NEW PRODUCT ALERT: El Toro Splat & Spray Sticker Pack added to the shop!
One of the Queens Art Collective’s earliest members, there’s not many around as versatile in their craft as Belowkey. From murals, graphic design, pop-up shops, paintings to clothing, this guy can do it all, but there’s one particular aspect outside of the public eye. It was a tough decision with many to choose from, but we narrowed down 20 of our most favorite trains by this Queens native for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
“No matter how many trains I paint, I approach each one with the same love as my first—determined to leave it more beautiful than I found it. Quantity is important but so is quality.”
“Every time we paint freights, it’s a mission. A team of few getting ready to do as much damage as possible, and cover as much metal in the shortest time. Most times it goes smooth, but some days are hectic .”
“Solo missions are some of my favorite experiences I’ve had at the yard—no one to rely on as my lookout and every small sound is a hundred times louder when all your senses are heightened. The feeling of accomplishment at the end of the mission is priceless. After all, it’s a numbers game and it’s only a matter of time until someone gets to see one rolling by.”
“My other car is a boxcar.”
Today we start off the Queens Art Collective Q&A series of The Pet Store with Zero Productivity, a Brooklyn based artist whose work focuses on graphic design, illustration, photography, mural and sticker art. Enjoy!
QAC: When we first met years ago, you were experimenting with different ideas like astronauts, dogs, etc. Nowadays you’re most recognized by your character, PJ the pigeon. How did PJ come about and what do his initials stand for?
ZROPRO: I created PJ back in 2008. PJ’s initial design resembled more of a real life pigeon than what it has evolved to today. I originally created the character as a logo to use for my business cards. Back then his original name was “King Coo’” but was later changed to PJ because one of my friends brought to my attention that my initial design looked very similar to streetwear designer Jeff Staple’s pigeon logo. I was close to scrapping the entire design but then I thought, “what if I remix it and switch things up a bit?” And that’s what I did, I re-created my pigeon to be more cartoony and anthropomorphic. I also changed the name to P.J. which stands for Pigeon Junior to pay homage to Jeff Staple’s Staple Pigeon because I see him as the O.G. (senior).
QAC: The state of the world, including the art scene, has gone through a dramatic change due to the coronavirus, and toppled with police brutality and social injustice. Has this affected your body of work during these ever-changing times?
ZROPRO: Oh man 2020 has definitely been a big eye opener, no pun intended. It’s been a nonstop chain reaction of world events. These current events have influenced my art to shift a bit towards the political theme, from raising awareness about how to protect yourself and others from the pandemic, to equal rights designs like #BLM .
QAC: You crash on a deserted island never to be rescued. With all food and water needs covered, what are the 2 things you’d want with you?
ZROPRO: I would want an aluminum bat to protect myself from wild animals and a photo album of all my family and friends.
QAC: It’s not your fault you’re from Brooklyn, (Queens is obviously the best borough), but if PJ were to spread his wings outside of NYC and set up his art coop anywhere in the world, where would he migrate to and why?
ZROPRO: Nah I’m good, I’ll always love Brooklyn until the day I die lol. I think PJ would do well in a lot of places just like his real life counterpart. But if I have to choose one place then it would have to be Japan. Japan is pretty well known when it comes to their IP in regards to children friendly mascots/characters, (i.e. Sanrio characters, Doraemon, Astro Boy, Gudetama etc), so I think PJ would fit in perfectly into that culture.
QAC: What’s your favorite piece of work you’ve created thus far (painting, project, design, drawing, mural, etc).
QAC: A time machine appears in front you and takes you to the year 2030. What artistic goals, dreams, ambitions, etc would you hope to accomplish 10 years into the future?
ZROPRO: I hope to still be creating art and continue to inspire other artists 10 years into the future. As for artist goals, dreams, ambitions.. it would be awesome to see PJ as a cartoon series or even in an animated short. Another dream is to have a giant PJ statue at a park in NYC, that would be dope!
QAC: Thoughts on hand drawn/ painted vs digital?
ZROPRO: I started my art career doing hand drawn projects, then it evolved to digital and now I do a lot more painting. I believe knowing a bit of each is very helpful especially for artists. It shows versatility so you can adapt to different projects/ mediums. Drawing by hand is a basic fundamental all artists should practice.
QAC: Would you rather fight 100 pigeon-sized gorillas or one gorilla-sized pigeon?
ZROPRO: Damn, they’re both creepy as hell. My main concern is do the 100 pigeon-sized gorillas retain their normal gorilla sized strength? Because I need to know these small details before I sign my life away.
QAC: New York City is packed with artists, the competition is fierce and only a fraction of people are able to make it to the next level. Based on your experiences, what advice do you have for up and coming artists to seek out opportunities and cultivate a collector base in this unforgiving art scene?
ZROPRO: NYC is a dog eat dog environment no matter what industry you’re a part of. People will hate on you if you’re not up to the “standards” or they will hate on you if you’re doing better than them. Based on my experience, if art is your passion then do it because you enjoy it, once you start looking at art as an easy way to get a quick buck then that’s when your passion starts to feel like work. Never allow your passion to be money driven. Attend as many art events as possible and while you’re there, try to network network network. I always give this advice to everyone. Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know. This advice is relatable in every industry not just in the arts.
QAC: In final, we’ve covered some serious questions and some light-hearted ones. But the fans are dying to hear one deep, dark secret about PJ that people don’t know.
ZROPRO: Hmm… Well this isn’t a dark secret but PJ isn’t very good at flying. He usually needs some sort of assistant like a friend who knows how to fly to scoop him up or the usages of balloons.