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Back in the Day – Typography as Public Art

Journal

Public art, whether they want it or not.

tldr: A self-indulgent look at what I used to do when people weren't looking.

You wouldn't know it to look at me now (I'm pretty boring), but I used to have street cred. It's true. Back in the day, back when I was a baggy-panted teenager with a pager, I was all city.

What does that mean? It means that I'd written my name across the city — from suburb to suburb, from top to bottom. I had a map, I would plot out routes beforehand, and I would set out for a night of writing my name on every surface I passed. Not to brag, but some even considered me all-city-king at the time but that honor has to go out to 'Ren'.

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The tools of the trade

This is all years ago, mostly before I attended art school. As far as I know there is actually only one piece still up. It's actually surprising that it still exists at all considering the nature of graf – where some pieces might not even last the week before being painted over.

What's It All About

I did it for the love of it, I did it because it was cool, I did it to have a voice, I did it because I was an alienated youth in a city of millions. I don't think I'll ever feel as famous as 'Skid' did back in the Toronto graffiti scene days of the early/mid nineties. I don't need that outlet anymore though; largely thanks to graffiti I found my way into art school and into other ways of having a voice. Still, if I ever get a tattoo it will be of my graf name across my back.

The Collection

The other day while I was cleaning up my studio and organizing the painting storage rack I'd just built I happened across a shoebox of old photos and I guess it got me to reminiscing about the late nights and alleyways where I came from.

The following are some shots of works done with the "more legal" name I used to write towards the end of my graf days. I'll keep the bombing name out of this, not for legal worries, but because the tag was ugly.

Style is King

Graf has changed very little over the years. Some people have brought new and innovative approaches to it, and the paint quality is better, for the most part it's remained locked in traditions established forty years ago. These murals could have just as easily be from yesterday as from twenty years ago. The only thing that dates them is that they were taken using a non-digital camera — scans of dusty photographs taped together to make panoramics and stored in a shoebox.

Style 1

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College paint store
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Concrete Canvas — Hamilton Show '97
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Queen st. aka Graffiti Alley

Style 2

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Part of a commissioned mural done with ‘Fame' for Sony Music Canada
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Concrete Canvas — Hamilton expo '98
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416 graffiti expo
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Ghost style
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On canvas

Style 3

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As far as I know this is the last remaining piece I have up
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Gad Szuks!

Something Different

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The first version was vandalized so I reused the forehead and made it better.

Style 4

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Concrete Canvas — Hamilton '99
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Those Were the Days

Sometimes I still think about hanging up all the other forms of artwork and just going back to the alleys.