I saw him, and everything just changed after he landed in Colombia. He’s so fast, the way he is using the caps… But at that time I didn’t speak English. I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to ask him things, so I thought I have to learn English. Sofles is Australian, so is DVATE, my favourite artist, so he was my main thing when I decided to go to Australia.

I didn’t know any English. I was struggling a little bit, but it was still good. In the English school, you feel like you’re in Kindergarten again, because your teacher is saying like “yellow”, “red”, “green”, “blue”. I’m 28, you know, and I was there learning the colours.

I will be honest with you, I thought I knew English until I arrived in Australia. The Australian accent… “G’day mate.” I was learning the Australian accent while I was learning English as well. I reckon it’s not the same.

Lost in Translation

I knew about him, but I hadn’t seen what he looked like. I got lucky just one month after I arrived in Australia. Juddy Roller had a Smug solo show, and I went to it.

I saw him, and I bought a print, and then I was a little bit shy, but I went, and I said “Hello. I’m Pablo from Colombia, and I truly love your stuff”, and he said, “Oh so many people are writing me on Instagram from Colombia, I’m going to go one day.” I said, “I truly hope you do go there”.

Then he said, “I understand that you like my stuff, but if you are in Melbourne, you should know this guy next to me”. And he’s like “this is DVATE” and I was like “Who?” because in Spanish we say it like devahteh. And he said “D-V-ATE… You’re in Melbourne and you don’t know DVATE?” and I was like “No, I’m not sure”, and DVATE is the most humble guy I have ever met and he just laughed and was like “No worries, mate”.

After, he gave me his card and then I was like “Oh devahteh. In front of me!” but he was different. In my mind he was different, so I was shocked, and feeling like “Why can’t I speak English well enough?” so I was just like “Oh, man, nice to meet you. I’m Pablo from Colombia, and I hope that one day I can paint with you”, and he was like “Yeah, maybe one day”.

That was my first month in Australia. I then spent all of my savings in the second month. I was broke. I couldn’t paint that much, so to paint with DVATE or those guys who are really well respected, it seemed like my dream was going far away from me.

Grinding For Graffiti

Australia is too expensive. There was no way to quit my construction job if I wanted to live in Australia a bit more. But that hard job made me realise how important graffiti is in my life.

I wanted to keep myself there for one year more to show my stuff. I realised that because of that hard job. I felt happy when I was painting, but in the weekdays I was sad all the time, mad. When I was in Colombia, I used to love graffiti as well, but in Australia, I realised that the only thing that doesn’t change is how I love graffiti.

I took a screenshot when DVATE started following me, and it was because of the photographers, they were making noise. I was painting, of course, but the noise was because of them.

After he was following me on Instagram, I started to paint a lot more because he was watching my stuff. I saw he was watching my stories and I thought maybe he likes my stuff, so I’m gonna work hard, and I did.

Eventually, I got a wall in Collingwood. It was amazing. I got my own wall, and I was painting “Fatima”. And that was when I got my first DVATE comment, and I thought “this guy likes my stuff” so I thought probably one day I am going to paint with him.

Ticking Off the Final Dream

I was getting better and better, but at the same time, I was missing my family a lot. I felt a kind of emptiness, so I thought maybe it’s time to think about my future.

Everyone recommended to stay where you are, but I asked the Universe to help me, and I saw my sketchbook, and I had written five or 10 sentences about my dreams, and at that time I was very very close to finishing my list, but I was still missing to paint with DVATE.

Somebody said he was busy, and it was the Melbourne lockdown, so I thought maybe not this time. I was feeling proud of myself because I knew he probably liked my stuff, so it was enough. But I was still missing the checklist. I felt like “I’m in Melbourne, I came for this guy, he is showing me some interest. I should try!”

I had already messaged him a few words just saying “I love your stuff” so I decided to book my ticket to Italy to stay with my sister. I used to live in Europe before, but I was without any English, so I felt like this was my chance. I was going to land in Milan because it’s easy, I can speak Italian so I can have Italy as my base and then I’m going to travel around Europe to show my stuff. This was my plan. So I bought my ticket, and I felt something on my heart again like I have to message DVATE.

I said “Hello, Jimmy. I’m Pablo from Colombia, I truly love your stuff. I’m going to be honest with you, you were one of the reasons that I came to Melbourne. I am leaving, and I don’t know if you can give me the chance to paint with you. If you can’t, I understand.” And he said “Yo, Pablo, I like your stuff. It’s a pity that you are leaving when you are getting better in Melbourne” he said something like that and then “I’m busy at the moment, but I will try to get a chance because I want to paint with you.” He said that. I was like, if I have to go away at least he said he wanted to paint with me.

That was on Wednesday and the next Friday I was going to leave. So he said, “I’ll get back to you on Monday if I’ve got time” then he didn’t reply anymore, and I thought “He’s too busy”, but Monday in the morning he messaged me and said “Yo, Pablo, I’ve got a few hours today, so if you’ve got the time, this is the right time, mate” so I said, “I’m going to Fitzroy”.

Observing a Master in Action

I got all my cameras, everything. He said “I’ve only got a few hours because I’m busy, so I’m going to paint fast, but we are gonna do it” and I felt so good but I also felt shy because this was something that I had been waiting for. It was not that easy. It’s something I had imagined my whole life, and then it came to me. So I asked him if he would mind if I recorded and he said “Don’t worry. She’ll be right, mate.” and I said to him, “How long do you have?” and he said “A few hours, but if you do well I’ll come back tomorrow”. So I was painting my best, trying so hard. After some hours he said “I have to go, but I will be back tomorrow”, so I understood that this was like him saying “you are doing well”.

It was good, but I was painting and at the same time watching him. I wanted to understand the way he is doing these straight lines with spray cans that is impossible. I’ve been painting for years, and I cannot do these lines. But there is no secret. There is no way to get that, you just have to paint and paint and paint until you feel that your fingers don’t work anymore.

It was amazing. I got the chance to give a present to Jimmy, and I got the chance to get a present from Jimmy because I got a little canvas from him, which is in my studio at the moment.

I took from Melbourne so much. I gained so much wisdom. And I’m trying to live like that. One day I want to see guys like me looking at my stuff, and I want them to say “If he can, I can.”

You can learn more about Pablo’s adventures in Australia here, and be sure to follow Pablo el Tigre on Instagram and keep your eyes peeled for his new products and website.

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