From Russia With Love

From Russia With Love

Sasha Rayevskiy painting the town boldly


Photo by Meredith Mashburn, Mashburn Photography
“Usually, I don’t come in with a fully done sketch, unless I have to,” says artist Sasha Rayevskiy of his designs. “Most times I leave room for a little bit to play with. Being able to see the wall in person helps. I don’t want [the mural] to seem out of place — that irks me.”

If murals are something that catch your eye when you’re out and about in Northwest Arkansas, then you have no doubt noticed the colorful and imaginative work of Sasha Rayevskiy, who signs his work as his alias, “Tigersasha.”

The whimsical, comic book-style art on the apartment complex retaining wall on the corner of West and Maple in Fayetteville, the jaunty nod to beer in Dickson Street’s Brewski’s and the playful tribute to traditional Vietnamese food that graces Roger’s Saiwok restaurant are all examples of Rayevskiy’s talent with artist-grade spray paint. One look at his cheerful, colorful concepts — and the dashes of edginess and punk aesthetic hidden within — and you can’t help wonder about the artist behind the work. But Rayevskiy admits that he’s had a hard time accepting that being a commercial artist means talking about himself from time to time.

“A friend said to me, ‘You have a good story. People want to hear a good story,’” he says. “And I was like, ‘Ugh.’ I guess I have to be open about my past. I’ve never talked about myself in general in anything that I’ve ever done. It’s just odd. But I understand people will see the work, but they want to know more about it.”

The fact that Rayevskiy has a “good story” is indisputable: Though he is not yet 30 years old, his past holds as many twists and turns and tributaries as someone twice his age might boast. Born in Novorossiysk, Russia — a large port city on the Black Sea — Rayevskiy, his parents and three of his four brothers immigrated to the United States when he was 6.

“They didn’t want us to grow up in that area [of Russia],” says Rayevskiy of the move. “There was a lot of crime there in the 1990s.”

The family settled in Jonesboro. Rayevskiy’s father, a former boxing coach at an Olympic training facility, found work in the construction field. His mother, who trained rhythm gymnasts prior to coming to the United States, taught dance. Rayevskiy’s father learned English through his work, and taught his sons. By second grade, Rayevskiy could speak and write in English. He used his language skills to help translate for his mother, whose exposure to English-speaking people was not as broad as that of the rest of the family.

Courtesy photos
Rayevskiy’s bright, colorful work pulls from a wide variety of diverse influences like Japanese manga and anime and his home country of Russia.

Even as a young child, Rayevskiy was already showing promise as an artist.

“I drew cars, and I was always into fitness, so I had an interest in anatomy from an early age,” he says. “Japanese cartoons came into my life around 1999, so that kind of weird style really had an effect on me. So I studied all of that. I drew hands for two years straight. I had to do a lot of translating for my mom during her [dance] classes, so I would sit there for hours. I had nothing to look at, so I would practice.”

But the young Rayevskiy’s talents were not limited to art. With two physically gifted parents, it was natural that the family would have interest in the sporting world, and Rayevskiy soon counted swimming, tennis, boxing, mixed martial arts, judo and jujitsu among his talents.

“Athletics and sportsmanship was always a thing,” he says. “They didn’t really push it as a career pursuit — more as a fitness pursuit.”

However, Rayevskiy’s passion for mixed martial arts soon morphed into more than a hobby. He started seriously training for a career in the sport — three-a-day sessions in the gym for months at a time.

“It’s not from anger or anything,” he says of his passion. “I just generally appreciate the sport and the sportsmanship in it — to have full-on combat with someone and then shake their hand.”

Photo by Meredith Mashburn, Mashburn Photography
For Rayevskiy’s first fashion show under the Tigersasha line, he shut down Block Avenue in Fayetteville to produce an extravaganza that included cars, motorcycles and a runway show.

MMA to music

A motorcycle accident, however, would put the kibosh on his MMA dreams. Rayevskiy was thrown from his motorcycle at 30 miles per hour, his shoulder taking the brunt of the landing, shattering his collar bone. It kept him out of the gym for six months, and he didn’t have the heart to work up the momentum it would take to regain his former level of fitness. Rayevskiy paints this not as a depressing disappointment but just another fork in the road that would lead him to a more interesting place. But that place wasn’t the visual arts. Though he counted drawing and painting among his interests, he wasn’t considering it as a career yet. His older brother, Tolik, was the artist in the family and was already getting noticed for his talent.

Instead, Rayevskiy turned to music. He had learned to play bass when he was 15 years old, and, when a friend organized a battle-of-the-bands fundraising event in Jonesboro, Rayevskiy, Tolik and several of their friends decided to form a band to compete. Their name, Tiger$tyle, was taken from a song by the Wu Tang Clan and would later become the inspiration for TigerSasha.

“We missed classic, old school thrash-punk music,” says Rayevskiy. “All the songs were a minute long, and they could be about anything. So Tolik had this idea and came to me with it, and I said, ‘I’m down with that — it sounds super fun.’”

They didn’t win the battle of the bands — “We lost to someone with actual talent,” laughs Rayevskiy — but they were hugely popular with the crowd and, without effort, began picking up gigs in and around Jonesboro. The hallmark of their performances was their creativity: Their songs were witty (if short), their costumes were wild, and most of their shows had an intricate theme.

“As long as we were having fun, we didn’t care,” says Rayevskiy. “When other people see that we’re having fun, they start having fun.”

The band was a success for about five years, but when its members started moving on to other things, it was obvious that Tiger$tyle had run its course. During that time, Rayevskiy had seriously considered pursuing music as a career and had even auditioned for several touring bands. But, ultimately, he decided against that path. Instead, at 23, he decided to move to Fayetteville, where he had several friends. He would be the first of his close-knit family to leave Jonesboro, so it wasn’t easy to break it to his family.

“I didn’t tell my parents until about a week before I left,” he says. “They were like, ‘Do you have a job? Do you have a place to stay?’ but I had already taken care of all of that. I didn’t want my parents to worry.”

In fact, a friend of Tolik’s had offered his couch to Rayevskiy and an idea for a job: The friend was a pharmacy technician at Washington Regional Medical Center and could get Rayevskiy an interview. After studying for a few months and passing the licensing exam, Rayevskiy had secured a good-paying job in his new town. It would be the second professional license for the enterprising Rayevskiy. Fresh out of high school, he had worked as a massage therapist. In fact, a contact through that job was the first person to purchase a piece of his original art.

His own aesthetic

Slowly, Rayevskiy says he started considering art as a potential business. He had painted a large-scale mural for his school while still in Jonesboro, so when the gym where he was working out asked him to do the same in their cavernous space, he jumped at the chance.

Courtesy photos
Rayevskiy’s bright, colorful work pulls from a wide variety of diverse influences like Japanese manga and anime and his home country of Russia.

“They asked me to paint this 18-foot tall phrase on the wall, and then the owner said, ‘I want you to paint the whole thing — just go crazy,’” he remembers. “I called Tolik and said, ‘Do you want to come up here and paint this gym? We can do whatever we want.’ It was kind of like my playground.” The centerpiece of his design, says Rayevskiy, was a 20-foot tall Mega Man, the hero from a Japanese video game series. “That only came about because Tolik had used almost all of the black and all the other colors, and all I had left were four shades of blue. I thought, ‘Mega Man is three shades of blue.’”

From that job came more gym mural work, a wall on the rear of Nomad’s in Fayetteville, the side of a building in Oklahoma and a restaurant in Florida. From a steady stream to an avalanche, Rayevskiy slowly became known for his mural designs. A particular skill of his was sussing out the perfect design for each unique space.

“Usually, I don’t come in with a fully done sketch, unless I have to,” he says of his designs. “Most times I leave room for a little bit to play with. Being able to see the wall in person helps. I don’t want [the mural] to seem out of place — that irks me.”

Along the way, he found time to utilize artistic media on a smaller scale and started holding gallery shows featuring his canvases.

He also became a fashion designer, an endeavor that would eventually result in Rayevskiy opening a menswear boutique, BLK MKT ARK, and producing his own fashion show on Block Avenue in Fayetteville.

“I’ve always liked clothes,” he says. He describes his fashion aesthetic as “lazy chic.” “I’ve always liked streetwear and clothes that are comfortable.” For his fall 2018 fashion show, Rayevskiy got permission from the city to shut down Block Avenue in order to produce an over-the-top fashion event and after-party that was meant to mimic a 1990s Brooklyn, N.Y., street party.

“I got one of my favorite DJs, Rock City Kicks, and my old store, and they opened the show and showed off their stuff,” says Rayevskiy. “And then the lights kicked off, and I had three cars and three motorcycles pull in. People didn’t know what to expect — it was loud. And then the fashion walk started.”

He’s only 29, but Rayevskiy has certainly established a pattern: He doesn’t do anything halfway, and there are no limitations to his creativity. It’s something for which he credits his upbringing.

“Our parents never prevented us from doing anything — whatever our interests were, our parents let us pursue it,” he says.

These days, he’s getting ready for the busy outdoor mural season that runs from now through October. He’s also getting back into boxing and working on his car collection — he’s got three cars, all Japanese models from the 1980s and 1990s, and has already owned 18 cars over the course of his life.

“But,” he says with a smile, “that’s just a hobby.”

For now, maybe. But it seems obvious, from his life so far, that the sky’s the limit for Sasha Rayevskiy.



Where to Find Him

On Instagram And Facebook: Tigersasha

Email at

Categories: Galleries