It's been about two years since I last painted one of my characters on a wall. Two years in graffiti-time is like two lifetimes. I've been missing it. Why such a long sabbatical? Life. Life just moves on, as some things become more important to me than others. I don't mind that, actually. I'll be the first to admit to other graffiti writers that graffiti is not my lifestyle, and I've received nothing but love from them for being honest. Graffiti takes time away from the family, and I value my family more than anything. I'm not trying to be something that I'm not, and other writers pick up on that, and give me respect.
So, it's been two years since I've been out there and imagine my surprise when a get an email out of the blue from a graffiti writer here in town asking me if I'm free to paint the following Sunday. He got permission to paint an entire wall that's on the side of this automotive place in Marietta. Not only was the size of the wall impressive, but the roll-call of writers that were expected to show up and paint was equally amazing. Some old school cats along with some mad talented newer faces -- I immediately said yes. I was back in!
In my usual over-the-top fashion, I drew up a sketch, scanned it, and did some color schemes in Photoshop. Most guys just do a sketch in pencil or pen, and then bring that lowly drawing, or their blackbook, to the site and bring along the paint that they have with them. I wanted to make sure that I had the right colors, as sometimes I never like the way the final colors come out. I misjudge the hues and tones and I usually can never be satisfied with the end result. (You can click on these drawings for a closer look.)
My style of characters are not the typical 'hip-hop' style of characters that you usually find on graffiti productions. No b-boys in a buffalo stance, no big eyes, no big shoes, no baggy pants, no bling and the like. I felt why do something that everyone else has seen countless times? I was getting rather sick of all that. The lines became something that I could manipulate to my advantage, and now has become my signature look. Occasionally I'll do something different, but this chunky, blocky style with the thick, straight lines is what people expect from CANON. As you can see in my initial drawings, the lines are thinner and less strict. More free-flowing. Actually, I wish that I could paint my lines like this, to tell you the truth, but I know that that would require more can control than what I possess right now. Plus, I would need a much larger space.
I've had some graff writers tell me that they didn't like my characters at first, but once they saw more, they eventually warmed up to them. And now, they love them. It's all part of that notion of getting stretched and pulled out of your conventional box -- your comfort zone, if you will. These are not your typical graffiti characters, and if that's what you're used to seeing all the time, of course you may exhibit some trepidation at first.
So, I had my brother-in-law, Nate, come along with me to Marietta to take some photos for me. It's a rarity for me to have some actual shots of me painting, plus I thought it'd be a cool thing to post on The Ward-O-Matic. I know that most people view this activity as criminal, but since this is a permission wall, wherein the owner of the building gave us permission for us to do our thang on the wall, then this is completely legal. For the record, I've never done any illegal graffiti. All my characters that you see in my gallery and in my Flickr were all done on legal or permission walls. I've got too much at stake to be screwing around with any illegal activity. If that shoots my street credibility to nil, then so be it. I don't care. I don't want Ava to ask "Where's dada, mommy?" And Andrea answers, "Well, honey, he's in jail for painting on somebody's wall." Not for me, thankyouverymuch.
Onto to the pics. Hope you enjoy them:
Like I mentioned earlier, we had a great turn out. The wall was so big that ladders were needed in order to fill up as much of the space as possible. There was not much space to walk around in, as there was this steep ravine right behind us, filled with kudzu. Welcome to the south.
Checking the paint situation. Nate said that I should be saying here, "Here I am, a 36 year-old grown man... and I'm painting graffiti." Lookit, I'm already sweating.
I start with a sketch of the piece, to make sure I've got the composition and proportions correct.
I then begin on the inside fills. Not all that fun, but necessary.
After I get all the inside fill colors, I then paint a white outline around everything. I have to be careful not to get too sloppy with the line, as I don't have any of that dark blue paint to go back and fix any mess-ups.
Next, I do the red lines. In order to control the lines, to shape them just the way I like them, I do what we call "cutting the lines." I have a can of the fill color and I "cut" into the red line, to thin, or shape it how I want. Mostly I trim the ends, to make them flat. Looks nice. I like it.
Finally done. I am one worn out old dude.
Here it is. Me and the kids. I'm happy with the end result. Even though the lines are thicker and not the same as in my original sketch, I have to understand the process and know that it's not going to be perfect each time. Under the circumstances, I'm happy with the piece -- especially since I've been absent from the graff scene for two years.
Hope you all enjoyed seeing an old dude getting back out there. It was a great experience for me. Finally got it out of my system. Hopefully, it won't be another two years until I get out there again. Be sure to click HERE, to check out the entire photoset on my Flickr. There are more photos, if you're curious. Enjoy!