Graffiti is about expressing oneself artistically, it isn’t just about writing one’s name on as many surfaces as possible. Well it is, but graffiti is more than that and I think Math One is a terrific example of how many different forms of graffiti exist in our world. Math is well practiced in street art, canvas art, tattoo art and more. His skills are a diverse grab bag of artistic talent, detailed characters and aesthetically pleasing color schemes. Innovation in art has always been important and outside the box thinkers such as Math One will continue to carry the torch as they come up with new and interesting ways to paint the town red.
Who are you and how did you get that name?
I write Math, I got that name a few years ago, but more importantly I paint a character. The face of an old black man with an afro and goatee. Graffiti is one aspect of my art, but a very important one.
What other art do you do?
I do tattoos, canvases and murals. I have legal walls all over West Oakland, Ca. As well as doing art shows. I work at Oakland Ink in downtown Oakland also.
When did you first begin tattooing and how has it influenced your graffiti?
When I started painting, I used mostly letters like everybody else you know? But after I started tattooing it influenced me to begin painting characters, so it actually had a really big influence on me in that way. I am now most well known in the scene for my character work, so they go together. But I started tattooing 5 years ago at least, and have been painting graff even longer.
What is your favorite surface to paint?
I love to paint anything and everything. My canvases constantly vary from walls to the skin of other people. I live for creativity and my favorite places to paint are the ones that nobody has painted before or that I never thought I would be able to paint. New places or innovative ideas for art have always interested me a lot.
Do you have any formal art schooling?
A little, but honestly I’ve mostly taught myself everything I know. Or learned it on my own from the older guys I painted with as a kid or during my tattoo apprenticeships. There is always more to learn though and I like to think that my art is constantly growing into new avenues and new ways of painting. My characters look different every time, as long as you look close enough to see the changes. Sometimes the changes are major, but many times very subtle.
Who have been your main influences?
I would count GATS PTV as a huge influence. He is one of the Bay Area’s original character bombers. That tiki face is iconic, I think all over the country. Otherwise as far as characters, OBEY would be one. ORACLE, SWAMPY, ICHABOD just to name a few more big names that influenced my art. As well as my homies I grew up with and the friends I paint with everyday. Again, being a very creative thinker, I like to think I draw influence from the entire universe.
What sets you apart from the average graffiti writer?
I’m not the average writer, I don’t just use letters to express myself. That, first and foremost sets me apart from other writers. A lot of guys don’t have anything but graffiti to lean on in their lives or for their art. Whereas I have a lot of different talents to lean on and can work in many different artistic mediums. Tattooing and graffiti are just a couple. I’ve sculpted, wheat pasted and the works. I like to try everything at least once, art is an adventure man.
What do you have to say to the younger writers coming up in today’s scene?
Come out to Oakland! Naw, but seriously come out and paint here, it’s one of the best cities for graffiti right now. Don’t move here necessarily, I don’t think we need anymore of that. It aint a secret that people are not a fan of all the gentrification taking place in the Bay Area and Oakland nowadays. But coming out here for a vacation to paint I would highly recommend. Other than that, make sure you have respect for other people’s art. I see too many dissed pieces and dissed murals these days. People put time into those murals and it is plain disrespect to come by and tag some stupid shit over something beautiful. Also, stay motivated to find new ways to express yourself artistically. Never limit yourself as an artist or as a graffiti writer, being a graff writer is about pushing limits and breaking rules and doing shit that nobody has ever done before.
What does the future hold for you?
I plan to keep on keeping on. I have my job at the tattoo shop. I don’t think I will ever stop painting graffiti, it’s in my blood and my soul. I will be one of those old men you see in the graff documentaries talking about how things were ‘back in the good old days.’ I don’t have any aspirations to be a famous artist, but just to keep doing work. If I do good work, people will recognize it as good work and that’s what matters most.
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Article by Skaz One