Retro Futurism - 10 Questions with Graffiti/Contemporary Artist and Graphic Designer Mark "CENT" Ferreira
Mark "CENT" Ferreira is a graffiti/contemporary artist and graphic designer who lives and works in Jacksonville, Florida. His body of work has a strong orientation towards typography and geometric shapes, incorporating traditional graffiti letter forms and characters but often with a fresh take. CENT's color palette includes a signature teal that serves as a continuous thread woven throughout his portfolio of work. This signature color is reflective of the ’80s, but also feels evocative of Jacksonville. Working predominantly in aerosol, CENT's work exhibits influences of mid-century modern design and comic books.
CENT was born in Connecticut. As a child, his family traveled to Southwest Florida every summer to vacation. Eventually summers weren't enough for the family and they relocated to the Sunshine State in 1989. CENT's father built their family home in the Naples area. CENT remembers the area feeling too pristine and he often romanticized about living in a gritty metropolitan area.
CENT's brother served as his cultural compass. He introduced CENT to skateboarding, art, and music. For CENT, skateboarding and hip-hop went together like peanut butter and jelly and the two quickly became a staple in his life during his developmental years. The two also served as his introduction to graffiti and street culture.
Even in his late teens, CENT looked to his brother for direction. His brother moved to St. Augustine and CENT followed after he graduated high school. Once relocated to Northeast Florida, CENT began dabbling in graphic design. He also used the change of location as an opportunity to focus more on painting.
CENT frequently made the drive from St. Augustine to Jacksonville. Having long held an affinity for cities with a little grit, CENT found himself acclimating to Jacksonville more and more. He moved to the city in 2012 and started to regularly paint live during Art Walk outside of 1904 Music Hall. In the alleyway behind the establishment, CENT painted a "Greetings From Duval" mural, reminiscent of a vintage postcard. Residents of Jacksonville and patrons of the Elbow District gravitated to the neo-nostalgia mural, which became a social media sensation. Depicted within the letters are a beach scene and sunset, the Wells Fargo building and Main Street Bridge, the "Welcome to Florida" road sign, the Jacksonville Jaguars logo, and a map of Jacksonville following the St. John's River.
The Elbow District served as a catalyst for CENT. It was here that he met fellow artists in the scene and was approached for additional commissioned work. Since moving to Jacksonville, CENT has 23+ works in public space and has completed projects for 50+ private clients. He has created murals and commercial work for Yellow House, Art Republic, Spliff's Gastropub, Nighthawks, Brass Tacks Coffee Co., Nitrogen Creamery, and many more.
You can see CENT paint live during the upcoming Phoenix Rising Festival, scheduled for Sunday, March 25. This block party, which benefits the Phoenix Arts District, is scheduled for Saturday, March 24 and Sunday, March 25. It is slated to include live murals, demos, art and food vendors, a fashion show, and a dance party. You won't want to miss this family-friendly event located in Jacksonville's next art district.
10 Questions with Mark "CENT" Ferreira
Do you have any patterns, routines, or habits when starting a new project?
When painting as a creative outlet, I bring paint to the wall and occasionally outlines of new letter forms. I then create the design and color palette freestyle.
For commissioned projects, I usually research the company for branded colors and material. I then make some rough sketches. Most of the time, I'll show the client a digital mock-up of my image placed over a photo of the actual wall.
What have you learned about yourself through your artistic and cultural endeavors?
I've learned that I don't like planning for walls, but I have realized that it's a must when executing a project to the best of my ability.
How do you define success in what you do?
I believe success is making a living doing what you love.
Your work is reminiscent of how pop culture from the 1980s depicted the future. It employs typography, sharp lines, and geographic shapes. How did you develop your style and what are some inspirations that you draw from?
My style originated with my love for comics, skateboard graphics, hip hop culture, and traditional graffiti artists like ZEPHYR, DONDI and FUTURA 2000.
Practicing graffiti letter forms and characters got me interested in typography and graphic design. Briefly studying design in college, I gained an eye for aesthetic and color. Growing up in the 80s/90s, I was intrigued by retro futurism and the empowering effects of technology.
I always doodled geometric shapes and line work in school so it was natural to take that style to the wall. Inspiration also came from graffiti and contemporary artists like Augustine Kofie, Felipe PantOne, and Shaun Thurston, a fellow crew member and good friend.
As a commercial artist, what are the challenges of working with a brand that has an established image or style guide and how does that process compare to when you're given a blank wall and no guidelines?
Honestly, I don't think it's a challenge. Every artist loves creative freedom. At the end of the day though, I feel it's about making the client happy. I personally may not be as hyped about the project, but I treat it exactly like I would if I had creative control, minus the creative part.
Do you think access to legal walls can help develop and guide emerging street artists? Additionally, what role do crews play in graffiti culture and what are the benefits of joining a crew?
Yes, I definitely think so. If not, people who are passionate about developing their work are going to do so illegally in the streets or train yards.
Crews are like a club of writers. They're often composed of people who have a great deal of mutual respect/trust for one another and push each other to work towards a common goal. Your crew becomes your status symbol.
Mike Giant once said, "If it doesn't have letters, it's not graffiti." Do you see the lines blurring between graffiti and public art as street art becomes more accepted as a form of contemporary art?
Yes, GIANT is correct. Graffiti writing and street art are often confused with one another. Both are subversive art movements where work is displayed in public places. While graffiti artists paint in public, they are not interested in the public understanding their work. Mostly they are doing it for other writers, while street artists want everyone to view and be engaged by their work.
With graffiti, it's possible to achieve both notoriety and anonymity. People may come to know and recognize a tag without actually knowing the person who writes it. What are some assumptions you've heard that people have about Cent before they meet you?
I've had someone say that they assumed I was ugly because my work is so clean! Seriously, a girl once told me that. I think she was just flirting though...
What is the greatest challenge(s) you face as an artist working in Northeast Florida?
Jacksonville has been really good to me and I've received a lot of love. But, Jacksonville, for the most part, only embraces public art in the urban core. I'd like to see that expand over our expansive city.
What would you like to see as an effort to support and grow Jacksonville's arts and cultural sector?
I personally would like to see MORE public art space, and businesses willing to put creative freedom into the hands of artists.