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The Art of Storytelling Ar

THE ART OF STORYTELLING ARCHIVES

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EL KAMINO

 

Q. Your graffiti has often consisted of unorthodox techniques and strange, unique shapes. What’s the rationale behind this against the grain approach? What kind of response did you get early on?

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A. Growing up in the suburbs, I didn’t have anyone to show me the ropes. It was a true trial and error experience. I think this was a key factor in why I paint the way that I do. This was years before the Internet and even years before I knew about graff mags. Without any guidance or influence, I was painting what I thought graffiti was supposed to look like. It’s kind of pathetic, but the isolation forced me to be creative. I can remember when I was a kid, my old man taught me that in music, the best bands had their own distinct sound. The Stones, Creedence; they got their own way of doing things that sets them apart from the rest. As my painting progressed, I did my best to be original. When you’re a young buck doing some off the wall shit, there ain’t much love. I got clowned a lot. But I stuck to my guns, and painted what came naturally./QUOTE]

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Jersey Joe Rime

 

Q. Graffiti, in my opinion, is done by two types of people, craftsmen and innovators. The craftsmen learn how to draw, learn how to paint clean, learn basic tricks like highlights, bubbles, putting stars in their pieces etc. They have learned a trade and can execute it better than most. Much like a skilled carpenter or any other tradesman. The innovators take the basics and bring it to a whole new level. NACE is a great example of that. His early pieces had a huge KAWS influence. He took those basics and ran with them, developing something completely unique. Do you consider yourself a tradesman or an innovator? How much of what you do is borrowed and Was there a point where you stopped borrowing, a point where you felt that it was time to take what you learned and make it your own?

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A. I consider myself to be both. I believe the way to go is to start as a tradesman, from there you become an innovator. When you get involved in a passion, it takes over and really becomes a part of who you are. I think there is a real learning experience that comes with the process of being independent in the way you think and the way you express yourself. It’s not like you shut-off the outside world and become this independent-thinking machine, something that creates from within 24/7 with no outside influences. That’s not true for anyone. Graffiti can be a very socially-integrative thing. It is very creative and there is so much to soak up. Someone like myself, I have a wide range of influences. I pull influences from a lot of people I deal with on a day-to-day basis and I am not ashamed of that. I think people try to fight it and in my opinion that is what keeps people stagnant. They are afraid to look like they are copying, they are afraid not to have something exclusive to them and as a result become married to a style. A writer may be doing the same throw-up for 25 years and if they do something else they feel like it’s not them, or they feel like they can be accused of biting. I am not concerned with that. If I take something, I’ll openly admit it. I am comfortable with who I am and the things I do. No matter what I take in, it gets processed through my mind, it goes through a filter made up of all my habits and techniques. Nothing goes out the way it came in. Again, it’s like eating. If I go to a fancy restaurant and eat the finest fish dinner, when I go home and shit it out, it doesn’t look the same. It goes in, gets filtered and comes out. It could be different colors and textures, ranging from really solid to really soft, or look really questionable - but it never comes out the same way it went in. (laughs)/QUOTE]

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JOR

 

Q. So you came up in San Francisco but your graffiti has a heavy old school New York influence, how did that happen?

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A. Well half of my family is from New York. My father was born and raised in the Bronx and my older brother grew up in Queens. When I was a kid, my brother busted his ass working in kitchens all over Manhattan, and eventually he started a catering company that grew into a very successful Tribeca restaurant. This was when Tribeca was a wasteland, before Jay-Z, De Niro, and all the celebs moved in. There was lots of graffiti there and all over New York City at the time. So almost every summer, I would come out to NYC and work at the restaurant doing deliveries, busing tables, and doing whatever I could do to help out. The summer of ’93 I was there and had started to take notice of graffiti, but I really didn’t know anything about it. Back then, in New York, all the graffiti that I could read seemed to have “One” at the end of the word, but I would pronounce it like “Own”. I remember thinking to myself, “Why does everyone have `One’ at the end of their name?” I would mistakenly pronounce DEAR ONE as DEAR OWN. So I’d draw on napkins this terrible stuff that I thought was graffiti, always with a “One” at the end. I finally figured out the “One” thing and it actually drives me nuts when people call me Jorone (Jor-OWN). Now I prefer just Jor. So anyway, it turned out that I was working with a bunch of graffiti writers, and they saw me expressing interest in graffiti by drawing this weird shit. There was one guy who wrote Tarik NCW. He was a lot older than me and sat me down. He was like, “Na dude, this is what you have to do.” He gave me an alphabet and even threw me down with some New York crews. He got me hip to the whole thing and taught me the basic rules, like throw ups go over tags, pieces go over throw ups and all that kind of stuff. I’m grateful for him because he single-handedly changed the direction of my life. So I soaked all this information up. I went back to California and kept doing what they taught me. I always had an appreciation for New York style, and especially when I started in ’93, there was a lot of really nice stuff being done./QUOTE]

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ZEPHYR

 

Q: Describe the experience of being an artist in NYC in the 1980s. What was so monumental about that scene during that time period?

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A. What was monumental about it was the amount of amazing, creative individuals that were around at that precise moment in time. We were all just young people on our way up. We all had similar trajectories, but they were simple goals. We were just seeking exposure for our creative impulses, that’s all. We had no delusions of grandeur; we’d take what we could get. But again, it’s 20/20 hindsight. Who could have imagined the extent to which some of us would impact the world?

 

Two names come to mind right away, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. It’s a bit mind boggling, even to me, to think about the meteoric rise of these two friends of mine. They were both lovely people, although Jean was a bit pricklier than Keith, and obviously they were both brilliant artists. You see Basquiat mentioned alongside Picasso with no irony, and one of his paintings costs at least 20 million dollars today, if you can even find one on the market. Now the really crazy part is that we all came up at the same time, and we all showed our art at the Fun Gallery in Manhattan’s East Village. That is very remarkable to me, and I have to pinch myself sometimes. It’s like, wow, my friend Jean, that I once knew quite well, is Jean-Michel Basquiat. I still have trouble accepting what he became and what the world made of him. To me, he’ll always just be Jean, the wild kid who liked to smoke a lot of weed and smash empty 40 oz. beer bottles on the street./QUOTE]

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ESPO

 

You came up writing graffiti in Philly. As an insider, what would you say is Philly’s major contribution to graffiti?

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A. In New York the tag is the means to the end, in Philly it is the end. So a lot of the creative one upmanship that resulted in bigger and more colorful pieces in NYC just made for wilder and more complicated signatures in Philly. An interesting by-product of this single line obsession is the punchline, every writer has one, the best writers have the best ones. The first great one I saw was JK’s “Like an itch you can’t scratch” it really sums up graffiti perfectly/QUOTE]

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CLAW

 

Did painting an icon open up new doors for you as an artist and is mass marketing the Claw icon totally out of the picture for you?

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A. I don’t know if painting an icon opened up new doors for me because it was the early 90’s and no one cared about graffiti as art then, except for maybe the dudes from the 80’s gallery notoriety who were still trying to pop shit off in a dead scene. But I will tell you, that having an icon made my stuff much more visible than other throwies with letters, especially to people who weren’t into graff. It was easy to identify the shape, therefore making it stand out. This became very apparent when my friend’s 2 year old daughter pointed to a wall and said “Look Mommy - a CLAW paw!”

 

Like I said, I believe this brand can conquer the world with some inventive and creative licensing. But I am very picky about how the brand is portrayed and want to grow it slowly. All of the collabos that I have done were with top level brands such as Nike, Calvin Klein, And Suns, Vans, K2, etc. That wasn’t by accident. I picked projects that were quality and high impact. Products that spotlighted my art - for instance I was the first woman ever to do an artist series for Nike, an extreme honor. But was I approached by several other brands that aren’t as prominent as Nike, etc? Yes. But I’m glad I held out to partner with more vision. This will be the same strategy I will use with licensing./QUOTE]

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CHIP 7

 

You’ve spent a great deal of time on the road both in the states and overseas. What places and cultures impacted you the most? Where would you like to spend more time?

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A. I used to work for a rock band called From Autumn To Ashes. I spent a good part of three and a half years on the road with those guys. Fran (Mark, drummer) is one of my best friends in the world. We’ve had our share of good times. We even converted the back lounge of the bus into a traveling art studio/smoking section on tour. We’d then sell our stuff behind the merch table. That was a blast; I got to go a lot of places with them. I’ve sorta had a transient, where the wind takes me lifestyle. I’ve lived like 10 different places since 2001. With the crazy ups and downs, I’ve had many adventures.

 

Being from mixed ancestry, I got to live in Bangkok for six months with my family over there, a few years ago. Thai mythology has always had a mammoth impression on me. My father died when I was a baby, so I never learned Thai. I had been there a few times before, but not for that long. It was life changing. I worked at a shop that painted motorbikes and helmets in my family’s old neighborhood. One day I may have been sanding a piece of metal in 100 degrees at the shop; the next I’m in a suit presenting a painting to a member of the Thai royal family, at an art show I was in to raise money for the Queen’s charity. It was surreal. One place I’d love to travel to is Japan. So many things from there have inspired me in my life. My favorite cities are probably New York, Bangkok and Berlin. Not for nothing, I really like Charleston, South Carolina. I think it is America’s best kept secret./QUOTE]

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CARL WESTON VIDEOGRAF

 

Q. When you started putting out videos this was literally uncharted territory. Not only were you the first one ever to put out a graffiti video series, you were the first one, to my knowledge, to film a "crime" and then sell it. Your videos were crimes marketed to criminals. Essentially. Style Wars came out during a different time where laws were still not well defined and it was presented in a more palatable way, also, it wasn't a series. Videograf fell outside of the parameters of what would be considered a traditional documentary. Were you going into this blind, not knowing what the legal outcome was going to be?

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A. No, because there is only one thing that is constitutionally unprotected in this country and that is child pornography. That is it. You can put out a book on how to make a bomb, there is no subject that you can’t published in this country except child pornography. Everything else is on. So I knew from the get go to stay away from filming kids. When I started I was 23 but when we really started getting into it, I was 30 years old. I knew some 30 year old, getting bagged filming a 15 year old was going to be a bad look. On top of the fact I am black and most likely the graffiti writer I was going to get caught with was white, that was just going to be a bad look, it wasn’t going to work for me. As it turned out anyway I hated young graffiti writers. The generation of graffiti writers that were under 18 when I was doing Videograf, didn’t exist like years prior. The graffiti writers at the time I was doing Videograf didn’t come into their own until they were adults. The graffiti generation I came up on, a decade or so earlier, mother fuckers were retiring at 18 or 19 years old.

 

I was very aware of the constitution, media rights and free speech. I mean you would see crack heads on the news in some abandon building, shooting up and the press made money off it by the commercials in between the segments. So legally I looked at it like I was a member of the press. There is no official member of the press. All you have to do is document stuff and have a certain level of ethics and you are a member of the media so that is how we did it. I would tell graffiti writers “I want to hang out with you the next time you go bombing.” I would never say “be here and do this and do it that kind of way.” In my own mind I was trying to just be a fly on the wall, not directing what was getting done. I was never worried about the legality of the video. I was worried about what would happen when I fell into the hands of the police while I was filming. The first time it happened, they charged me as a graffiti writer. But My biggest fear was getting bagged and getting the equipment taken and confiscated. Actually going out and filming people bombing with a $2,500 video camera, which in 1987 was a lot of money, and putting equipment like that at risk was my biggest fear at the time. We weren’t making enough money to replace that kind of equipment. In terms of Videograf being a documentary I don’t consider it a documentary in the truest sense because we made the video for graffiti writers, we didn’t explain anything. We didn’t explain terminology, you would have seen that type of stuff in a regular documentary. This was a video magazine for graffiti writers, anyone else who got their hands on it had to get someone to translate it for them. Videograf was for graffiti writers by graffiti writers. In ‘89 when we started filming, Collin and I were only 4 years retired from writing./QUOTE]

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DALEK

 

Q. Do you think being brought up in Japan for a period of time influenced your artwork?

 

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A. I mean, I’m sure it has. Obviously that stuff was an influence even before I moved to Japan. I grew up in the 70s for the most part so I was watching Speed Racer, Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets. All that stuff was Japanese, so obviously that kind of cultural influence existed without even living there. Of course though, living in that culture and being exposed to all that kind of cartoon stuff and toys had some type of impact but I couldn’t tell you what to be honest. It all sort of filters into one place and gets rearranged so I don’t really have any sort of answer. I think people assume that there is more Japanese influence in my work than there is. I get that a lot from people and I think it is mainly from working with Murakami and also because I went to high school there. People make the connection and because of the rainbow colors they think there is a lot of Japanese influence whereas if I had to think of what conscience influences me, I would say Japanese influence is minimal, it would probably be more American based.

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BLEEK CBS

 

Q. You traveled to Thailand a few years back. I know Chip 7, another CBS crew member, has been out there for a while now. What was it like painting there? How would you compare the graffiti scene to that in the states?

 

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A: My trip to Thailand was enlightening. I had the time of my life in Bangkok partying with Chip and painting the city almost Carte Blanche. I love to travel and have been all over the US, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Korea, Australia, and I’ve painted in most of the places I’ve traveled too. I felt completely free in Thailand. Getting off the plane and having Chip pick me up and take me to a bar to meet up with Jaser, Resq, Fanta, Jick NYC, Dylan Maddox etc. was crazy. A bunch of dudes I know from the states all partying and killing it in Thailand was quite an experience. Not only was it good company, it was dirt cheap for us, the islands were beautiful and they had the best food ever, right there on the street. Painting for 20 years in LA has been amazing, but there’s a huge world out there and that’s where I like to leave a mark.

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