Alright so thanks for taking the time out to do this interview, can we get a brief rundown of who you are and how long have you been in the game? What crew do you represent and how did you get the name, Griffin?
Thanks for reaching out & for your interest! I go by GRIFFIN / GRIFN ( LORDS • CBS ) Being Born in Nairobi, Kenya (Africa) & growing up in Sedona, Arizona ( Vortex Country) both played a big role in inspiring my artwork and also fueled my fascination with creatures & the unexplained. Jumped around between Seattle, Louisville, and Phoenix,AZ… and been based out of Oakland California (SF Bay Area) for over a decade now – so it’s Home. Oakland’s a highly energized place to live, it’s pretty wild west and it’s got a lot of creative energy & crafty people, pushing boundaries, full of graffiti & murals, rich culture, pride, grime, theft & natural beauty all in one – Never a dull moment around here!
I have been in the graff & mural game, painting walls, since 1993. I am actually hitting the 30-year mark this year! I’m a fan of mythology & Merging the Old World with a New school twist – mixing Creatures, Styles & Matter together in my work. Since I do have a “GRIFFIN” symbol (part Lion & Eagle) as a prominent figure in my family crest, it seemed like a good fit.
I think our readers will love your work because you’re a badass at lettering but also an all-around great painter and designer! You’re a triple threat, bro! How did you get started on this creative path and begin to take it so seriously
Right on, Thank you!
I’m excited to see a resurgence, in the last 5 years especially – of more letter-dominant writers (both younger and older OGs alike) starting to explore rocking characters with their letter pieces! Plus taking risks is part of being an artist!
I love Letters & yet I love rocking characters & background environments just the same. I see it like this: The letters represent the altered spoken language, the characters are the entities within that realm, and the environment is the world where they all co-exist. Productions tell more of a story than most other art forms dare – it’s endless possibilities if you ask me.
I don’t try to limit myself, I like a lot of different styles & themed mediums – just as I also do with food & music, etc. Life is short! Plus honestly, I get bored doing the same thing over and over, I need to keep things spicy for myself and I appreciate other artists who do the same. I understand everyone’s different and I also understand how branding works, but painting oneself into a corner, just to fit in someone else’s digestible labeled rolodex, seems fairly limiting, for a lifer artist.
What do you want people to know, feel, or get out of your work when they encounter it?
I like to take the viewer out of their daily grind headspace, even if for just a few minutes to inspire an Imaginative world with movement & perception! I’ve always liked the element of the unknown and many possibilities. I know my favorite pieces are usually the ones where I just got out of the way of & dove in – they tend to surprise me sometimes. Hopefully, others get a taste of that too!
One of the things I love is you are willing to put yourself out there, you got original paintings, murals, tshirts..etc. so I assume by the way you put yourself out there that you do this full time correct? What was it like to take this from just a creative pursuit on the side to something that earns you an income?
Yes, I enjoy all those outlets; and also one does have to put themselves out there all the same, to build up to a career Artist – if that is one’s goal!
I took my Big all-in leap in 2005 going full-time & am happy to say been running my own show since! I started out like most young angsty skater kids & saw a lot of folks fall off early on. I was determined to try to create my Reality moving forward, because the world as I saw it through my eyes at that time, wasn’t cutting it! I had always loved drawing on things since I could hold a Crayon & I just never stopped. Money was never a real goal; it still isn’t or my art would look much more Top 40/diluted. I’ve always just wanted to travel, Paint & Feel Inspired!
Being paid to do art has never been the kind of job that has been offered or found in the newspaper. So In keeping my momentum (alongside a lot of shitty random jobs & bosses), I knew I could do better! I wanted to be my own boss one day & trying to make a living creating art full-time and or die trying was my head space! It’s not by any means an easy path to make it as a full-time artist or freelance artist, etc.! It’s also not for everyone! It’s a lot of shooting from the hip every day, yet I love that no two days are the same & I like challenges. So Unless you come from money, you’ll have to have some Talent, but more importantly, self-discipline, thick skin amongst your peers & the general public, knocking on your share of doors … and being ready to show up & put in the Work! To me, it’s still all worth it!
These words always stuck with me: “Every Artist has to create their value (Time x Skill ) . It’s not something you let others do for you, for it will most likely never be in your favor.” In other words, If you don’t value your time, don’t think anyone else will either!
5) With any creative pursuit there are peaks and valleys as we do the creative work, what kind of obstacles have you had to face along your path? Was there ever a time when you thought about giving it up and doing something else?
Life’s a roller coaster ride as is, and for me staying creative and being active always had a way of balancing life out more. Headspace has a lot to do with everything. I was having fun & learning a lot, plus the universe has shown me time and time and again, it has a way of providing – if and when intentions and efforts are being made. The old saying “Don’t let one’s own head chatter, be your own worst enemy” holds some weight.
I always had one foot in the door with the side art design hustle, as I was able to do that to make ends meet early on. The peaks and the valleys were bigger back then, and it wasn’t always guaranteed how I was going to pay rent and cover bills, etc. But it kind of motivated me and made me work harder at it and get part-time jobs learning all I could. Early on, I had jobs at: vinyl sign shops, screen printing, boat name & vehicle wrap shops, large format printing, sign
painting, etc. – anything that was visually related.
This was no master plan, but I gained knowledge and connections that gave me the confidence to where I could start offering these things as services and charge more, and in turn I leveled up my own artwork skill set!
Note: This was all achieved prior to youtube / the Web, social media, etc. – how we know it
today – so yes, I paid my dues.
What is your favorite documentary or book that covers the history of major players of graffiti and why?
I mean Spray Can Art and Subway Art are Legendary staples, later movies like Infamy are also solid. But I’d have to say The “Can’t Be Stopped Movie” Documentary released in 2016, is a recent favorite! It features the early years, 80’s & 90’s Los Angeles graffiti and documents the CBS crew, & the founder Sk8, along with a ton of interviews from other writers, crews & great old footage from that time in Hollywood & that West Coast spin on it. Worth checking out!
Can’t Forget the early 90’s Graff Zines – Can Control Magazines (put out by POWER cbs), Urban Autograph & Under Pressure, etc. to name just a few early ones. These all really lit the fire for me back then. Just came up on an old Phantom Mag & Refused Graff zine yesterday in fact!
By the way, – I painted at the Under Pressure graff event in 2009 in Montreal behind Foufounes Electriques – Wild Fun Times & Your City Goes Off!
Do you create other types of artwork besides 2d Painting & digital works – secret projects etc.?
Well… I have created a few sculptures as a side project! I’m enjoying creating them on the side for now. They fall under my “Know Matter What” Series, which includes a mix of Matter and Textures, from Animal skulls & bones, aged metal, aluminum skateboard trucks & scrap cans as well as steel & wood, all interlaced.
8) What’s your go-to hip-hop artist to listen to while you’re working? Who would you say is underappreciated in either hip-hop or graffiti that deserves more recognition?
I listen to a bit of everything while painting! Hip-hop wise: “Aceyalone”, Aesop Rock”, “Dr. Octagon”, “The Cloaks”, “The Insects” & “Drunken Immortals”. These last 2 deserve more recognition. More often I listen to Metal or Punk when I paint, which helps me keep a nice pace & helps the paint dry a little faster. Sepultura, Maiden, Sabbath, NoFX & Black Angels, Mondo Chaga. Studio vibes might be more on the chill side: “Dope Lemon”, The Cramps, hip hop or funk.
Thanks again for taking the time out to chat, Any shoutouts you would like to give? Where can people follow you and purchase your work?
Right on – Thank you Bombing Science for the opportunity and for reaching out. I look forward to visiting Montreal again soon! Much Respect to all those putting in Work & Taking Creative Risks! Shouts Out to the LORDS, CBS & CK Family; the Folks, My wife Tatyana, JJ Haws, Brad Cole, Boots & All those that have shown support in one way or another over the years & continue to do so!