Small towns aren’t exactly known for producing well known, talented graffiti writers. Eaks is an exception to this, with a style totally his own. His work has the fundamentals of traditional funk that his Creatures crew is known for, with a hint of that dark, intimidating aesthetic that the West Coast has patented. His style is a breath of fresh air in a culture saturated with carbon copies. He was kind enough to open up a dialogue with us about his beginnings, his artistic evolution and the fallen soldier known as Bits.
Bombing Science: How and when did you get started with graffiti?
Eaks: I started writing in ’93. I was heavily influenced when I would visit my family in California. I would say I wasn’t worth a damn till ’96.
What was the climate like in the local scene when and where you started writing?
The scene was very small where I started. there was only a handful of writers in that town. It was great to catch tags or walls that others were doing, because it was so rare. FD was the crew I knew best when I was coming up…. they really set the bar in those days.
What influenced your style when you started and has it changed since then?
I was heavily influenced by a lot of the writers in Denver. That was my closest reference to the sub-culture that was ahead of the game. Writers like Jher, Emit, and Omni were my biggest influences. I always thought that an original style was best. For the past 15 years Vogey and The Creatures are my heavy influence. I’d say my style has progressed rather than changed. I was always trying to push the envelope on new styles, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. In the end I’m truly happy with the direction it’s headed now.
Do you think the West Coast styles proliferated into Colorado? How do you see the West Coast affecting your evolution as a writer?
I think they did have a sway on some of Denver’s writers. You could really see it in the characters that were being painted in the early nineties. With Colorado being so “in the middle”, I think it’s had its share of influence from both coasts.
There are some crews on the west coast that are just doing it right. Colors and productions that are really setting the bar high. I think it’s influenced a lot more writers than you’d think.
Do you ever struggle with the morality of graffiti? How do you justify regularly breaking the law (or did you, when you painted illegally more often)?
When I was younger I just loved everything about it. Getting up was the only thing I could really do in my home town. Sometimes the buff was less than 24 hours. You’d spend all night walking around and it was 80% gone the next day. It was in my blood and I didn’t have to justify it to anyone. I still love walking with a pocket full of markers.
You’ve grown up painting in both a smaller town as well as a bigger city. How is the dynamic different from one area to another? What type of area do you prefer and why?
Theres a night and day difference. I prefer the bigger city over the smaller city, just in the fact that more people are going to see it. The buff is super fast in the smaller town, they’ll get you eventually. I just watched them take down a piece that lasted 15 years. In a bigger city, you’ll have more culture and people that enjoy it.
What kind of obstacles did you face early on in your artistic career, both within and outside of graff?
Trying to find galleries that would show my work was difficult. People wanting stuff for free was a big obstacle as well. I think every artist has struggled with that.
What lessons did painting graffiti teach you that you’ve been able to apply to other areas of your life?
An acute sense of colors. It’s been super helpful in choosing colors for my canvas work as well as a great sense of balance.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
Wish I’d have known the direction this was all headed. I love the friendships I’ve acquired and all the connections that have come along with the territory. To be completely honest, I might not have been caught if I was as smart as I am now.
How did you get your name and what’s the meaning behind it?
I completely made up my name. I really wish there was a cool story there, unfortunately I just loved the letters. I was a fan of Eek The Cat at the time if that counts?
In the Creatures interview, you stated you preferred to keep your graff and canvas work separate, but your graff has been creeping into your canvas work. Why did you want to keep the two separate initially?
At first I really wanted to. It seemed like some people loved the gallery work and some loved the graffiti side a little more. When I was trying to keep them separate I started to feel split. I think they actually need each other now. They kinda add to each other in a unique way. Which is the angle I was going for the whole time. I still continue to combine each other like they’re old lovers trying to fix what went wrong.
Do you think writers have an inherent advantage or disadvantage when it comes to pursuing an art career in the gallery scene?
Right now things seem pretty simple for newer writers. I’m definitely not one to judge (growing up in a small town). All I know is that I had to pay dues like everyone used to back in the late ’90’s/early 2000s. Got a handy class 4 and getting up in my blood. I’ve gotten notoriety for accomplishments which may be the spark in galleries liking my canvas work.
How did you work to develop your character style? Did you ever look at comics or copy other people’s characters to learn the fundamentals before transitioning into your own unique style?
I was really into comics and catching the issues of 12oz Prophet helped. The FX graffiti video was a gem. Toast was my biggest influence which lead to the best PBS special with Barry Mcgee and Margaret Kilgallen. I simplified it and went from there. I really enjoy characters. I feel they bring the entire aspect of a wall together.
Because of your family’s business, I’m sure you’ve seen graffiti from both sides of the coin. Do you have any funny or unique stories from the point of view of a business owner that has to deal with graff as a nuisance?
Gotta laugh about this one. I’ve met all of the VM crew in the same light. The early days they’re all people I grew up with. The younger generation I knew from the amount of work they did on my families equipment. Truth is, it’s all fair game. Call it karma or call it what ever you want. I’m doing the same thing to other peoples families all the time. The small town I grew up in is more than willing to split the bill with the companies. Trying their hardest to make it an appealing place for rich people to live.
In the last year you lost a really solid guy and fellow crew mate of yours. Can you tell us about Bits and the type of guy he was? What do you miss most about him?
Man, we lost an amazing person. Nick was such a genuine human. He was more than willing to help anyone out. When I first met Nick I knew he was a really unique person. Everyone that had the chance to meet him knows he’d have given his shirt off his back to help a stranger. I really miss painting with him, it was always one for the books. Stickers at his house or listening to Bon Iver and painting in the garage.
Hands-down, I had some of my best moments with that cat. He was so important to VM and it really showed. I truly miss his smile, it honestly kills me thinking about it. Some stupid Jabronie joke or call you a girl, then look over and he has this Kool-aid grin. It Kills me. I know it was a heavy hit on all of us VM brothers. It brought us so much closer together though. I know that’s what Nick would have wanted. The subculture that we all push lost a great one.
How did VM crew start and what does it mean to you?
Vm started in ’96. just after I had a huge falling out over a girl in high school. As funny as it sounds it set the stage for the next 20 years in my home town. To be honest it means everything to me. It’s my family through and though. We can argue or disagree, but it all comes back to a real discussion. I never wanted it to be a big crew or anything, I just wanted to make sure Ft. Collins had steady representation.
How did you get down with RTD and Creatures and what do those crews mean to you?
I got down with RTD back in 2004 with a lot of help from my painting partners Vogey, Tazer, and Slaer. We all painted together and they were pushing for me.
Creatures was another story. I’d been talking to Deks for a while back in ’99. I got an invite to come to Pueblo to see what was going on for a few years. In some-odd year later in the 2000s I got the chance. Evade 5, Lert, and I headed out to Pueblo. My girlfriend at the time decided to drink the entire way up and ended up super hungover. We had to make a stop for tacos and that sealed my love for this hidden Colorado gem. When I finally got the chance to paint it was worth the wait. I got the head nod from Vogey himself. Creatures crew since 2001 or 2002.
Can you tell us one of your best bombing/chase stories?
I really don’t (have one). Besides getting into arguments with drunken hobos or catching the wide world of sex in the after hours. I don’t have much to go on.
If you had to explain graffiti and why you do/did it to someone who has never encountered a writer and didn’t know anything about it, what would you say?
Its kinda like touching your self, mentally. (gotta watch Brain Candy)
Do you think writers kind of hang onto their adolescence a bit? As you’ve grown older how have you worked to balance the graff life with growing up?
I’d say some writers have. Most I know personally deserve it.
I’ve honestly slowed down, it shows. I used to go out all the time and now it’s every time I can or when I get randy. I love graffiti and it’s seriously flowing through my blood. Just seems like age is catching up with me. Great time to focus on style!
How does your family feel about graffiti? Do you ever have conflicts with your relatives about how you live and your activity within the culture?
My Dad loves it. He just doesn’t know it. He’s given me train spots that I still have to this day. Growing up in a hispanic family might be a little different than others. He refers to the colors and calls them pretty. Most of my other family doesn’t understand it. They went with another artist for our company logo.
How would you describe your non graff work to someone who has never seen it?
It’s very personal. I try to keep it that way so I have a balance.
These days it seems addiction is super common within the graff world and has touched all of us. What do you do to make sure you keep some sense of balance in your life and don’t let things get out of control?
I love this question. I see it like this. You can paint a perfect piece and get 100k likes and 4 of those people liked it for the imperfections. Those types of people are the ones that’ll push you forward. You have to welcome criticisms and be open about who you are. I’m not a fan of the ego. I think we could save this subculture from drowning if we swallowed our pride.
If you could only write/draw one letter for the rest of your life, which letter would it be and why?
The letter E. It starts my name and I’ve done everything I can to master it….. If you think about it, it’s in a bowl of heavy hitters. Ewok, Emit, Este, Eskae, they all have done their part to make that letter what it is.
What writers and artists out there do you think are killing it these days?
Hands down Noche. I love his energy right now. Gets and Bozo have been doing the right thing forever. VM, RTD, and Creatures are setting the bar these days.
What music would be in your painting playlist?
You’d be lucky to get my playlist. The new Tribe Called Quest has been in heavy rotation. Theres a lot of Radiohead and War Paint, some Orcid and Sleep.
What kind of themes/concepts do you explore in your fine art?
Most of my subjects are heavily influenced by relationships with women. I take in family and human struggle as well.
And last words or shout outs?
Yes! Stay outside of the bun. Big props to RTD and VM. I love my Creatures family and the IYQ band. Jive still owes me something.
By Paul Lukes