This month’s interview is with my co-worker, Nancy “Pili” Hernandez (@nancypili), the Program Manager of the WaterWrites Mural Series at our nonprofit arts organization, The Estria Foundation.
Mike Bam: What is your position with the Estria Foundation and explain what you do for the WaterWrites project?
NH: I’m the manager of the WaterWrites Mural project. WaterWrites is a collaboration between graffiti writers, street artists, and community organizations that are fighting for access to the basic human right to clean water. The “Writes” in the name of the program has a dual meaning from “graffiti writing” and the “rights” every human being has to have access to clean water. I organize and coordinate the painting of the series of large scale, public murals across the world. These murals share the stories of people and water issues from each diverse, geographic and cultural community. Each mural is between 2,000 and 6,000 square feet (304.8m and 1828.8m). We have mobilized about 15,000 volunteers in 10 cities so far, and painted over 30,000 square feet of walls with WaterWrites Murals.
The Estria Foundation is a public arts organization. For my job, I promote the use of muralism and street art as a way to build community and create consciousness. I also work with youth at the Foundation to develop their art skills to promote culture and social justice.
MB: How has Montana Colors helped the WaterWrites murals? Do all the artists use spraypaint?
NH: WaterWrites is a series of collaborative mural projects dedicated to water. We have created murals with Montana Colors spraypaint, latex paint, generic aerosol or whatever we can get our hands on. We use whatever art supplies are available in each country so that the local artists can share the techniques with their local communities and youth. We hope that artists and youth we work with across the world replicate the process again and again to make more murals. Montana Colors has helped through providing paint for the murals and sharing videos with the worldwide MontanaColorsTV network. Thanks to MTN-World.com we have been able to spread stories of water issues around the globe!
We’re very grateful that MTN-World has been helping us promote the WaterWrites mural series, like the past coverage on the Honolulu WaterWrites project.
WaterWrites Mural in Bogota, Colombia
MB: Tell me about what WaterWrites murals that have been recently completed.
NH: The Estria Foundation has worked with communities, spraycan artists and local artists in the USA cities of Los Angeles, Oakland, Honolulu, Klamath and Orleans (Northern California). Internationally, we’ve finished murals in Palawan (Phillipines) with Trust Your Struggle, Gaza Strip (Palestine) with Vyal One, Usulután (El Salvador), Bogota (Colombia) and the township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa.
At the end of 2012, we finished a WaterWrites mural in Bogota, Colombia. It talks about the collective push to defend the earth from foreign multinational corporations who are extracting and exporting resources from the land in Colombia. It was a collaboration between local and international artists dedicated to water conditions near the Fucha and Bogota Rivers.
The mural portrays nature and humanity joining forces to evict water polluters from their bay. Nature is painted as a character, surrounded by trees, flowers, life, and water. Animals, insects, and people are housed in the hair and along the body. The left arm directs the attention of all the life that depends on her towards a barge in the river. The barge contains the impact of resource extracting industries. Graffiti on the sides of the ship attest to the resistance that it has faced in its travels from port to port.
Colombia Photos by Pablo Serrano
MB: Can you tell me more about the WaterWrites mural that was completed in South Africa?
NH: A WaterWrites mural was just finished in the the township of Khayelitsha, near Cape Town, South Africa with lead artist, Indigo, and with mural artists Mak1One, Fuzzy Slippers, Paul Senyol and Andrzej Urbanski.
Students of Usasazo School watch Mak1 paint.
The 2,000 square foot mural is located on a school in the Khayelitsha township, where the constitution guarantees water as a human right. However, local governments lack the infrastructure to provide running water, indoor plumbing, or adequate sanitation. 4 to 5 households share 1 outdoor toilet. There are no water taps near the port o potties so residents have to walk several blocks to a tap to just wash their hands. The mural shows a future image of the community with access to water.
In the native language of Xhosa, the word “Singamanzi” rolls across the wall and translates to “We Are Water”.
South Africa Photos by Sydelle Willow Smith
MB: What are next cities that you will be aiming to paint or do WaterWrites projects for the rest of this year/ next year?
NH: We are currently working on the 10th mural in the WaterWrites series in Phoenix, Arizona. It is a desert community of 3.5 million people that exists through the rerouting of the Colorado River. Local community organizations recently won a decade long battle to shut down the Peabody Coal Plant. The company had been using billions of gallons of drinking water for the transportation of coal, using a toxic process called slurrying. The mural will portray life after coal, with a focus on green energy alternatives and conservation of water resources.
MB: How do you choose which cities and walls to paint? How do you choose the artists that paint?
NH: Almost every city and country around the world has water problems. There are so many cities that want us to do a WaterWrites mural in their area! How we pick the locations is evaluating the right partners with organizations who are rooted in the community and are taking a stand on water issues. By contributing our art skills, we assist community workers who are on the front lines of water struggles. We hope to lend our muralism techniques to support their calls for action, like a visual megaphone.
MB: Why people should follow, donate, help and care?
NH: We hope to spark discussions and cross collaboration between the participating cities and water warriors across the world. Through the process of painting with communities most impacted by water rights issues, the Estria Foundation hopes to utilize our artistic techniques to assist ongoing grassroots struggles, create a global platform to raise awareness and inspire a movement.
Follow @EstriaOrg on Twitter for more info on international struggles to solve water crisis. You can also follow the Instagram and @NancyPili to see amazing photos of our projects, or like us on Facebook to keep up with what walls are painted and what the local stories are being told. You can also read more about us at Estria.Org!
When introducing my brother, ESTRIA, to people, it can be intimidating because some graffiti writers call him a graffiti living legend. Whatever name you want to label him, I tell everyone that you can’t deny that “he’s got game.”
Estria & I became graffiti partners back in the 80’s when we moved to San Francisco, CA together from Hawaii. We banded with the Together With Style (TWS) crew, but as I followed a path to work in the videogame industry, Estria kept hitting it hard in the streets and started teaching graffiti to youth at Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center and later East Side Arts Alliance in Oakland. He raised me from the graveyard of dead OG graffiti artists 6 years ago, trained me like Rocky Balboa and helped me formulate how I spit my graffiti politics game and lead my pack of cubs.
In 2007, Estria founded the Estria Battle, a nationwide USA competition that honors and advances creativity in the Hip-Hop arts. Montana Colors has been the official sponsor and choice of spraypaint that we’ve used for all the graffiti battles.
Estria then co-founded in 2010 his own non-profit organization, the Estria Foundation, a community-based organization dedicated to using mural arts to impact lasting systemic and social change. I believe so much in the mission of the Estria Foundation, I quit my job in digital advertising and joined his staff back in October.
He has taught me that to be a leader in the graffiti arts, you have to be a leader in all aspects of your life. Teach the young and teach the ignorant. Instead of giving water to the thirsty, he teaches the thirsty to find water. He’s also taught me to know my history, not only in graffiti, but know my bloodline ancestry and culture. Earlier last year during the Urban Legends Art Show he co-curated in Los Angeles, not many picked up this interview by LA Street Art Gallery (originally posted on 5/21/12 on YouTube), so I’ve transcribed it below because it has some pertinent quotes on what this man is doing to innovate and take his art to the next level.
LASAG: Tell us how did it all started for you.
Estria: I got into art because I couldn’t comprehend algebra where I started doodling in my school books …I did my first piece in a canal in Hawaii with one of my best friends. We started noticing graffiti art on rap album covers and I wondered, “What is this art form?” We got a little airbrush and tried to do a piece in a sewer canal in Hawaii. We liked it so we got some spraypaint and tried that. I got hooked and it’s been 28 years and I’ve never stopped.
LASAG:What’s the relation to graffiti art for you with Hip-Hop and B-boying?
Estria:There’s definitely a connection to the B-boy culture with spraycan art. However, Hip-Hop is a tripod and it stands on graffiti writing as the foundation. Graffiti writing preceeds Hip-Hop. What we do is as old as “man” himself. Graffiti writing is a primal urge. After the basic urges of eating, sleeping, shitting and fucking, the next thing is leaving your mark and trying to live beyond yourself and being immortal.
Graffiti writing is only illegal now because it’s a sign of the times. People believe in private property. But our urge to create and etch on surfaces predates law. I don’t really see it as a part of Hip-Hop. Graffiti writing is the bastard child [of Hip-Hop], but goes way deeper. While the other elements of Hip-Hop may have been illegal at some point in time, they are well accepted now. However, graffiti writing is still illegal. Most people own private property. They’re still big on “Hey, I want my house to look like this, and I don’t want you to touch it.” I think what we do is pretty scary because we liberate spaces. The concept of ownership – People forget that it’s only a concept. They believe that it’s real. But y’know…religion is real if you believe in it, right? It’s the same thing for “ownership.”
So when we paint on a surface, it goes from being YOUR property to OUR property, our space, and we’re transforming that. We’re liberating that space so that it can transform people’s lives. People don’t really like that, but I think people are getting more hip to it.
You got to think now anybody under the age of 28 has never seen a city in this country without writing on the walls. So to them, it’s now a natural thing to have people’s expressions on the walls. That’s just going to have to shift because as that generation gets older and gets into power, they’re going to have art everywhere. So we kind of won that war on graffiti.
If you look at every society, every civilization in history, and I don’t care if it’s Asian or European, African, or what have you, they all have some form of it.
LASAG:Can you explain what is your Estria style? What’s the thinking into your latest octopus paintings?
Estria:I try not to have a style. You know, I try to be the Bruce Lee and have no style. I’m one of the 80’s writers from the Bay Area. Our emphasis was on developing all the skills. Y’know the writing styles, your wildstyles, your readable styles, your characters, your concepts, your backgrounds. So I’ve tried to do all kinds of things – realism, cartoony, abstract.
Lately I’ve been exploring this octopus and I think it’s Kanaloa, the Hawaiian god of the ocean, also the god of destruction. I’ve been painting him like he’s mad because the ocean’s polluted so he’s got to wear these goggles because the ocean is dirty. I’ve been exploring that for a bit. Lately I’ve been really exploring my Hawaiian culture and trying to tell the stories of my people to the younger generation.
LASAG: Can you explain what it means to be Hawaiian blooded?
Estria: On Hawaii, I don’t think of it as the 50th state of the USA. I think of it as the Hawaiian Kingdom, and I think of myself as a citizen of that Hawaiian Kingdom before I’m a citizen of the Unites States. If the president of the United States says that we have to go to war, and you got to go kill these people, then I’m like, “I’m cool.”
ESTRIA x KATCH x 808Urban.org – WaterWrites Mural – Honolulu, HI
But if my Hawaiian King or Queen says, “Yo, you gotta kill these mutha-fuckas,” then it’s on! You know what I mean? That’s where the loyalty lies. We, Hawaiians, view ourselves as a nation taken over by the United States. Hawaii was illegally taken over by [the United States'] own laws. The Hawaiian culture is an oral history, so we’ve passed on through song and dance and through telling stories. What Prime and I do is we paint those stories on walls. We ask our Kupuna [ancestors] for guidance and what we do is translate it and flip it to do it in our style and make it modern so people can relate to it. We then get the younger folks to come and help us out.
LASAG: Why do you paint the Samurai Women? How did that start?
Estria: I really like to paint these Samurai Women. They’re women that are mixed in ethnicity. You can’t really tell what ethnicity they are, kinda cute and sexy, but they’re holding a sword to show that they are strong. I paint them because they are inspired by my mother and grandmother, who are strong women themselves. They fought their whole lives for everything. I try to put that in my paintings to inspire women to communicate that you can be strong also and don’t have to be the frail female. You don’t have to be the victim. So women love it!
Sometimes I don’t like painting the Samurai Women because it takes a good amount of time to paint all the detail. Painting octopi is way faster! I just love the octopus!
When you’re painting a face, you have to have the eyes perfect and exact because humans know what they should look like. People know the face better than any other image in this world. You could know a thousand faces, but you couldn’t know the difference between 2 octopi from each other. So when I paint the octopus, the eye can be shifted up and distorted, so it’s cool!
I get to explore the flows of letters in an octopus because of the tentacles. It has the B-boy flows in them. I’m trying to capture the essence of the feeling of a [graffiti lettering] piece and shrink it down into a canvas.
LASAG: What can we look forward to with Estria, the artist? What’s next in your adventures?
Estria: I’m going to start this new series of murals in Hawaii on the Hawaiian lyrics [Golden Age] of the 70’s. The songs are in the Hawaiian language and they’re about things like the takeover of the kingdom or how commercial real estate development has destroyed the land. I’ll be able to use music to talk about all these issues. I want to get the surviving band members to come out to talk to the youth that we work with in Hawaii. The band members will tell the youth why certain songs were important and why they wrote their songs. The kids will then be able to learn from the elders and then work with us on the concepts for our murals. We can work and paint the murals together to convey the message. If I leave a legacy behind, I would like it to be this project.
LASAG: How has your trip to Los Angeles has been so far?
Estria: On this trip, I painted out in Receda. I also painted out in Venice so by tomorrow that should be gone.
People might hate on me for saying this, but I think Los Angeles is the capital for graffiti and street art. There are more people doing both of those forms of public art than in any other city right now. You can be here for more than 20 years doing this and not even know that it exists outside of the city. You don’t need to leave the city to see it.
Like any city that I’ve been to, the people there think they are the best. It’s good to travel around to see that there are artists like me in each city. They are exactly just like me. Then it humbles you and it builds bridges with the people that you meet in that city. I hope that the projects of The Estria Foundation do more connecting and bridge building.
LASAG: Tell us a little about the current Urban Legends Gallery Show that you’re curating here. How do you feel about what people call “street art?”
Estria: A lot of these street artists in the Urban Arts show [last April in Los Angeles] have the intent to sell their art pieces. If they have a gallery show, they are going to bomb around the neighborhood of the gallery. Some may bomb around the gallery area for 2 months straight. Therefore it will make the community aware of their art and it may help them sell out their artwork in their gallery show. It’s straight business. Writers write and there’s no money involved. We’re never going to be rich or famous for it. We do it because we love it. That’s a fundamental difference. A lot of the street artists do love the art, but they have different motives.
Graffiti writing is a letters-based art form. It’s all about “flows” and street art is a visual art like illustration or fine art paintings. It’s just pictorial or abstract. There’s a different foundation.
LASAG: Do you have any words for the younger generation or last words of advice?
Estria:The new school kids, they need to learn their history because they’re standing on the shoulders of giants. For the old school OG’s like me, we need to embrace these young cats and work with them and pass on the history. It’s the code of the game.
Follow @Estria on Twitter and Instagram. If you’re interested what we do for our work check out, the Estria Foundation and Estria Battle. We’ll also be painting live next month together at Pow Wow Hawaii 2013.
If you’ve never been to Miami Art Basel, it is the art gathering for all extravagant fine artists, rich art collectors, gallery owners and lastly graffiti writers from all around the world. I describe it as the graffiti scene’s convention, but also the “Wild Wild East” for writers in Miami, where layer over layer of writers are crawling over each other just to get up and get their fame.
I was provided a wall that was not in the trendy Wynwood Walls District. Instead, @Soula11 provided a wall for me to paint in the outskirts of the Design District and on the border of “Little Haiti.”
All my friends (Estria, ChorBoogie, SharkToof, Trek6, Prime, my MTN Familia, Jase, Pastime, Sloke, Musa, Neff and Paul from CanLove, all the NYC heads, Australian bloods, Meggs, Rone, Phibs, visitors from Chicago and even all the artists from Spain) were painting in the Wynwood District. I was just grateful & honored that @Soula11 allowed me to paint something in Miami. What was on the wall before I painted it was a bit weird since it was a scene of volcanoes. It gave the environment a look of destruction and a bit of a horrific feeling. The family that owned the wall wanted it erased. They viewed graffiti artists as “scheme-ers” and “tricksters” trying to convince property owners that they beautify walls, when all they want to do is paint their names on their property.
My original plan was to do only burner pieces and letters for Miami Art Basel. I did not want to attack any huge walls like how the MTN COLORS team smashed it over the past 2 years. Little did I know my entire plan was to take an 180 degree turn. When I met the owner of the wall, he requested that no graffiti letters be painted on his wall. I then realized with so many graff writers hitting up in Miami, I should paint something different than just a piece with my name. I decided to paint something of Hispanic culture (Cuban, Puerto Rican and Haitian) that the neighborhood would like. A mural with vibrant colors was the decision also.
I went back to my mural instincts, but decided I was not going to be like all the other muralists & graffiti artists from out of town and just not care what the locals think. I asked the owner what nationality/blood he was. He replied, “We are Cuban.” After consultation with my local amigo, Trek6, I thought of painting a Bomba Dancer with the Cuban flag, but then the owner thought it would be too cliche. So I asked the owner, Luis, “How about I paint something beautiful for you? Can I paint a portrait of your daughter, Elizabeth?” Luis smiled and it was a go!
Day 1: Immediately after pressure washing, cleaning the sidewalk, pulling out weeds, taking away trash and buffing the wall white, my travelling buddies and I noticed that it immediately changed the surroundings. I decided to paint very bright colors to give the island and Cuban flavor to the wall. The original plan was that my new friend, RIMX, was to collaborate with me on the wall, so I designed a layout that would allow him to do his detailed geometric work at the ends of the wall. It ended up that RIMX was too busy painting other walls so he could not collaborate with me, but @Soula11 let me know that I should just continue to rock the entire wall.
Streetwear by Cukui Clothing
After doing some research on patterns of Cuba, I painted the graphic style of banana leaves behind the portrait. I then discovered that the type of flowers in Cuba are the same flowers in my hometown in Hawaii. After Luis brought out his wife, I immediately saw smiles so I figured I was doing something right.
Day 2: A few interesting experiences occured to me in this painting adventure. A black, Haitian man came up to me and asked “Why don’t you paint any black people?” I replied by letting him know that the woman on the wall was Cuban and that I usually paint people of color and of culture. Every neighbor that passed by commented that they liked the improvement I was giving their neighborhood. After the first night, a customer that was dining across the street gave me her leftovers of her dinner with no hesitation and said that I was “beautifying their community.” My friends are partying. I miss all the gallery events and South Beach parties as I paint all night.
Day 3: I almost got ran over from the busy traffic that runs along the street where I was painting. I then wrote in simple letters “SLOW DOWN.” Some of the neighborhood kids then commented that the message I wrote was more important to them than the pictures I was painting since it’s their neighborhood and fast traffic of cars killed a neighborhood kid last year.
Later that evening, the family that owned the property that the wall was on provided a delicious Nicaraguan meal for my dinner. In return, I took Luis to see my Hawaiian friends’ wall in the Wynwood District. In awe, Luis let me know that the gigantic wall being done by Prime, Estria & Trek6 reminded him of his homeland in Cuba and wanted me to paint the similar plants that my friends painted. These plants in Hawaii are called “Taro” and before gold or coins were used in ancient Hawaii, Taro was used for trade. Luis’s wife let me know that in Cuba, they have the same plant, but it’s called “malanga.” There was a great connection between my Hawaiian culture and Luis’s Cuban culture and how we share similar traditions.
The sun set on the last night before I had to depart Miami. The rush was on because I knew I had to finish. This particular mural stands out as one of my best experiences painting not because of the paint I put on the wall, but the connection I made in the process. I connected with this small Cuban family whose father was a hard working general contractor. I changed the mind of a concerned wife that did not want graffiti on her wall, a busy son with 2 jobs and 2 kids of his own and a single-mom daughter. The mural I finished not only connected this Cuban family together, but it connected a neighborhood and community together.
It was touching that the Cafe owner across the street from my mural told me “You have made our street a real ‘Buena Vista’ now.” Thank you @Soula11 for providing me with a wall, Buena Vista Deli for piping the caffeine, the Perez Familia for letting me paint my culture with your culture on your wall, for feeding me and thank you Miami for the great weather. Gracias to Heineken Mural Project for the cerveza and free bike rentals. Mahalo to Will Stylz & Rome Won for being my runners. Thanks also to MTN COLORS family for handling & shipping all the paint. Thanks to Scott La Rockwell for documenting. The video will come soon. Christmas truly did come early for all of us.
I first met Nate1 back in 2008 when I painted at the Meeting of Styles in Oakland. However I knew of him way before that back in 1991. Nate1’s crew, MPC (Master Piece Creators), was doing full blown productions at Psycho City in San Francisco, California. Only my crew, TWS (Together With Style), our rival crew TMF (The Mellow Fellows) and Nate1’s crew, MPC, were doing productions of Top-to-Bottom, End-to-End walls.
Nate1 carried the funk-style of lettering from Orko from Chicago and has passed his funk lettering styles onto to 2 generations of writers in the 90’s and the 2000’s. I have a good “give and receive” artist relation with him as he’s inspired me to be a better letterist and I try to push him into new techniques of lighting and abstractism. I’d like to shine a light on one of San Francisco’s inspiring OG’s that not only paved the way for many writers, but continues to pass the torch to today’s youth with his graffiti classes. He’s also been one of the judges and coordinators of the blackbook battles for The Estria Battle that I help manage.
MB: You’ve been writing for a long time and you’ve seen the 3 or more generations of graffiti writers already. You’ve “king’d” San Francisco (SF) and taught several writers that are currently kings of SF also. What do you think is different from how kids write or bomb today versus when you were their age?
Nate1: There are alot of differences with writers from this generation compared to when I first began because times change. In the 80’s graffiti was just touching down here on the West Coast so we had to create and learn from the bare bones information that was out there. What was more wonderful was that writers from other cities would visit your city. They would spread the culture first hand. You can refer to our Bay Area section of the History of American Graffiti book by Roger Gastman and Caleb Neelon.
After a ten year cycle of writers, the next generation has a lot to go off of so they have to either repeat or add something to the game. Some things with the culture I view as new benefits would be the awesome paint we have today. Holding a can of MTN in your hand is like holding 5 of these newer, bandwagon-wanna-be paint brands in your hand. Today everyone wants to jump into the spraypaint/ graffiti industry. It is usually companies that are built by or built with OG writers that are the best.
2011 Return to Planet Rock by BAM, KLAME & NATE1 – Tony’s Autobody on Portrero & 17th
MB: Where do you see graffiti going in the next 5-10 years?
Nate1: I have seen about 3 generations of writers come and go. Some writers are continuing to staying in the game. I have a lot of respect for writers that evolve and change their expression as they get older. In the future, I see technology influencing our culture in terms of information and tools. I see commercial businesses moving more in the writers’ and artists’ direction. That is more opportunities for all of us.
The public’s opinion of graffiti will be changing (or at least being more informed). Graffiti is no longer a secret society. We, as writers, knew that would eventually change.
MB: What’s the content of what you like to get up on walls nowadays?
Nate1: Content in my pieces today varies. Back in the days, I would be happy busting a big production or doing mainly letter based pieces. Nowadays, I can care less if my name is written in the piece. I always want to incorporate letters but I just want to evolve our basic layouts. You and I have been collaborating for the last few years on some productions and you’re thinking the same way there. Also now being a husband and a father, I like writing phrases or messages. I did a “Do Your Best” piece this year in Lilac Alley and that was definitely aimed at the youth and my kids!
MB: I know you’re jamming on canvases also! What is the content that you currently like to paint on canvas?
Nate1: The canvas/gallery world is related to my graffiti world but sometimes it’s related from a distance. Some people are interested in my canvas work because it is reflecting more of my thought as an adult. I paint alot of scenes of San Francisco either from reference photos I take myself or just from my imagination and I have sold a few of those. I work with Secession Art and Design in SF and they have helped me grow as a gallery artist with a street art background. How’s that for an artist statement?
MB: You teach a class at the 1AM Gallery. Can you explain what you teach and why you do it?
Nate: I am a graffiti art teacher at 1AM Gallery in San Francisco. I teach a History of Graffiti Art, Mural Production and Private Workshop Classes. Some of our clients have included big Silicon Valley corporate clients of Yahoo, PayPal, Visa and FaceBook. I teach because I care about our Hip-Hop graffiti culture genuinely.
I have been putting in work since the 80’s and I want the information about writing/graffiti art/ aerosol art to be coming from a participants perspective as opposed to an outsiders. I have taught a few hundred students the History of Graffiti Art now and I believe the stereotypes about graffiti art are better because of that.
MB: Tell me about your biz of New Skool.
Nate1: I own 2 businesses based on my art. New Skool is my kids clothing line that I have owned/designed since 2005. We wholesale to small local boutiques in the US, Canada, London and Japan. I had a previous life as a graphic designer for some children’s wear and hard goods manufacturers and this experience has led me to owning New Skool. Designing it was easy, learning how to sell and market it was hard. I am taking advantage of todays technology and I use social media, sites like Etsy and my own website to get the word out and sell my line.
My other business, Nate1Design, is what I have formalized as my hub for all the art and canvas work I receive and design work I do like creating logos or graphics under. This year I launched my new website, Nate1Design.com and hired the help of Papalodown Marketing to help get the word out. I continue to do a few art shows a year at small venues and paint commissions pretty consistently. My freelance art is still supplemental income but I am not in a rush when it comes to business.
MB: Who is inspiring you now in the game?
Nate1: I like seeing each generation develop and change the game. I like seeing how new paint and caps and everything affect how the pieces are turning out. For me nowadays, it’s definitely more about the art! I like seeing OG writers come out and paint at a jam. This year I got to meet Skeme and Slave and that was definitely inspiring. In my hometown of SF and in the Bay Area, we have been seeing our 80’s generation grow up and continue putting their work out there bigger and better and we have retired OGs coming back into the game and enjoying the pastime they once did as a teenager.
I like the work MadC is doing. She is amazing and coming here to SF soon! I like seeing countries that are young in the game experimenting with the (spraycan) art form. I am friends with writers from Myanmar (Burma) where my family is from. To me, that is inspiring.
MB: Any last shout-outs or last advice for kids that are running around the city nowadays?
Nate1: It’s funny you ask any last shout outs to the kids running around out there. What I see happening today is there are grown men, 30 plus years old, getting caught for tagging on someone else’s property. To me, that is not graffiti or fresh or responsible as an adult. It’s just a bad look. At 30 plus years old, you should have better outlets to get your message out. Graffiti/Writing is a journey that can take you from tagging to pieces to productions to art gigs to more painting as an adult and business and so on. This journey usually starts as a teenager and you grow along with it.
My homey, JOKER/ROF, organized one of the best jams this year in San Francisco which I call the “Alemany Jam.” Approximately a mile long of residential walls and a year in planning, the Alemany wall allowed over 50 writers from the Bay Area to paint over the October 20th weekend. This entry below is just a hint of the 3 parts that I will post documenting the San Francisco stylee action.
There were several crews that got down and jammed. For this entry, I’m mostly showing the DE from San Francisco & TDK crew from Oakland. There’s so many pictures to post, I will continue in Part II of the Alemany Mural Project.
Defer is one of the premier OG West Coast graffiti writers that is pushing unique style in both street and fine art. What I like about Defer, is when I see his art, I immediately think “Los Angeles.” His current work is flipped with a Japanese flavor, to celebrate his heritage, and it speaks to a broader audience.
Defer is one of the pioneering members of the first generation of Los Angeles graffiti crews: K2S, STN and KGB. His art and hard work inspires me to push my own art further. He’s an artist that doesn’t get enough credit for his everyday art and hustling. It is my pleasure and honor to interview him and feature him on my blog.
MB: Who are your major inﬂuences growing up? Can you tell me how your style has evolved from the graff letter to what I think is a distinct style from Los Angeles?
Defer: My major inﬂuences growing up in LA were writers such as Crime K2S, Sine, Geo, Shandu, Char DTK, Soon One, Tempt, there are many others. I remember that these guys gave me the time of day and they inﬂuenced me in a major way. I was also inﬂuenced by what I saw on the walls – the placasos (gang – writing) that plastered the walls where I grew up. I was also inﬂuenced by the murals that were painted by muralistas in LA, which contained cultural, educational, political and social messages that sparked consciousness.
Defer: The graff scene now in LA is like night and day. Back when I started, everything was illegal. There were no permission walls or any opportunities of that sort. Yards were these abandoned corridors in the city where we could paint without much hassle from the law. There was no internet either. All communication was done in person or by telephone. Now days you can do a piece and post it online and it goes viral.
Back then I rarely took pictures of my work. Now pictures are essential. I think it was more fun being a writer back then. But then again, I think about now in LA (and virtually everywhere else), grafﬁti is more widely accepted. This can create more opportunities to paint and if you are fortunate you can ﬁnd a career path with your art. I can’t really say that one time is better than the other. They were (in existant) and are just different.
Defer: In my mind, the ﬁrst thing is visualizing what you want to paint and how your gonna execute it. During the process of doing a piece, I’m thinking about what I can add or delete to make this piece as dope as possible. After I ﬁnish a piece my mind is at ease and there is a sense of accomplishment.
MB: I get very inspired by seeing your latest canvases or any of your artwork to strive for the perfect & uniform lettering style. What inspires you or gets you jazzed? Is there a list of top writers that you follow or inspire you?
Defer: I’m kind of all over the place, so I get inspired to paint randomly. I have artists who inspire me, especially those who have pushed the limits. I was always inspired by Ayer R.I.P because he pushed his artistic limits as well as the went above and beyond in the realm of danger. I was also inspired by Dream TDK because he was politically and socially conscious. Dream articulated that in his interviews and through his art. Vogue is also an inﬂuence, especially in the technical realm. Vogue and Dream did some of my favorite productions.
In Los Angeles, I am also inspired by Saber and Revok. They took grafﬁti to another level in LA. Being that I’m a letter stylist, Retna, Big Sleeps and Chaz are a constant source of inspiration. I also think that cats like Axis CBS, Tyke AWR, Koﬁe, Rime, Totem, How & Nosm, El Mac and so many others past and present, too many to name inspire me.
Defer: I haven’t had the opportunity to collab with too many people. The people that I have collaborated with in the past few years that have worked out well were Kopey K2S BAMC, Heaven, Spade, Slick, Cab, Prime and Cale. I think mainly because we have different strengths, such as Kopey does great characters which go well with the lettering that I do and vice versa.
Defer: I can relate to what today’s bombers are going through. The goals are simple and plain – to catch spots. But at my age, I’ve also been through a lot of tribulation throughout my life and I would hope many of these kids don’t go through what I have gone through. In other words, I want the best for them – to be safe and have a bright future. At the same time, I know the “rush” one gets from painting.
However I think now days, the laws against grafﬁti writers are a lot harsher. Add to that fact that technology is not helping either. There are so many pitfalls. Back in the day, the grafﬁti writer prized his anonymity, mainly because of legal and societal unacceptability. Now days everything is posted online. There can be aspects of fame and notoriety, interviews like this. You name it. Times have changed.
You can see more work on Defer’s website and also follow DEFER_K2S on Instagram to see daily updates. Keep burning Los Angeles!
I’ve just returned from Barcelona and finally have time to post the quick flix from my painting session with Cine, Musa and Keip. I let Musa pick the colors since I still had jet lag coming in from the USA. I like when other writers pick my colors also.
So why is it so fuckin’ humid in Barcelona in September?
Acabo de volver de Barcelona y por fin tengo tiempo para publicar la rápida flix de mi sesión de pintura con Cine, Musa y Keip. Dejé Musa escoger los colores ya que todavía tenía jet lag que vienen de los Estados Unidos. Mientras tanto, me gusta cuando otros escritores recoger mis colores también.
¿Por qué es tan jodidamente húmeda en Barcelona en septiembre?
Painting these pieces reminded me of how much I like the new Hardcore2 formula. I just learned that you can lay down whatever light colors (Like Crema) besides White before hitting any Hardcore2 “Pop” colors and it will do just as good painting a preliminary under coat of white. So remember (important) that you MUST paint white or a light color, like Crema, BEFORE painting the Hardcore2 colors of Amarillo Gigante, Amarillo Luxor, Naranja Kenya to “pop” and work correctly. Using Hardcore2 pop colors is just like using the MTN94 Flourescent colors.
Bam / TWS
Pintar estas piezas me recordó lo mucho que me gusta el nuevo fórmula Hardcore2. Me acabo de enterar que se puede establecer independientemente de colores claros (como Crema) o además de Blanco antes de llegar a cualquier Hardcore2 “Pop” colores y lo hará como un buen cuadro preliminar bajo el pelo de blanco. Así que recuerde (importante) que se debe pintar de color blanco o de color claro, como Crema, antes de pintar los colores Hardcore2 de Amarillo Gigante, Luxor Amarillo, Naranja Kenia a “pop” y funciona correctamente. El uso de colores Hardcore2 pop es como usar los colores fluorescentes MTN94.
Thanks also to Montana Colors for hooking me up! Your community in Barcelona is lucky to have a gathering place of the MTN Shop and Cafe Restaurant. Thanks again to Musa, Cine & Rioga for welcoming me and showing me a good time!
Until next year…Muchos Gracias! I have to learn all the Barça cheering songs now.
Gracias también a Montana Colors para enganchar Me Up! Tu comunidad de Barcelona tiene la suerte de tener un lugar de reunión de la tienda de MTN y Restaurante Cafe. Gracias de nuevo a Musa, Cine & Rioga por darme la bienvenida y me mostró un buen rato!
Hasta el año que viene … MUCHOS Gracias! Tengo que aprender todo el Barça animando canciones ahora.
I was connected to Jaybo Monk last year through Poesia, as Jaybo was a late addition to the Fast Forward Show. This year, I knew I wanted him to headline and be at the forefront of artists I worked with to put in an American gallery. This is my 3rd and last interview for the last week of showing the Composite Knowledge exhibit that I am curating for the 1AM Gallery in San Francisco. It is rare to get an interview with one of today’s modern international abstract painters, so enjoy his deep thoughts below.
MB: Is Jaybo Monk your real name or is it your street name?
JM: My name is not important since I consider myself as not responsible for what I do. I use “Jaybo” as a street name and as a musician, but it means nothing regarding my art. I don’t have any other name. I was born in Paris and raised in south west of France. After my teenage years, I lived around Bordeaux and Toulouse. Currently, I live in Berlin, Germany.
MB: At what age did you first realize you were an artist?
JM: Being an “artist,” the wish to appear great through my work was not in my interest. I’ve always been a person that draws & creates since I can remember. However, I’ve never had the will to be an artist. I’m pact by the idea of creativity.
JM: I’m working with the methodic of chance, which means I let things happen on canvas without trying to get any meaning into it. I consider myself as an abstract painter, using the figurative element as a medium to play on to my composition level. I started to be in galleries in 2005 and till this day, I still don’t know why.
MB: As an artist, what is it about graffiti, street and urban art that appeals to you?
JM: I left my home when i was 14. I was a runaway boy, living in the street for more than 5 years. I used to hang outside, sleeping under bridges with other homeless people and their dogs. In contact to walls, I consider graffiti as a language with the walls. Soon the city walls became my walls and the walls of others. What attracted to me as fun stuff to do became more political in my eyes, where I was trying to revolt. Doing punk styled stencils, then discovering the use of the spraycan and colors. We were back in the days, where doing walls at basketball courts, without having to think more than about just having fun.
JM: There’s no difference as I am using the same tools. The only thing is that now, I have to recreate the imperfections of wall onto canvas to have it on some same level. I think the evolution is a technique evolution. I’m interested in the process, more than the final piece. So I want to see the evolution from graffiti to fine art, the change of techniques and the change of public. I can’t talk the same to graffiti now. The visual street vocabulary has changed. I feel too old for it, but I feel too young for the fine art level as well.
MB: Do you now do both graffiti writing and fine art? Or have you shifted your focus entirely on creating fine art?
JM: I do like going back to walls and being active outside, installing and referring to my fine art stuff. I am always on that journey of creativity, inside or outside, with no limits.
MB: What do you like about each art form?
JM: In graffiti, I like the play with the wall and the urban nature. I like the old woman to looked at it and say to me, “The piece you did yesterday was better.” I like to see the people reacting to it, good or bad, but something is at least happening. Fine art is a more complex situation as i am researching some new stimulation to learn, some new mistake to create. Fine art happens in my studio, in a small, closed room where freedom is born.
JM: I am attached to the idea of cutting things up and putting them together. I think that is the principle of collage, an important in all aspect of our century. I don’t understand any of my work, nor do I understand the night sky with the moon and the stars in it. The fact that we travelled to the moon has give me no explanation to it. Do you understand your dreams? I don’t.
I try through the force of random and chance to activate some associations to the viewer, to make them reconsider in a new way. I am working with changes. I try also to give time to my paintings. As in the nature of listening the experience of hearing something and then realizing that you are not longer hearing it and that you’re now listening to something else.
When you look at a painting, you don’t have the impression that the painting is disappearing. However, as you listen to sounds, you have the impression that they come & go and that other sounds are taking their place. So you are brought right by paying attention to events in time. All you need to see is that you are brought into direct contact to ephemerality. I try to do through collage the same effect on painting. Actually it is the base on my visions for my outside and art in the street. I have no name to my style, as I am always trying to discover some new ones.
MB: What are some subjects or topics you are drawn to and why?
JM: I use the human body as a base for a relation to the viewer. The human is one of the most abstract forms. I use the force of contrast between rough and clean, between violent and calm. There’s a “zen” to it.
JM: Through the composite we are pointing to our contemporary system of the internet, blogging millions of pictures within minutes. We are having a life time of a couple of seconds. Life goes so fast this days that you just can get some snippets of it. Time to slow down and for that, we are giving the most complexity in association into our paintings to slow you down. Consider our pieces as puzzles where it takes time to get a solution. This doesn’t exist, but only into each one´s reflections.
My work for the Composite Knowledge show are bits and pieces of our everyday unseen environment, bodies with stocked functions.
MB: Many people outside of graffiti ask me what my process is because I find that Americans want to always know how I make my paintings or murals on walls. Can you explain what your current creative process is?
JM: The methodic of chance and the power of reconsidering myself every minute and everyday. The absence of ego.
MB: Do your ideas originate from the internal or external?
JM: Absolutely both. There is no need to separate those two forms.
JM: Bacon, Baldessari, John Cage (the Dadaist), my crew (Agents of change), and the power of the street. The Human self sufficient and the arrogance of them.
MB: Anything else you would like readers to know about yourself as an artist, your work, graffiti/urban art in general, the exhibit or the gallery?
JM: Kill your ego. To reach anarchy as the symbol of self discipline and social responsibility. We don’t need a government base to protect the rich from the poor. We don’t need government. We need utilities. – air, water, energy, travel, communication, food and shelter. We have no need for imagery mountains and range between separate nation.
MB Note: Thanks to Jaybo for the interview! To close out this series, Jaybo, including Poesia & Sam Rodriguez, make me want to paint harder, explore new worlds and visions, and overcome my fears and not be afraid to try new things.
The Composite Knowledge Show at 1AM Gallery goes on until this Saturday, August 18th, 2012. Gallery is open from noon to 6:30pm. These are the last days for you to check it out in San Francisco!
Here’s a quick post from the work that OG SLICK hit up at the Loft Space Hawaii this past weekend. Loft Space Hawaii was one of the sponsors for this past year’s Pow Wow Hawaii 2012 and Slick rocked this wall with MTN sponsored 123Klan. Unfortunately, SLICK’s characters were buffed due to their offensive message of the Dole Pineapple Corp coming to Hawaii & raping the native Hawaiian people.
SLICK decided to come back to Hawaii to revise the wall with his new “Musubi Man” character and brought OG PRIME from his “Kill 2 Succeed” K2S Crew from Los Angeles, CA to help him rock the wall. Nice work with MTN 94’s !
Props to SLICK & PRIME for their addition to the wall! Check out SLICK’s clothing line, Dissizit! for the latest styles from Los Angeles and the Dissizit! Blog for his latest updates. Mahalo again to Jasper Wong for the coordination!
Stay tuned for a special online interview with OG SLICK coming up !!!