A 27-year-old avid surfer, graphic designer and graffiti pro, EpS - who prefers going by his street name - is one of the most prominent graffiti artists in Lebanon. Beirut.com had the privilege of visiting his studio for an interview over coffee, cigarettes and rainy Friday night weather, where we delved into EpS's persona, inspirations and perception of graffiti.

EpS started drawing at three-years-old, gauging an immediate interest in art at a young age. Describing his initial interest in graffiti, he remarked "Looking at the pieces on the internet, I couldn't imagine how so much detail was incorporated in these pieces." Using only pen, paper and markers, he began drawing rudimentary sketches while he was growing up in the Ivory Coast, gradually building up and mastering the outpouring of talent he now has today. After moving to Lebanon and studying science at school, EpS faced the choice of going into the traditional career path of engineering or the more unorthodox field of graphic design. True to his artistic nature, he chose graphic design, studying for five years at USEK.

To experience other types of art, EpS met with individuals who created graffiti in Lebanon, including popular graffiti artist Phat2. Together, they completed EpS's first wall drawing in 2009. "As soon as I painted on a wall, I didn't want to stop," he enthused.

Preferring to leave small messages in graffiti for passerbys, EpS likens picture taking to his graffiti work, in that both imprint nostalgic memories for future reference. EpS's art pieces take anywhere from a short amount of time to several days, with the choice of artistic medium and tool varying according to the wall's texture, location and even EpS's mood. "Art depends on the situation," he explained.

Actively refraining from using of political or religious messages in his work, EpS chooses to follow the "traditional" graffiti path of painting names on to walls with his crew "ACK". Speaking about his most recent work - the first of his pieces to carry a socio-political connotation - "Power to the People", EpS credited the movie Exit Through the Gift Shop as his inspiration, describing the notion of "taking back the power" as a social concern that has become unavoidable.

EpS usually receives positive responses to his pieces, crediting the fact that the Lebanese don't have a negative a connotation towards graffiti, unlike the western world. When asked if he had ever been penalized for vandalism, EpS replied frankly: "At the end of the day we're still in Lebanon- it's not considered a big crime - the police have more stuff to worry about." Nevertheless, he recounted incidences when cops had been less than friendly, noting that consequences often depended on their mood. Ever the chillax person, EpS remarked that should a problem arise, "if it's a big issue I can always paint over it."

Segueing into occupations, Eps commented that most of the other graffiti artists in Lebanon were artists in their own right - working as architects or graphic designers for their day job. Yet EpS lamented over the increasing trend toward the commercialization of art, remarking that "graffiti is not meant to be commercialized - though commission jobs get you paint and time to paint."

To budding graffiti artists, EpS doles out some solid advice: "Don't go out until you are ready. Never go over other people's stuff. Choose certain walls. Most importantly, abide by the unofficial book of graffiti. We all have an agreement. We all are friends."

Above all, EpS emphasizes the notion that graffiti is art first and foremost, created to express emotions, spread messages and display an out pour of artistic talent. "We didn't get into this to make money," he explained. "That's not the true spirit of graffiti."

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