1) Alright so thanks for taking the time out to do this interview, can we get a brief run down of who you are and how long have you been in the game? What crew do you rep and how did you get the name Ques?
First I want to say thank you guys for reaching out. You guys have been supporting writers for a long time, so I’m honored you hit me up. I started by writing Quest, but so many people wrote the same thing that I dropped the ’T’. Now I write Ques, Kwes or Qwes 718. I probably caught my first bullshit paint tag with my older brother around ’94, I think we just wrote our names.
I didn’t start to learn about real graffiti and how to paint until I got to the High of Art and Design in ’96 and started learning from people like Was/Zef, Rena RIP and Hektic. I did my first piece on my boy Was/Zef’s roof in the Bronx in ’97. He taught me a lot and definitely painted the majority of that first piece for me but I learned so much that day. The main shit I rep is 718 Crew.
2) In a recent post on your instagram you said “Graffiti used to be about so many things to me. Now it’s just about having a good time with my friends” Im curious what you meant by this? When you were younger did you have an illusion of fulfillment for something that would happen later down the line in your career? Dreams of worldwide fame?
That quote you’re talking about was in reference to how my relationship with graffiti has changed a lot in recent years. It used to be a really unhealthy relationship. If I wasn’t painting I was scoping out spots, trying to get paint, sketching something or looking at flicks all day. It was all consuming. In the last 7-10 years that relationship has changed a lot for the better. Now I paint far less often but when I do, it’s so much more about the experience I have while painting. Hanging out with my wife and people whose company I enjoy, eating pizza and drinking beers is what it’s about for me now. No drama, just good times.
I think every young toy had dreams of being the next Ces or Wane or Dondi, I was no different. I was never so disillusioned as to think I would have the same impact (or even close to it) on the game that some of the greats had, but it didn’t/doesn’t stop me from striving to give back to the community in the same way those artists gave to me. I don’t know about dreams of worldwide fame, but I definitely wanted the kids coming up to look at my work and be inspired like I was by those FX, FC and TATs walls of the 90’s.
3) Outside of doing graffiti murals you also do really cool individual abstract paintings, do you see these two worlds as being connected? Do you have a overall vision for what you are going for as a artist or do you just create what comes to you in the moment?
I started painting the more abstract works first as an installation in an apartment of mine. I liked how it looked and started making some canvases in the same style. Graffiti is connected to everything creative that I do, whether it is conscious or subconscious. Becoming a better writer makes me a better artist and vice versa. I’m a meticulous planner, so I definitely have a vision for pretty much all my work before going into it. I used to stick to my sketch in such a rigid manner it made my work look really forced.
Now I look at a sketch as more of a suggestion and let things come as they do on the day. I enjoy both the process and the results much more now that I’ve learned to let go a little. At the same time I don’t like very much of what I paint. Which is always pushing me to do more and try harder.
4) I assume you grew up in New York, and it looks like you travel regularly so how would you compare the New York scene to other graffiti scenes? Do you think growing up and seeing street graffiti inspired you to do the same, I mean in the sense that if you grew up somewhere else maybe you would have been a comic artist or fine artist instead?
Yeah I grew up in NYC and have lived in all the boros at some point except Staten Island. That’s a really tough question for a couple of reasons. Firstly, every scene is unique to the vibe of that city. Secondly, while I travel a decent amount, I wouldn’t say I have an intimate knowledge of the other scenes. I do think the scene in most European cities is much more open minded to large scale murals.
I think the Europeans are more open minded about art in general. They also seem to take graffiti offenses less seriously than NYC or the USA does. Again, that’s just an opinion. I could be completely talking out of my ass. Growing up in NYC definitely shaped my views towards graffiti. While the big productions of the 90’s blew my mind, street graffiti was everywhere and I gravitated to it pretty quickly. I don’t know what it’s like in other scenes, but in NYC if you didn’t paint illegally or have some sort of street cred, your shit basically didn’t count.
I think that’s changed in recent years but maybe it’s just my outlook that has changed. As a kid all I wanted to do was become a comic book artist. To be the next Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld or McFarlane. When I got to Art & Design I realized there were a lot of people with more talent and the struggling artist route wasn’t the one for me. So yeah, growing up in NYC and being exposed to the opportunities that came along with it gave me an early reality check. If I lived somewhere else I might not have known I suck.
At the same time graffiti very much set me on the path my life has been on for years. I found my way into a creative career via friends I made because of graffiti. I’ve also recently started incorporating my love for 90’s comic book art into my pieces, so everything comes full circle
5) What is your favorite documentary or book that covers the history or major players of graffiti and why?
Hands down the Video Graff series. It was so raw and gritty. It was also of my time. Style Wars is incredible but it was documenting a generation I could never be a part of. Video Graff was writers that were generally just a little older than me, the guys I saw up in the streets and doing shit that I wanted to be doing at the time, so it was easier to relate to.
I used to watch them and get hyped to paint. It was the adolescent equivalent of watching wrestling with my brothers as a kid and then beating the shit out of each other. Recently I’ve found myself going down a rabbit hole of European train videos while bored at work. To me there’s no higher pinnacle of graffiti than commuter trains.
6) One of the cool pieces I dig of yours is the recreated piece you did for your dad, where you redrew a picture for him that had fallen apart due to a glue issue. Is there any plans on taking this style and incorporating the more abstract elements into your murals? I know you have elements of this in your backgrounds, but I’d love to see you take the abstract way you do letters and push them even further! Do you sell prints of your work or custom commissions?
That piece is a special one to me. He had been asking me to fix it for years. At the same time, he had been asking me to make something for him so I figured why not kill two birds with one stone. What I didn’t know was that he was having someone else repair the original I made when I was 14 and we both ended up giving them to one another for Christmas that year. I have been planning on doing a large scale mural that emulates my abstract canvas work but it’s never really worked out. I’ve yet to find the right space and I love bending letters, so pieces always end up taking priority. I’d love to get around to an abstract mural one day.
No, I don’t sell prints or take commissions. Only my close family and friends own my artwork for a few reasons. I think money would destroy the creative process. I enjoy creating work just because I’m enjoying what I’m doing, with no ulterior motives. I also like the idea that only people who are important to me get to have my work. I’ve done side projects in the past where I tried to help friends sell prints and I found that the small amount of monetary gain isn’t worth the hassle. My career and personal life keep me busy enough.
7) It seems like you travel around a bit, can you tell us any cool or fun travel stories? Any times you’ve been caught or almost caught?
These days, most of my fun travel stories generally involve me eating good food, drinking good whiskey and meeting new people. And to be honest, most of my good chase stories happened in NYC. Once, on my birthday I snuck out and stole my father’s car. We went to Putnam, got some nicks and went to paint the N tracks by Queens Bridge projects. The guy I was painting with was much further down by the mouth of the tunnel. He yelled that the train was coming and I knew I couldn’t make it back to the stairs to dodge the train.
I went to cross over to the Manhattan bound track while this train passed but a train was coming from that direction, too. I didn’t have anywhere to go, so I made a split second decision to lay down and let the train pass over my head. It was crazy watching the train coming right at me and watching the sparks fly as it went by. My boy said he thought I was dead when he popped out of the stairs. Thankfully I was skinny and it all worked out. To be young and dumb.
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 variety of stuff while painting. As far as hip hop artists it’s probably Cormega or Mobb Deep radio. It was the sound of my youth and puts me in the right state of mind. I definitely feel like Cormega is an underappreciated artist.
As far as graffiti goes, I don’t know that these guys are underappreciated but Doves and Roachi are two of my favorite writers. I think Doves is a top 10 writer of all time. He built on the foundation set forth by the NYC style masters and is taking the art form to another level. His characters are some of the best and his ability to do fine art is super slept on. He effortlessly drops burner after burner. Roachi can rock so many different styles with ease it’s wild. The guy has a great hand style, great throw ups, actually hits streets, rocks sick characters and a really talented illustrator. He’s also constantly pushing his art to the next level which I really respect.
They also both paint ridiculously fast. Most importantly, they are both great people and I always have a good time painting with them. I wouldn’t say these guys are super slept on because they’re killing shit, but the SB guys (Panic, Seo, Zers and Vil) put on for NYC. They’re doing shit in a way a true New Yorker can be proud of.
9) Thanks again for taking the time out to chat, Any shout outs you would like to give? Where can people follow you and purchase your work?
Thank you guys again for reaching out. Yeah, I want to say peace to AKS, Zuwon, Roachi, Doves, Crem, Lect, Names YMI, Kyle LTS, Amun, Swrve, Fishe, Versuz 269, Tars, Skam DOH, Vinse, Jins, Wak STF, Cypha, Dino, DKae, Emzy, Nemz, 2Esae, Minus 2DX, and Haspe. I want to give a special thanks to Hoacs, Trace, Dek 2DX, Meres, Such and Jerms for being all around good people and constantly extending their hospitality with spots to paint.
The best place to view my work would be @ques718 on Instagram. One final thing I’d like to say is that graffiti is so insignificant in the grand scheme of life, don’t take it too seriously. Spend time with your friends/family, eat well, enjoy life and have fun. Leave all the bullshit behind, oh and LFGM!!!
Follow QUES718 on Instagram