In the Spring of 2017 I had the honor of painting Bill’s Wheels Skate Shop on Soquel Ave. in Santa Cruz, California. Bill has been running his famous SC institution for forty years, offering the best skateboarding equipment around (he stocks the Adidas Busenitz pro-model in my size) and showcasing some of northern California’s finest graffiti-writers (TiTs Crew, Lords Crew, etc.) as well as guest-artists from all over the country (and the world). I remember arriving in SC after a flight from Boston and seeing Massachusetts freight-legend “Ichabod” emblazoned on the side of Bill’s, sporting the familiar MBTA “Circle-T” crew-emblem. The exterior walls of the shop are well-curated with a choice blend of styles, so I felt in good company when Bill gave me a spot next to Australian native “Aerosol One” whose double-vanishing-point 3-d piece sprawls across the center of the back wall. The flowing geometric shapes of his piece give way to a hot-dog character sporting a mustache and emceeing the piece while puffing on a spliff:
I pulled out all the stops for this production, painting a greyscale portrait of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn next to a burner in joker-colors that boasts two skylines (one rural, one urban) and a smooth three-purple fade. The timing of this mural coincided with the release of the movie “Suicide Squad”; I may have been subconsciously saturated with high-definition digital close-ups of the adorably sociopathic Quinn… she was a joy to paint in any case, especially her sneer, her viciously indignant glare, and the iridescence of her black-opal necklace. I painted her in about six hours with Montana Gold matte-finish paints, which are the most available German brand locally here in Santa Cruz.
What Santa Cruz production of mine would be complete without the inclusion of my west-coast connection, the Pride of California Thrash Kids? P-Ride caps off the wall in the three-spot, rocking a velvety-purple fill accented by psychedelic green orbs in the background. His letters are a tour-de-force in the kick-boxer-stanced style of norcal burning. His razor-sharp cut-backs and cracked antiquing create an intensely detailed piece that invites you to get lost in its smaller moments.
I’m back in the Santa Cruz area in 2018 and I’m stoked to announce that Bill has invited the boys and I back over to paint another production this February! Stay tuned for the new episode! Coming Soon!
Every winter I have the privilege of making a pilgrimage to norcal where this spot lays in the cut. The homie Pride sharpens up his scissor-style letters while I grind through a grey-scale study. I’m digging the pink pixels that drift off of his piece like a de-frag file. The vato is studying video-game design in Silicon Valley, and the hours upon hours of relentless gaming are beginning to imprint his artistic vision…
How do we reconcile the duality of our own awareness? What kinds of psychological gymnastics are required to balance the waking life against the dreaming one? How can we convince internal enemies to break bread together within ourselves?: The yearning for stability vs. the thrill of spontaneity, the drive to create vs. the need to consume, the longing for connection vs. the sense of self-preservation, etc… I’ve been re-weighing these balances while focusing on greyscale portraiture here in Santa Cruz, California.
There are two ways to paint these pieces: from light to dark, or from dark to light. The former fades into existence, advancing from a blinding blank background like a piece of photo-paper dropped into the toner. The latter flickers forward from an endlessly receding void, like a familiar face pronouncing itself as it’s met by candlelight in a dark room. This latest freckle-featured addition to my Greyscale Girls series is painted from dark to light–negative values transforming to positive ones–a pixie-faced beauty beaming from beneath the Bougainvillea.
This collaborative piece resides in Soquel (pronounced “so-KEL”), a serene village to the east of Santa Cruz that remains a cradle of California surf and skate culture. When my partner and I strolled into the spot, our client was stripping old plywood from a backyard bowl to make way for a straight-up homemade half-pipe. Construction is due to be completed by June; the finished atmosphere will showcase both local skateboarding talent and the cutting edge of spray-can culture.
Dr. Pride rides shotgun in this speedy afternoon production, painted in under four hours circa Valentines Day, 2016. The fellow who commissioned this piece is raising a teenage son who dabbles in tagging (the purely signature-oriented side of graffiti); he was stoked to have some pros roll through and show the kid what’s possible. Make no mistake, spray-can art is the largest folk-art movement in modern history; it’s global, and it’s limits as a medium have not yet been touched, even as a new generation comes up on the block.
Two years is too long to be without Californian comfort. I’ve just returned to sunny Santa Cruz County a mere hop and skip ahead of Nor-eastern snowfall. After a couple days of shaking off the jet-lag with Peruvian coffee, farm-stand kiwis, and tamales de pollo, I headed over to the West side to christen a private music studio with ancient rites of hieroglyphic glamour. An extensive selection of prescription-strength Montana paint (Spanish and German) is available over-the-counter at Palace Art on Pacific Ave. in downtown Surf City (they even carry the “Mystic” [German] transparent colors that I’m so fond of.) After selecting a seamless greyscale, I met up with hometown homegrown-scientist Dr. Pride at the spot on Mission St. My subject for the evening was a breathless blonde black-and-white photograph; languishing in her good looks; lips gently parted in subconscious suggestion of speech or sex–a duo-chromatic composition that combines graduated shading with fluid gesture. She’s painted in the “Sin City” style of selective embellishment –Montana Whiteline “Hot Lips” Gloss-finish Red is the only color that compliments the frame. This piece was painted in haste in a single evening on white-primed interior cinder-block. Dr. P-Ride adjusts the adjacent wall with a classy California Thrash Kids chaos-piece that boasts six color-schemes in a single bound. The kind and good doctor has a piecing style so technical that it requires full schematics and an undergrad in urban engineering to decipher. Meanwhile, the prevailing theme in my life, and my art currently, is simplification: painting in a loose, open-ended style that feels like a sketchbook-page spread-out on the bricks, or getting on a cross-country flight with a backpack and a skateboard; just a couple of things left to say and a cool hand to spray them with.
About halfway through the story of Tiger vs. Pyse, our west-coast cat shape-shifts to assume another of his incarnated forms: P-ride CTK CTV. With an alternate letter-set to rock with that’s as worn-in as a pair of hockey skates, the Pridemonster takes to the ice in Bruins’ black and gold. His season opener sports Bali-blue highlights cut as sharp as sapphires with chilling precision and prideful indignation–a piece that threatens to pull your shirt over your head and beat your nose bloody. I’ve overheard gossip in the stands lately about the “giftedness” and “phenomena” of certain writers on the bench. Those are words that only spectators use. The guys who are out here playing in the paint every week and supplying this spectator sport are punching clocks every time they drop the gloves. Nobody who’s any good is out there talking about getting rich; they’re talking about getting back to work. Not everyone can play the sport like Bobby Orr played it, and that’s okay with me; it takes just as much heart to play exclusively for the love of the game. The pieces below were painted for no occasion whatsoever:
Pride floats across the continent from Santa Cruz on a cloud of the highest-grade smoke while Fritz the cat puffs and plots some stick-up art of his own. (Fritz by Pyse)
Pyse’s cherry-rock piece bleeds black from bullet-holes and rains flat Rusto drips while flexing in a Satin-white outline that’s so fresh and so clean.
Pride comes back around the block once more to show us the westerly art of the “Chaos Piece” in which each letter bumps a different color scheme. Dopey (by Pride) drops out of Disney to emcee the whole production…I wonder what he’s holding in that hand behind his back…
These are the last efforts from the PrideTiger Vs. Pyse exhibition match of Summer 2015. There’s still some dispute about who took the title, my manager is looking for a rematch in Santa Cruz this winter. Tighten your skates and tape up your sticks boys.
Tiger CTK,CTV is an urban animal that thrives in the bloodlust of the big city so I took him to an alleyway in back of Central Kitchen to stalk some graf game. Pyse LS,RTW is a slippery suburban fish that shimmers in the copper-chrome current. Painting in Central Square is always performance art; Cambridge bystanders stop and suck fumes. Tiger was vibing with a born-again who said he used to write with Boston legend Alert before he found Jesus, I guess the savior isn’t rocking handstyles in heaven. Meanwhile, I was getting hustled for half-empty cans by some dreadlock toy with bad angles. In short, this spot always spells distraction. The restaurateur makes sure that artwork wraps up by opening-time; chaperoned youth-groups show up to stress out pieces indiscriminately but Pyse & Co. persevere, slinging paint and still making the time to pose hard. The cardiographic blue pulse-line in my rope is just to show you that I got a hand steadier than an amateur surgeon after his second drink. Tiger’s piece ran for two days before a go-over by someone with less can-control than an AA meeting in Milwaukee. After this double-burner was documented, we strolled to Harvard for cheeseburgers and beers at Charlie’s Kitchen…well, beers for me anyway; Tiger’s a sober cat.
I’ve been in the rhythm of painting live shows lately. Gloucester sweetheart Carol Pallazolla invited Santa Cruz, CA graffiti writer Tiger a.k.a Pride and myself to paint an 8’X20′ mural on a set of five individual panels at her late-summer event: The First Annual Harvest Moon Festival. Tiger was only six hours off a cross-country flight when he painted a pumpkin-head character in under an hour like he was stepping off a curb. Then he turned around and gave an interview to a local-access television reporter, laying on heavy vibes of sunny Cali carelessness. The festival featured a wide selection of food, crafts, and booze, with performances by Fishtown icon Alan Estes, Henry Allen and the New Swingset, and Jenny Dee and the Delinquents among others. I managed to get a thorough sunburn on my right side while painting this monster (the leftmost four panels of which are for sale individually or as a set). All in all it was a beautiful day; Tiger and I look forward to performing again next year. Please view the “contact” tab at the top of the screen for more information about purchasing a piece of this mural.
The last sweet breath of Summer breeze brought my friend Tiger on a Delta Red-eye from L.A. Tiger is a mad-laboratory-scientist-turned-graffiti-extraterrestrial from another dimension not unlike our own. Transformed by experimental artworks, he emerged a symbiotic creature of his own creation. This is evidenced by a meticulously clean style that thinly masks the seething tentacles of a Martian beast unknown to our world. Homeboy even brought an auger with him from the lab so that he could tunnel into the subterranean wreckage beneath our city and colonize the place. Tiger is a colorful Casanova, and one of his demands was that I provide leashed female beauty to escort him around the planet. He was satisfied to floss beside the Girl with the Silver Chain, a ghetto visage of spunk sprayed to life by the legendary Pyse117. The West-Coast Wildstyle letters were achieved exclusively with MTN 94, the only flavor of pigment that the Tiger finds palatable, while Pyse’s choice poison is a mixture of Molotow transparent paints spiked by silver Flame Acrylic. In this strange story of reverse-species submission, one could say the Tiger has tamed the Girl.
I took some time off from my vacation in Maine to come back South and put in some work for you guys. This little silver gem has been described as “Straight Fire” by prominent graf cats on the West Coast. Piece by PYSE, character by unknown. Belton “Chrome-Effect” fill-in outlined by MTN “Rojo Claro”. Translucent White shows up on Silver like a thin layer of snow on a frozen lake; dig the starburst highlights to the sides. This piece was a warm-up that I painted the day before my gallery show in Lanesville, MA…