Graffiti: Sketches + Pieces

I drew this in 1997 for my 1st graffiti piece. I used blue and purple pencil crayons for the lettering and yellow paint for the arrows.

I was really into graffiti back when I was in my senior years of high school (’95-’97).  I wasn’t into the tagging crap you see on mailboxes, I was into the full out colourful mural pieces.  Graffiti is generally thought of in a negative light because of the illegal aspects, but for me it was a very empowering art form.  It was a way for me to explore my own creativity because it has no boundaries.  I already had a huge appreciation for artistic and stylized lettering from my Dad who was a Hand Letterer/Sign Writer (I talked about this in a previous post), so being able to express myself through my own lettering was exciting.  However, not everyone was so encouraging.  I’ll never forget the time my high school art teacher exclaimed: “It’s not art if it’s not in the textbook.”.  Can you believe the close mindedness?!  Ugh, it’s insane.  That basically shuts out most art on this planet!  I remember how much her opinion completely frustrated me.  Thankfully my good friend Air33 (who was as much into graffiti as I was), teamed up with me and we went out to paint walls together.  Female graf artists are rare, so we stuck together, but we were usually not taken that seriously by other artists.  We weren’t looking for approval though, we were doing it for the fun of it.

I was heavily influenced by DAIM and LOOMIT, as they were both totally groundbreaking graffiti artists at the time. 3D lettering was sort of just emerging, and that was the style that I loved. Every single one of their pieces was totally mind blowing and inspiring. Each graffiti artist uses a fake name to identify themselves and write with. I chose the name STAR33. Stars are meaningful to me because they symbolize hope and guidance. Graffiti gave me artistic hope and inspiration. 33 is a special number in my family. :)


^ This is my very first piece ever! It was my first time spray painting, so I was getting used to using the spray nozzle (as you can see it’s quite messy). I found out fast that it’s hard to use if you don’t have strong hands. :S I had to change my initially planned purple to orange because we couldn’t get any purple spraypaint. :P


^ I got to paint on this wall because I was chosen (along with 2 other people) as one of the winners of the Scarborough Arts Council Urban Art Mural Competition in 1996. Each of us were given a huge wall to paint in a dilapidated factory area of Scarborough that was visible from the RT line. It took many weekends in very cold weather to get it done. We were mentored by Sady, who was one of the Scarborough Graffiti greats. It was an amazing learning experience.


^ This was drawn for my 3rd graffiti piece. I wanted it to look shredded, and coloured like there were spotlights shining down on it. The very bottom of the letters spell out “MANICAN”, which was my brother’s B-Boy name at the time.


^ Here’s the piece in progress on the Keele wall in Toronto that is visible from the Bloor subway line. That’s AIR33 on the left and me on the right just before the cops showed up and stopped our progress before we could even get 1/2 way!  Haha. :S This pic is from 1997 (man, I feel old!) :P [Pic property of Air33]


^ Next up I did this mural for the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre (NTMCC) in 1997. They didn’t allow spraypaint inside the building (due to poor ventilation), so I airbrushed and hand painted the whole thing. I sketched everything out on paper first, then projected my sketches on the wall. Then I outlined the letters and characters with pencil, and from there I painted everything. It took a few months, because I only had a few hours to go there after school. My Dad helped me out tons on this project from letting me use his airbrush, projector, scaffolding and of course a few mural painting tips. Thanks Dad! :)


^Here are some of the (super shiney looking) characters. They’re supposed to look sporty since the mural is in a Community Centre. If you notice in the pic of me above, I’m wearing the same red shorts as my mural. LOL. I haven’t been back to NTMCC in years, so I don’t even know if this mural is there anymore. :P

When I got into College I didn’t have any time left to do extra art on the side (they worked us like dogs!), so I stopped doing graffiti altogether.  :\  But I still totally love and appreciate the art form to this day!  If you want to see Toronto Graffiti (’96-’97) from lots of amazing artists, check out my photo gallery here.  My girl Air33 is producing a photography book called T.Oldskool, all about old school Toronto graffiti.  Keep an eye on her site because the book will be available soon! :)