Graffiti Art has existed in my life since 1984 when I discovered it as a 14 year old youth from the documentary film Style Wars (Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant). This film was the story of New York HipHop and graffiti on subway trains. I was already a practicing artist since early childhood. In fact, it is my earliest memories. However, by high school, I was becoming bored with traditional art forms. The graffiti medium and genre helped to revitalize my interest in art. I was so influenced by what I saw in Style Wars that within a few days, I was out painting under some bridge. Little did I know at the time, I was the first one in the Twin Cities to do so. Later that summer, others joined as we shared a common interest from the same film.
In 1987, a portfolio of graffiti-influenced work mixed with traditional high school art earned my acceptance into the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago (SAIC), where I majored in printmaking and practiced graffiti outside the institution. After graduating in 1991, I moved back to Minneapolis and opened House of Daskarone. This was a Gallery, Studio, Print Shop, and Education Center. This gave birth to Juxtaposition Arts in 1995. I taught graffiti art next to other forms of visual arts, also a first in the Twin Cities. I resigned from the organization in 2008 to pursue another personal interest.
In 2012, I received a Bush Fellowship. During this Fellowship, I designed curriculums and lesson plans to bring graffiti art into school classrooms. The resulting curriculum combines the aesthetics of graffiti with artistic foundations like artistic principles and design elements. SPRAYFINGER® is a direct result of my work through the Bush Fellowship. It focuses on the advancement and development of graffiti art.
After 30 years of being involved with graffiti art, and someone that has mainly focused on decor, technique, color, background and size to execute graffiti murals, I am now more immersed in the art of graffiti writing. This is the study of letter structure, construction, and creative font development, which is the true source and foundation of graffiti. Since the act of graffiti writing has become an art form, many artists have utilized this and are painting phenomenal things and reshaped what is possible within the aerosol art form. Graffiti is going high tech and murals are being done with the utmost of skill, beauty, technique and at a very high degree of artistry. I appreciate and enjoy this greatly, yet I feel that raw graffiti lettering is being replaced by artistic tricks. The value of artistic elements and design principles tend to mask its true essence and the importance of letters, text, and writing. The art that is created using a name as the subject. This is what I promote in SPRAYFINGER.
SPRAYFINGER builds partnerships with artists, teachers, business owners, arts organizations, community leaders, parents, and students of all ages to address and discuss culture, community, expression, and the process of graffiti writing as an artistic value. By developing curricula, outlines, and techniques that are in line with state artistic standards, and merging the language used by art teachers and the language of street art, SPRAYFINGER delivers high-quality arts instruction.
SPRAYFINGER has four key teaching components:
History of graffiti is discussed by its foundation as a youth lead movement, started in the late 1960’s. It focuses on the pioneers and their motivations for creating it as well as discussing the many new and current approaches, sub-groups, and reasons for graffiti since its beginnings.
Drawing, participants learn the difference between writing and drawing letters. Students learn to draw and manipulate letters from my quadrilateral grid technique, which can involve an entire relearning of the alphabet.
Collage uses a variety colored paper and paints as a mixed media to cut, layer, and glue these materials together creating interesting letter designs. It’s usually the most satisfying component as it yields amazing results.
Aerosol and spray-paint is the apex of the graffiti culture. Students learn “Can Control” by using various hand and finger pressures, speed, distance, and angles, as well as the use of several aerosol nozzles (caps), the artists may create a wide range of spraying techniques to bring his or her letters and art alive.
SPRAYFINGER’s process for teaching this exciting and controversial art form has opened many eyes to its artistic merits. Graffiti has an uncanny way of reaching people, drawing them in, and allowing them to express themselves in ways they never thought possible.