INTERVIEW: London Illustrator Cainnabis Sheds Light On His Psychedelic Approach to Storytelling

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In the lead up to our 2pac – Changes art exhibition in September, we’ve connected with some great people in London, all of whom share our love for art and culture. Without them, our ambition to bring 2pac’s memory life on September 23rd would be nothing but a distant dream.

Cainnabis (real name, Cain McCallam) is an illustrator we’ve come to know personally during the course of that journey. He, like many others in the art world, is full of bright and bold ideas, able to weave together different chapters of history through a single stroke of a pen or pencil. In a recent interview with the man himself, we received exclusive insight into his unique branch of storytelling:

Your name, Cainnabis, has a cool ring to it. Talk us through the story behind it

The name came about when I was 17/18, at a point when I’d first began unlocking those psychedelic parts of my personality by smoking cannabis. This was when I discovered that I could go into some deep delta-like state and channel thoughts into crazy visuals. At first, the ideas would strike like lighting, and I’d have to scribble them down before they faded.

I’d show my friends these scribblings and they’d proclaim my craziness in awe lol. One of them (I can’t remember who) merged my name (Cain) with Cannabis because of what it let me tap into and, as cheesy as it sounded, it just kinda stuck. Since I’ve cut back on smoking, I reserve Cainnabis as a personification of my higher self who I channel when I do smoke… and boy do the ideas FLOW!”

How would you best describe your style of art?

I’d say it’s a mixture of magic realism and surrealism. However, I have an issue with working with simpler styles, so that’s something I’ve gotta address.

Which other artists/ illustrators/ creators have you taken your lead from?

I lead by Dali’s example when it comes to surrealism. I’ve also been influenced by Alex Grey’s psychedelic metaphysical art that exposes the matrix of reality, visually. Recently, I’ve been inspired artists I’ve come across on Instagram like @mear_one. Bottom line, I like art with substance and a tangible (higher) message.

What problems have you encountered as an artist on the come-up?

Self-doubt got the better of me in the beginning. During my two years at university, I felt like I was running away from my own destiny of creating and sharing visuals. Later I was faced with the problematic habit of saying yes to artistic opportunities which, although exciting in theory, left me with little time to myself. In conquering that issue, my spare time is now taken up by self-branding and over-planning.

Ha, sounds like you’re feeling the wrath of multi-tasking! What would you say is your most significant piece of art to date?

It would have to be the portrait of my mum. You know, the one where she appears as a goddess overlooking an ancient civilisation. There’s a hidden story in that piece if you look closely.

Black W(hole)oman

How can people find out more about you?

Hit me up on Instagram and Twitter at @cainnabis_art, or on Facebook @cainnabisart. I’m currently working on my own website, so you’ll be able to reach me on that too. My focus over the coming months is going to be on growing these platforms, before branching out into other areas I have planned. Wish me luck for the future!

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