Traveling is a rite of passage to graffiti writers, as your involvement in the culture increases so does the need to expand geographically, to seek new spots and friends. The same dream often appears; living on the road and painting as you go, experiencing nothing but graffiti itself. I managed to chat to Jez about his love of Graff and some recent adventures.
…..That there was the end of the longest spraycation I have ever taken, although I hope to have a few more like that in my lifetime. All together I think it was about 5 months. It was extremely difficult at some points, not necessarily knowing where I was going to stay or how I was going to pay for the next plane ticket but some how I always figured out a way. A lot of people think that money solves all of your problems, but for me personally, time spent doing things that I love in a new and exciting environment equals complete bliss and happiness for me
I used to skate just like most graff writers, and the two cultures are so immeshed with one another that if you skate you are eventually going to run into some people that write. The first time I was exposed to graffiti was by a kid in my junior high class that I used to skate with. we were in class and he was drawing in a black book. I looked over his shoulder to check it out and he was rocking a piece. it was probably more of a throw up, but back then in my eyes it was super dope. Shortly after that we went on some skating and tagging missions and I was hooked! The combination of adrenaline, self-expression, the opportunity to be recognized and make a name for myself was everything I ever wanted! Since then I’ve never looked back. Skaters have shirts that say Skate or Die, well I say Paint or Die! I’m just fucking around. That’s my dumb sense of humor if you didn’t catch it…
What keeps me in it… Fuck I don’t even know. Honestly graff causes me a lot more grief than anything else that’s for sure. I’ve lost about everything you can think of to this. That’s the truth. I’ve lost my freedom, lost friends, lost girlfriends and a wife. Now I sound like a country song. Just gotta add a pickup truck and some beer!!! But no seriously, the satisfaction I get from painting an awesome freight is unexplainable. Just the feeling I get when I paint a piece that I’m actually satisfied with, and that’s difficult, they come few and far between because I am definitely my own worst critic!!! It’s hard for me to paint something that I’m truly happy with. So overall I’d say striving to paint something better than the last piece I did is what keeps me in the game more than anything else.
when I’m there with that wall, or that train sitting in front of me and I’m painting, that’s the only thing that matters in life. Everything else melts away. I don’t have any problems, I’m not thinking about rent, I’m not thinking about baby mama drama, lmao!!! But you have that peace of mind when you’re in the middle of doing a piece and all that matters is the next color you’re going to lay down, or the next cut back everything else in the world just fades away. I guess you could say it’s my form of meditation. In my opinion life doesn’t get much better than that.
Traveling is definitely a huge part of being in the graffiti scene for several reasons in my opinion. I think that it exposes you to a whole lot of different styles because I feel like every different area kind of has their own twist on lettering styles as well as character and background styles. Just as a couple examples you know I feel like California developed that real sharp aggressive almost organic/bio mechanical style that you see a lot of guys doing nowadays. New York I feel like originated in that sort of funk style that moved into the Midwest and especially into the freight train game. Obviously a lot of people were influenced by Marvel comic book art and Anime. You see a lot of characters and backgrounds that came out of the Japanese style of art. So I think getting exposed to so many different styles was a big part of traveling before a Instagram was around and you could just grab your phone and look up you know #NewYorkGraffiti or #LosAngelesGraffiti etc. etc.
I think there are definitely a lot of other reasons that graffiti writers travel as well as exposure to different styles. I mean there are all kinds of events that take place around the world now that are opportunities for us to get together and paint huge walls as well as showcase our art to people in those cities that have never seen our work before. Both graffiti writers and your average Joe and Sally that live in the neighborhood. It’s actually surprising how many people that don’t write graffiti actually appreciate a lot of the graffiti that’s being done. Now don’t get me wrong there are probably more that hate it, but the amount of positive feedback that I normally get when painting a piece at an event is astonishing to me. I suppose the ones that hate it are probably just too scared to say anything. Hahahaha… Any how that’s just one more aspect of why myself and hundreds probably thousands of other graffiti writers travel to paint.
For me personally another reason I travel is that after living somewhere for so long the same physical landscape becomes for lack of a better word boring or monotonous to paint. You know once you’ve painted at least almost all of the spots that your city has to offer you begin to want to venture out and paint something different. I think it’s just human nature to want to explore and travel and to leave your mark while you’re doing it. When I travel to a city that I’ve never been to before I like to kind of drive around aimlessly and both get a feel for the environment and also do a little bit of reconnaissance to see what spots look good to go hit. If it’s an off day and I’m not painting I like to call those days R&R days, racking and recon days. Before we had smart phones where you could just pin a location are used to drive around racking and writing down addresses or intersections of the locations I would want to paint. It’s great to have different choices when you are headed out to go paint because who knows what’s going to happen, you might show up and the cops are doing some kind of investigation or there was a fucking car accident right next to the spot that you wanted to paint so there are firetrucks cops and EMS workers everywhere. Fuck it then you move onto the next spot.
I’ve never really thought about it before but there are so many reasons that graffiti writers travel. I probably won’t even be able to discuss everything involved with it in an interview. Nor will I be able to describe the feeling of going somewhere new to paint. when you’re not familiar with an area. There’s always that feeling of the unknown that can be kind of unsettling because you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into. But to be completely honest with you that’s part of the fun. That extra kick of adrenaline due to that unknown factor is definitely an exciting feeling.
I hate to bring this up because in all honesty this shouldn’t be the reason people write graffiti but in all reality fame and ego is a huge driving force for 98% of people who write graffiti. You travel and paint different cities so that the people in those cities begin to take notice and recognize your name. The last time I went on an extremely long spraycation, as a lot of us like to call it, within 3 to 7 days of me being in a few of those cities I already had people sending me DM’s asking me if I was still in town. Crazy how Instagram has changed things! If this was 10 or 15 years ago I would have passed through those cities and towns without meeting a single graffiti writer unless someone had put us in contact somehow. But that happening just goes to show you how quickly the local writers take notice to an out-of-towner showing up in their city and painting spots. Although I try to paint graffiti mostly because I enjoy it and it gives me some sort of self satisfaction I’m not going to lie there is that piece of me that travels and paints different cities to gain some recognition in different places.
Traveling and painting different places is also kind of a right of passage for a lot of us. It’s quite egotistical but some well traveled writers will kind of hold that status above somebody’s head if they only paint their city. I can’t stand people’s egotistical bullshit sometimes. I’ve definitely dealt with writers and their egos before which is why I try to stay as humble as humanly possible! I don’t think that makes you a better or worse writer, I just feel like hey, why wouldn’t you want to explore the unknown and paint it while you’re at it!
A while back I took a trip to New Jersey and New York to both kind of do the family thing with my ex and to paint of course. I’ve got a few crew members in both New Jersey and New York so of course I need to link up with them while I’m there. I painted a legal wall in New Jersey and hit a trackside spot out there as well. The rest of the time I was out there being that for the most part we took public transportation I literally just tagged on everything in sight. Needless to say my ex was not thrilled, but that’s how it goes when you go on vacation with a dedicated graffiti writer. while I was out there we were so close to Philadelphia that I had to take a day trip out there. I met up with another buddy of mine out there after eating a traditional Philly cheese steak of course, and went to go paint a couple bandos. I got really lucky because it looked like the Weather wasn’t going to clear up enough for me to actually paint, but just before we went and just after we got done it was raining cats and dogs. The graff gods were looking out for us that day!
Another spot that I’ve traveled to twice now it is Kansas City Missouri. I’ve been out there twice because they have the Kansas City Masterpiece event that Years KE throws annually. The first year I got a wall in one of the alleyways that they use for the event. I was happy with it because luckily I didn’t have to battle the sun all day like everybody else did. I also painted the fence outside of the location where they throw the art show. The second year we got a pretty large wall and had a great lineup. I’m not going to name names but we were supposed to have one more person on the wall and we had saved space for them and they dropped out at the last minute leaving us with this kind of blank spot that needed to be filled so I rocked this kind of weird looking LA underneath my piece, which I hated but got several compliments on. Hey shit happens and sometimes you need to make the best out of what you’ve got. I think that’s one things that’s great about a well versed graffiti writer. Because of the weird positions we’ve been put in painting illegal spots, or not having enough of the right color etc. etc. we can normally adapt and at least kind of make it work in someway shape or form
I guess I will go over the list of places that I’ve traveled and painted recently, which is a small list in comparison to a lot of the guys in the game. As I think I said before I’m from California. I was born and raised in Los Angeles; Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley to be specific. Naturally California would be the first state that I traveled and painted. Early in my career I spent some time up in San Francisco and Oakland just bombing because honestly I wasn’t very talented at the time. On the road trip you would always try to hit spots along the way. Normally the five freeway would be the easiest target. The first place I ventured out and painted other than California was Arizona. I came out to Arizona for an event they had going on called Paint Phoenix. I traveled to Arizona again the next year for the event but unfortunately that would be the last year the city would allow us to throw the event. everybody got sick of the entire city getting blasted with unwanted graff. Fuck em is my honest opinion. So regardless of the event I would travel to Arizona pretty consistently to paint with the friends that I had made out there. I probably painted with Bueloe TAF MBS MHC more than anyone in the area for the first couple years I was traveling back-and-forth from California to Arizona but my network there definitely grew quickly. Now I have three guys from GW that live in Arizona. Mask, Alias and Erode. Mask is as solid as they come and is starting to push his style more and more. Alias has been painting more freight in Arizona than anybody that I’ve seen in quite some time. Erode has kind of been out of touch recently but hey it happens.
At one point I drove through New Mexico but to be honest with you I didn’t really accomplish much there. Just some scribes on gas pumps etc. etc. so honestly it’s not much to speak on. I spent some time out in Austin Texas which was both fun and stressful, I’ll leave the stressful part out because it has nothing to do with graffiti anyway. Austin was a great city to visit, lots of live music, beautiful green lush landscape due to the river that runs through it. I went out there and painted with Sloke the first time I went. another time I went was during a art show that Sloke and a few other people were throwing and had been throwing annually for years. I helped out with setting up the show and did some live painting there alongside some very talented graffiti writers (Sloke, News and Supher) as well as few amazing street artists. Please notice that I do classify graffiti writers and street artists differently. We are different breeds there is no question about that!!! The next day a bunch of us got together early in the morning to go paint a wall regardless of the fact that we had all partied pretty damn hard the night before. This wall was just for us to have fun and enjoy each other’s company while painting. There was no specific color scheme or hey you have to do this and you have to do that. It’s always nice to do walls like that here and there. No pressure just music playing in the background, a grill burning with some authentic Texas links on it and a group of OG Texas graffiti writers painting what the hell they wanted to. That was a fun wall!!!
From there I went straight to New Orleans. To be completely honest I went there on some type of crazy nomad experience. I had no clue where I was going to stay or what I was going to do. I just knew that I had several hundred dollars in Store credit for paint and about $500 to my name. Somebody that I knew and Arizona had pointed me in the direction of another dude that wrote graffiti out in New Orleans so I linked up with him the first night I got there. First thing we did was go and stash my stuff at a spot that he knew I could squat at if I needed to. Luckily that night somebody was nice enough to offer me a couch to sleep on. I don’t know how I got so damn lucky. Anyway I stayed in New Orleans for about 2 1/2 weeks bombing the streets as much as I could and pulling all of the rack and returns I could possibly do so that I could both have paint and enough money to get out of there and onto my next destiination.
From there I caught a plane to Chicago and a buddy of mine picked me up from the airport. He actually lived in Milwaukee. So we drove back to Milwaukee that night and pretty much immediately drove to a bar to grab a couple beers. What was perfect about this bar is that it was right next to a track side spot that we could paint. While in Milwaukee my buddy and I continually painted trains and trackside spots almost nightly. we hit a few freeway and street spots as well but honestly the bus is so bad that it’s almost not even worth it. Since I was in Milwaukee and I was so close to Chicago I took a trip out there during the same period of time. I painted a legal wall in Chicago with a crew mate of mine as well as an abandoned spot out in Indiana. my time spent painting in Milwaukee was extremely productive. It’s really unfortunate that my phone broke shortly afterwards and I lost tons of pictures and videos from this long ass spraycation!!!
From Milwaukee I caught a flight down to South Carolina. Technically I was in North Carolina as well but it was just for a layover so it doesn’t count in my mind. I had a friend down there that I hadn’t seen in many years who had invited me to come spend some time with him. He used to go out on bombing missions with me but it was never really his forte. Unfortunately I would say that I probably painted less in South Carolina than I did anywhere else but honestly there isn’t much graffiti in Charleston to begin with. From what I saw there were about three or four active graffiti riders out there. Due to the lack of graffiti out there people took notice to the fact that I was there very quickly. Within the first week I had been contacted by a couple of people out there. We went on A few drunk tagging spree’s after the bars, hit a few street spots and painted a handful of trains I’d say 7 to 10 maybe in the three weeks I was there. Luckily we were very close to Savannah Georgia where I have another crew member and I was able to go out there to visit him and hit a freeway spot as well as a bunch of tags throughout the city. It’s kind of funny it just happened to be the right timing but they had some sort of parade going on the next day so everybody saw the spots we had caught and I even believe a few of them were caught by local camera crews during the parade.
That there was the end of the longest spraycation I have ever taken, although I hope to have a few more like that in my lifetime. All together I think it was about 5 months. It was extremely difficult at some points, not necessarily knowing where I was going to stay or how I was going to pay for the next plane ticket but some how I always figured out a way. A lot of people think that money solves all of your problems, but for me personally, time spent doing things that I love in a new and exciting environment equals complete bliss and happiness for me.
Any and all spraycation sponsors please send me a DM on Instagram!!! My dream job would be to get paid by a paint company to travel and paint different cities around the world. So Montana, Belton, Loop, Kobra, Clash, Ironlak, 360, Flame, Rust-O-Leum (Yaeh right!) get at your boy! Lol… Shit I wish!!!