By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Graffiti, by contrast, is a young art, barely acknowledged as art. Engelbrecht is the oldest person in the room whenever Martinez and his graffiti artists get together to draw in their “black books,” sketchbooks that are passed around and autographed.
She learned to economize, to improvise. Art stores sell fancy spray nozzles now, but graffiti crews used to yank them off hobby paint cans and oven cleaners. Glass perfume bottles are convenient for carrying around small quantities of paint for sweet, quick tags. “Quick” as in hug your girl, lean against a wall and scribble the tag while pretending to be kissing. “Sweet” as in your tag literally smells nice.
Martinez is confident, a self-made man, but if he were to study more black letter, it would make him a better street artist, he concedes. He would learn discipline. The purest calligraphy is plain black ink. You can’t cover sloppiness with distracting, eye-catching color.
He teaches budding street artists how to paint on model toy trains instead of real ones. He just did a huge wall on Washington and Western, two stories tall and perfectly legal. Better to parlay skills into gainful commerce than to tear up the city. As with calligraphers, it’s hard for graffiti artists to find real jobs.
In any case, Engelbrecht despises the vandalism but admires the passion. Deprived of art in their schools, the kids are willing to hang off a freeway sign — risking life and limb — to sign their name.
“What is that about?” Engelbrecht asks. “Why do they do that? Is it the thrill?”
“It is,” he says.
Everyone has their own way of making their mark.
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