In the back of Sidewalk Skateboard magazine in the early 2000s there were a few pages of music reviews, one of these being the new death and black metal albums at the time and on this page was the first time my young eyes fcaught sight of two albums whose imagery would draw me into a lifelong love affair with those genres of music and their connected worlds. Nihility by Decapitated and Sons Of Northern Darkness by Immortal whilst worlds apart in their musical style represented a style of artwork that i had never seen before; grotesque, dark, angular and ridiculous their message of a new land would pull me into a rabbit hole which i still inhabit today.
Seems me and Sens, a writer who whilst only being in the game for 2 years is already smashing freights, trains and walls with the kind of maturity of style and vision that oldies like me would kill for, found a similar gateway in..
My first exposure to graffiti was a website called ArtCrimes. That website plus the album art from my dads cd collection is what got me interested. My dad is a metal head. He had everything from Megadeath to bands like KMFDM. A lot of sick album artwork.
Some of the ones ingrained into my mind are Iron Maiden and Megadeth covers. Eddie and Vic are the shit. Judas Priest always has sick album artwork too. Another one to note is the Celtic frost cover art that HR giger did. That thing freaked me out as a kid. As far as lettering I always liked Darkthrones logo and especially this band called Summoning. Just look at their band logo, it’s a piece of typography masterwork.
And thats the thing about graffiti, its a personal journey.
Despite all the Bode, hip-hop culture and addidas classics that are thrown at you the actual truth of graffiti, the faith of graffiti if you will is that its unique to everyone – to quote a crew based near me entitled ‘Unlikely Friends Of Spray’ (UFOS), it draws people from all walks of life but the message is always the same, make it your own. You only need look at the ‘rules’ of biting to acknowledge that. Take those initial inspirations and run with them.
And just like the album covers, we all remember how we got started in graff…
It wasn’t until early 2017 that I’d actually try my hand at painting graffiti. My friend took me to this wall off a bike trail in the middle of winter and I watched him paint a piece in complete amazement. I’ve been completely hooked since that night.
Seeing my buddy paint that wall basically connected all the dots for me. Prior to that I always thought graff was sick, but didn’t really understand how it was done, he humanized it for me if that makes sense. He had it down you know, he knew the drill: first lines, then fill, then 3D, then outline etc etc. up until that point I was just drawing but once I saw how it was done it opened up a whole new realm for me.
And it is this ‘humanizing’ of it that begins the journey. Graff is a process of seeing and learning, existing in the world in a certain way from which your style comes as a byproduct. Good style is harmonised through continued behaviour. Its the fear and adrenaline that you remember and mastery of style is a dance that comes as consequence of learning how to use one eye to see sideways and the other to guide your arm. And Sens for one as you can see, is a writer with a ton of style. But how does this come about?
I put a lot of focus into the overall shape of the piece, weaving each letter with one another like chain mail. I use lots of overlaps and try to distribute negative space evenly to create an aggressive and balanced look. I’m a big knife collector so this plays a big factor on my style. exaggerated bends and sweeping lines.
I’m always looking to improve my style and methods. Different ways to make my pieces jump off the surface. Light sources, shadows and shading, all that. Winter is gonna be here really soon so I’ll have a lot of time to hit the books and work on new outlines.
Writers exist on a spectrum between all out exposure to the unknown (street bombing, yards etc) and none at all (legal walls) and it is the synthesis of these two things that help to create your style. Style is what you know or atleast are willing to attempt to get away with.
And for Sens, craftsman that they are, this is a complex and interwoven unity between balance and energy. As it should be...
I like to take my time on a piece. If needed I can paint fast, but I’d much rather sit there and zone out for a few hours. Most of my painting goes down on the weekends so all week at work I’m thinking about what colors schemes I’m gonna do, what my outline is gonna look like etc etc. a lot of times I write down ideas and shit like that. If work is slow I’m doing sketches, simple line sketches of pieces to get an idea of how I want my piece to flow. Dialing down the motion. so i suppose, in that aspect, each piece is a vision. I’m just trying to top myself in my mind with each new piece. Try new things, bend letters differently. if I’m painting in a yard I’ll creep around a bit and make sure everything’s clear before I start. I guess the only pet peeve I have is I like to keep my paint tight, I only take out the can I’m using, everything else stays in the bag, you know in case I gotta split.
Chicago is big on bombing, and I am not much of a bomber. I’d rather stay back in the sticks and paint freight trains. In my experience most Chicago writers I’ve met focus primarily on painting the streets with big bold legible styles, I’m trying to do the opposite.
Like I said just trying to one up myself, war inside my head.
‘Each piece is a vision’ remember that i’d say, repeat it to yourself.
Just like those tetris blocks that disease your mind after you play the game for too long, graffiti is a worm that’ll eat your life without you knowing it. A chase for fame wrapped up in an addiction with adrenaline. Sens reflects on this further when talking about inspiration saying it could be ….
Anything, Spawns cape, concept cars, Saurons mask, survival tools, you name it man.
I’ve been an “artist” my whole life i suppose. I’ve always drawn. I keep a couple black books and usually sketch everyday. I’m not much of a smoker or drinker. I feel like I need to have a creative outlet to keep sane. As far as working towards something? Nah not really. I guess I’m just hungry. I’m a new jack. Most of this shit is all new to me so I’m just eager to get out there and do my thing. I’m not sure. Like I said, I need this outlet. If I wasn’t doing this I’d be creating something else.
But it’s not just art though is it as we’re all aware, sometimes art is the last thing on our minds and we’re loathe to describe ourselves as artists (even though we revere the ones that are). To imply you are a ‘writer’ means you are out writing your name, ‘artist’ is purely a description of the technical term. Art doesnt generate the stories, writing your name does, saying you are an artist doesnt satisfy the dark nights crouched by a roadside or your first time in a new yard or simply the act of painting with your friends and those weird moments that can come from it…
There was one moment me and my friend Neen had just finished painting a sick autorack. We hit this BBQ joint afterwords to celebrate, some little hole in the wall, really good food, carry out only. We’re sitting there maxing out in my car and look over and see a line passing by and it’s hauling a boxcar we painted probably 6 months prior. We both get all hyped up, “DAAAMN!!” BBQ sauce and shit all over. Definitely gota mention the Concepticons, the immortals, my homie Deploy, Gotel and Bernd and all the other cool writers I’ve met this far
And it is uniting no doubt about it, weirdo brothers in arms, Unlikely Friends Of Spray because you’ve gotta know who you invite in and i’ve invited the wrong people in before and they’ve been loud and drunk as fuck at times we definitely didnt need that and well lets just say our excursions were terminated pretty quickly. But that old addage remains true ‘respect your elders’ and such, because in this game your elders have definitely climbed more shit than you. Graffiti is learnt and your teachers and friends are important.
I try my best to meet and spray with other writers who’s work I admire. I’m always eager to see how other people approach the craft and learn more about the history. My friend Neen kind of showed me the ropes when it comes to street spots. Sae, Hider and a few other guys have given me advice on methods and techniques to help me step my game up. Anytime a writer of that caliber offers criticism or advice it holds a lot of weight with me. My homie Deploy has put me on with so much freight knowledge and Midwest graffiti history in general. I think an important lesson I’ve learned is to just stay in my lane and do my thing,Don’t get distracted by politics, focus on the craft and try to let your work do the talking.
a bulletpoint summary for how to do graff if anything
1. don’t get distrated by the politics
2. focus on the craft
3. let your work do the talking
Each informs the other; the politics govern the system, the system collects the styles, the styles do the talking. All from one, one from all.
A writer to me is someone who goes out and puts in the work, puts their name up, does their dirt, respects the culture and those who came before them and most importantly has fun painting. Getting off on the rush and the finished piece, enjoying the chase and the catch. Anyone in pursuit of the never ending chase
I write Sens and I’m from illinois. I used to sketch my civilian name, I dropped all the letters I didn’t like drawing and that’s how I ended up with sense. Then I dropped the last E and here I am. 4 letters is the perfect amount to me.
What’s up man? thank you for this.
You can find more of Sens work @10just2
And mine at @somekindofbible