You either hate it or love. There is no in between. It is scattered across bridges, tunnels, street signs, and walls. It can be found on the tallest roof tops and the sketchiest tunnels. Graffiti does not discriminate when it comes to a surface, as long as it can adhere. Some use it to gain fame while others do it for the sake of art. Graffiti, is a culture with its own language, ethics, and values.
I was able to get an interview with a local Vermont graffiti artist. This person describes what graffiti is like in Vermont and their connection with it. Read the interview and add your opinion.
What is graffiti culture? How would you define it?
Graffiti culture and hip-hop culture are nearly synonymous, not in terms of music, but in terms of motivation. I’ve met writers that listen to everything from metal to folk music, and obviously rap/hip-hop. But most writers share that desire to make each piece bigger and better, to learn from those before you, and teach some common sense to those after you. It’s about acknowledging those that laid the foundation or you, while still being able to do something entirely new.
How long have you been part of the Graffiti culture?
3 years or so, only took it seriously for about a year and a half.
What is your favorite part of graffiti?
The endless possibilities of progressing through different styles, experimenting with different letters/colorways, discovering new places (and how to get on top of them) that you would have never known existed otherwise.
Why do you do graffiti?
As far as I can tell there’s two types of writers. There’s those that spend all of their efforts on progressing a certain style, going bigger and more complex with their letterforms to paint “pieces” and murals. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s those that view it as quantity over quality, scrawling their tag on every object they find for the sake of the destruction and letting people see their names in crazier and crazier places. I’d say I was more about spending large amounts of time trying to perfect individual pieces in remote areas as opposed to tagging and bombing mass areas and high visibility spots.
How did you get started?
A few years back I saw some work from Banksy and I was hooked. I started making stencils to make this or that point and put a few up. That led to playing around with handstyles, and eventually piecing. I met one talented Burlington head that introduced me to dozens of other writers and showed me the ropes over the course of a summer or two.
How does Graffiti affect your life?
Graffiti isn’t a huge factor at the moment, since I’m trying to step out of it while I can still say I’ve never been arrested. That said, my traditional art is definitely influenced by the colors, emphasis on shapes and lines, and the hip hop culture that birthed graffiti. I’ve noticed I’m a lot more cautious now whenever I’m getting into something new. I make sure I learn some background before acting like I know what’s up.
What is the graffiti culture like in Vermont?
Graffiti culture in Vermont is struggling at the moment. As far as I can tell (graff history is rarely well recorded, and relies on word of mouth to pass down knowledge) it had it’s golden years only slightly after NYC’s golden age, probably since it’s close enough that the knowledge and skills made their way to Burlington long before middle school kids on the internet could google King Cope. A few of the original writers are still around, with evidence from their mostly broken up crews. A younger generation, that I was a part of, has started to emerge in the last 6-7 years. There’s a lot of talent, but there’s also a lot of mindless kids with no respect for history going over local legends which leaves the older heads hating most/all of us.
How is the Graffiti culture in VT different from other states? How is it the same?
I would say it tends to be more of the artistic/piecing side of graffiti than the tagging and bombing. This is usually how it goes in areas too small for a writer to be out hitting different interstate overpasses and billboards. It’s definitely a newer style, which some older writers see as impure graffiti, since it’s original form was 100% about getting your name out. In the beginning it didn’t matter if your letters were busted if you were running an area of your city. It was all about quantity over quality. It’s changed into more of an art form for better or worse, with kids trying to paint burners before they can sketch a straight-lettered piece.
What would tell someone who is interested in starting?
I would tell them not to rush ANYTHING. Learn your history, spend months learning about structure and filling up sketchbooks with simple pieces and work on a name long before you ever pick up your first can. NEVER go over anything that isn’t by a name you don’t know for a fact is lower on the totem pole than you in the beginning, and don’t waste your money on expensive paint and fancy paint until your good enough to use it. Other than that, learn how run like a ************, and meet someone who knows the local spots. Don’t ever drops names for no good reason, unless you want to get labeled a snitch. Do it for the love; leave your “thug from the suburbs” attitude behind and bring back all of the incredible things that the culture used to be about.
Opinions? Share them in the comment section. Also…What do you think of graffiti? Is it an art form or just another form of vandalism?
- Are you an artist reading this story? Would you like to contribute or add your side of the story? Send me an email. All contact info is confidential and I will only share what you are comfortable with sharing. Having said that, this is a public blog, so please only share non-incriminating information. I am will not be held liable.