Q1. Why did you begin writing graffiti? Why not painting or illustration?
A1. I actually did start my artistic endeavors by drawing and painting. Some of the work I started with was paint by number kits, imitating comic book illustrations or creating my own super heroes and creatures. I started writing so-called “graffiti” afterwards in 1977, once I became 12 years old. At the age of 14 I attended the High School of Art & Design from 1979-1983. Although I continued to write “graffiti”, I started learning new techniques in the various art courses I was taking. I studied and practiced advertising art, illustration, calligraphy, package design, life drawing and so forth. It was common for me to add some “graffiti” flavor to my art assignments in school. I kept developing my lettering style as a writer/aerosol artist throughout the years and incorporated various styles and disciplines I learned in school in my work. I literally enjoyed the best of both worlds. Urban street art and traditional forms of artistic forms and techniques.
Q2. Where do you find inspiration and influence on a daily basis?
A2. My inspiration comes from many sources. I appreciate various forms of art and culture. Initially, my inspiration for graffiti style lettering came from the legends and pioneers that came before me. Writers such as PART ONE, POINT, PHASE 2, CASE 2, LEE, CONAN, NOC 167, KEL, CRASH, SHY 147, COS 207, MITCH 77 and many others. Once I learned the complex art of stylized lettering, I started adding my own personal touch to it. Some of the influences came from record album cover designs, poster art, comic book art, science fiction films, my own experiences growing up in NYC’c Spanish Harlem and many other inspirations. Within the culture known as Hip Hop, the main ingredient is rhythm. Rhythm sets the pace whether you’re dancing, DJing, MCing/Rapping or creating stylized letters. In my opinion, the best stylized letters look as if they’re dancing or moving through space. Rhythm is everything when it comes to Hip Hop.
Q3. What inspired you when creating the bottle design for ck one shock street edition for him?
A3. The techniques used for the ck one shock street edition for him bottle art was based on my accumulative knowledge of graffiti and urban art. In an effort to reach a broader audience/consumer, I tried to keep the letters legible yet flavorful. I applied all the basic ingredients that make a graffiti piece pop. My initial thumbnail renderings were usually done directly with marker on paper. This is a technique that forces one to surrender and render from ones immediate emotions. The commitment and confidence in each stroke of the marker resembles the application of spray paint since there is no eraser to rely on. This technique allows me to flow from the soul, the essence of stylized and personalized letters. After coming up with a workable concept, I further define and solidify the outline by way of tracing via a light box. This process helps me further develop the form and structure of each letter and how they interact with each other. The coloring scheme was inspired by classic subway art. Cloud and bubble patters are one of my signature coloring styles. Part of my inspiration also came from the visual effects of a kaleidoscope. The coloring technique I used was based on how well different colors bounce or blend off each other. Some compliment each other while others create a contrast that helps add dimension. Certain alcohol based markers react differently to each other so I had to process them through trial and error. Certain colors blend better where as others overlap and break the flow of the color scheme.
Q4. What advice would you give to another graffiti artist in order to succeed in his/her career?
A4. My advice to other graffiti artists is to study often, establish a sense of discipline and become unique with their art. Learn the history and foundation of the art form first and then build your style and approach off of that base. You can’t break the rules in any art form unless you know the rules to begin with. You only get out of it what you put into it. Study various artists and their techniques and then develop your own. I suggest they understand the value of art and the fact that it is a powerful tool that serves many purposes. It can uplift, unify, empower and transform communities. Art is a reflection of our souls and who we are. It’s an echo of our passed experiences and a projection towards the future. The new generations of graffiti artists should be influenced in various ways. Young graffiti writers should learn and preserve the original and complex art of stylized lettering, affective color design and overall composition. These traditional values can help them build on the root aesthetics that were established by the legends and pioneers before them. They should tap into the pulse of the inner city and become part of its legacy. In somer cases, young artist are breaking away from the original foundation and exploring more abstract approaches to stylized lettering and aerosol art. I believe that both serve their purpose. Young artist are constantly pushing the envelope with new developments in technique, application, composition and a variety of paintable surfaces.
Q5. If you could meet any artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
A5. I’d like to meet the designers and creators of the hieroglyphs in Egypt, Central and South America. The reason being, I believe that so-called “graffiti”, urban art or street stylized letters can be considered the offspring of hieroglyphics. They are all codified languages to those who are not familiar with the esthetics. Creating graffiti art has always been exciting and adventurous. Because of its controversial history, there’s a thrill that surrounds this urban movement that isn’t found in any other contemporary art form. A tag or piece embodies a sense of power just as a signature becomes a source of ones identity. Graffiti art speaks to the soul and in turn embodies the nature and spirit of the artist. Stylized letters are often codified and grant the artists a sense of privilege in being part of a culture that’s mystical and magical. Graffiti writers identify with each other based on the ability to decipher each other’s work. This commonality forms a supportive society of contemporary hieroglyphic artists.
This is part of an excerpt from a rhyme I wrote in 1996, “It was a matter of time before “graffiti was born, the son of hieroglyphics when the spirit took another form.”
Q6. What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
A6. God willing, I plan to still dance, create art. I’d like to continue to use these talents as a vehicle for educating, unifying, empowering and uplifting people around the world.
Thanks to the inspiration from working on the ck one shock street edition, I’m developing an urban art and cultural exhibit that will feature my paintings as well as other culturally relevant artifacts I’ve created or collected throughout the years. I’m also wrapping up the final edit of my documentary titled, Apache Line: From Gangs to Hip Hop. In addition, I’m organizing my second All City Rockers dance event that will include a competition, panel discussion, workshops and the screening of another documentary I’m working on titled, Rock Dance History: the Untold Story of Up-Rockin’. I look forward to launching a line of t-shirt designs that reflect my many artistic and cultural interests. There’s so much more on my plate and I’m grateful for all these wonderful opportunities!
Q7. Was this your first visit to the Middle East? How did you like Dubai?
A7. I’ve only been to the Middle East once before. In 1996, I visited Palestine to perform the first Hip Hop Off-Broadway Musical ever titled “Jam On The Groove”. I was one of the co-authors, directors, choreographers and principle dancers.