If you happened to pass by a Mount Pleasant intersection in Vancouver earlier this month, you might have laughed out loud. A random superhero was added to the no-entry sign.
It's not the first time these hilarious artworks have mysteriously popped up in the city. And we wondered, who's behind these cheeky messages?
Well, his is real name is Fred, but he prefers to be called Joy. Born and raised in Sorel — a town in southwest Quebec — he moved to Vancouver in 2008 for better weather. Joy, 40, currently has a full-time job that he declined to reveal.
“I started doing graffiti at 15 and when I was 23, I was arrested," Joy told The Huffington Post B.C. in a phone interview. "They said they wouldn't charge me because it was my first time. I decided to quit the graffiti scene because I didn't want problems."
Joy with one of his pieces
At the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Joy began painting on canvas rather than the side of buildings. He graduated in 2001 with a fine arts degree.
In 2012, he was inspired to think about art differently after watching a documentary on world famous street artist Banksy.
“It’s just for fun," he said. "Most people make serious art work and talk about serious stuff. I want people to laugh when they see my stuff."
While he wants people to see the humour in his work, he also has a serious side. In response to Israel bombing Gaza, he created a piece against the side of a torn-down building near Broadway and Main that showed a child holding a sign that read: “I am a child not a terrorist!”
So what's the difference between graffiti and street art? Joy says the two are close, but not the same.
“I don’t want to offend graffiti artists because I think street art was born from graffiti," he explained.
"If you take a graffiti artist and compare it against another graffiti artist, sometimes it’s too similar. It’s a lot of bubble writing and tags, you don’t find originality. I think street art is more intellectual and original."
Joy said he has never received any negative feedback about his work. He admits his pieces around the city aren't illegal, but at the same time he doesn't have a permit to do it.
With or without permission, Joy says he will continue to grace Vancouver with his work.
“For me, it’s like a kid who is playing on a playground," he says.
"When I’m tired and not having fun, that’s when I’ll stop. When I go out, there’s too much inspiration around me. I don’t think I’ll get bored anytime soon."
See some of his work: