Based in Ottawa, Guy Hobeika is a Snapchat influencer, artist, and Carleton University student. Growing up in Beirut, Guy had scarce access to technology. Today he has thousands of followers on Snapchat, constantly creates online art, and has worked with brands such as Coca-Cola and RBC Bluesfest. In this interview, we learn about his special niche: the crossover of art and technology.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: Tell me about your childhood, and how you got to where you are today.
Guy Hobeika: I grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. I stayed there until Grade 12 and then I moved here. As a kid. I had the idea of doing something different, to have an impact. I started doing drawings on paper. My prof loved them, but that was it. Later, I created a smartphone application – a lottery app that you could win money from. I stopped working on it and put it aside. I didn’t want to graduate from university to get a normal job. Snapchat came up in 2012 for me. I started doing snaps and at first it was normal: selfies, pictures I was sending to my friends.
One day in 2013, I sent a snap drawing of me with a pig on myself, and said “That’s how I feel after food.” I got a few screenshots from this. Next day, I drew Buzz Lightyear, and said “to infinity and beyond,” and I got more screenshots. Another day, I did one of me with my eyes out, all electrified. All my friends said they loved it.
I drew a giraffe called Frank, whose head had gone through the ceiling. My phone was blowing up, it was covered in Buzzfeed, so many magazines. I had maybe 300+ screenshots on this one drawing. Some people commented, “You made my day, this is amazing, keep doing it.” That’s what I wanted: to make a smile on someone’s face. Today, I have so many people loving the art. It’s crazy! I never expected it to go this way. Through these drawings I’m positively impacting people.
How has your style evolved?
In 2014 when it really started taking off – when companies started reaching out – I started doing more serious ones, like aliens taking over the globe. For Halloween I did pumpkins overtaking the planet. I do it on the screen of my phone. I know I’ve got thousands of people watching my Snapchat so I put so much effort into it. I have a lot of kids following me and if I put something negative out there, it won’t end up well for them. I always try to put nice drawings out there, get someone smiling.
I always try to stay positive on my Snapchat, it’s always positive. There’s maybe 500 kids who, every time I post, give me their feedback. I do a Snapchat series showing them how I do my drawings, and they do it. I ask them, for example, “show me your best pumpkin drawing!” and they do it. People send me back love.
How did you get involved with Bluesfest?
For Bluesfest, I got invited by a think-tank, to figure out how to attract millennials to the event. At the event, I met 50 Cent, Lil Yachty, DJ Mustard. I went to DJ Mustard’s Snapchat, and he gave me a shout-out. I got a couple hundred followers. You know the Snapchat glasses? They show what you see, and they go straight to your Snapchat. I gave them to DJ Mustard and 50 Cent, and it was one of the first concerts with artists wearing them on stage! You can see the microphone, everything.
You’ve branched out to YouTube recently.
Me and my friend Jeff just started out. On the first video ever, we got 53,000 people watching it! The others have at least 20K views. These people come from my Snapchat, they want to see more of what I do. I’m expanding and going to YouTube.
Where do you get inspiration from?
I just wake up, take a selfie, and as soon as I have it, I do a funny face. Once I do that, my mind goes to so many places.
What’s your message to your audience?
I try to show everything as living. I went to Sobeys and drew faces on an avocado and banana. I’m encouraging them to see the world differently, getting people out of their comfort zone.
I never imagined meeting 50 Cent, DJ Mustard, Lil Yachty. You think they would be hard to talk to because they’re stars, but meeting them was amazing. Lil Yachty loved my drawings, and I drew a bottle of mustard on his Snapchat. Few get the chance to talk to these people who can influence others immediately – they are the people that teens look up to.
Another moment was when my art went viral. The best reward is seeing people love what you do.
What’s next for you?
I want to travel and do more Snapchat around the world. I’ve done it in Paris and London. I did a couple snaps in Lebanon. I live in Ottawa so most of my Snapchats are here. I want to travel and do a Snapchat character that travels around. I also want to travel around Canada, and show my followers.