Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday is Graffiti Day

After a longish break, yesterday I finally got back to my latest passion: painting graffiti.

I have always been interested in Graffiti, but beyond one late night session under an overpass back when I was in college, I never did any. Everywhere I travel I always look for street art, and I was actually quite disappointed when I lived in both New York and Chicago and saw surprisingly little, and almost none of it very interesting.

Salvador also had very little to offer, with the exception of a unique tagging style that I saw quite a bit. I'm not big on tagging, so this wasn't terribly interesting to me, but I was interested enough to put a sample of it up on my website when I got back to the states after I got back from my first trip.

When I visited Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo I had a completely different experience. The graffiti was everywhere, huge walls covered with it, and of very high quality. I loved it! Unfortunately, Salvador still didn't have much of anything.

Then all of a sudden something changed. I started to see graffiti all over the place, and in really public places. I thought to myself- there is no way these guys are doing these paintings with any fear of the authorities. They were too public, and too elaborate. These guys were not running from the cops.

I found out later that I was right. In fact, the city government was funding some of these guys, taking them out and buying paint for them. By doing so, they opened the doors for lots of other folks to go out and do their thing. Through one of my neighbors, I met one of the most prolific artists here in the city, a guy called Limpo (which means 'clean' in Portuguese). I asked him how he goes about painting and told him I wanted to go out with him sometime to paint as well. Sure, he said, I go out usually on Sundays and you are welcome to come along.

Great, I though, I'm in! Now I just needed to get my rusty painting skills back up to speed. Although my experience with spray paint was limited, I'd done a fair amount of mural sized brush paintings, and I figured that's what I'd continue doing. When I finally got around to calling Limpo back, he asked what kind of stuff I did. I told him I was going to use a paintbrush and acrylic paint. You've never used spraypaint, he asked? No, I told him, but I could give it a try. Oh, what a perilous and costly decision I made in that instant! But it's been worth it. He told me to check out Bomb Bahia - Salvador's own graffiti store, and as fate would have it, it was right around the corner from me! I ran out and got my first two cans of paint and started painting my patio area that same evening.

After that came a couple months of serious effort to get some handle on the medium. It's intense working with spray paint, because it's so big, and so fast. You can paint a huge area in a relatively short period of time, and you are pretty much forced to work large because the minimum line width is fairly wide, depending on how skilled you are. The results can be viewed here.

Then things dried up. I went on a trip to the States, and spent too much money, and couldn't buy paint. All my free time was spent working and trying to get out of debt, and dealing with the holidays, and then Carnaval. Finally yesterday the dry spell ended. We went to Ilha de Mare, which is famous to players of Capoeira Angola as the home of many legendary mestres. There are no roads, and no cars, and no dock- when you get there by boat you either wade in or jump into a rowboat and get pushed to shore. We go there with some frequency, and I brought four cans of paint with me, determined to break my fast.

After several hours of drinking and eating and roasting in the sun, I was ready to go- I had planned to find an abandoned wall and paint it, but Evani asked our waiter if he knew of a place I could paint. "Right here," he said, indicating the side of the bar, and the owner confirmed this. I went to it. Here, the danger isn't the police, it's the sun- I have gotten sunburned more than once making graffiti. The owner liked it so much he wanted me to paint more inside, which I did, until I ran out of paint. I was pretty much done anyways, the beer and the sun had drained me pretty well. You can see this entire painting here.

Everyone here seems to love graffiti, and are very enthusiastic about my work, although I personally think I have a ways to go before I'm making really quality stuff. The ideas are good though- there ain't nobody doing work like me here in the city. And I'm determined to be a moving target- a lot of these guys paint pretty much the same thing over and over- there's the frog guy, and the cow guy, and the robot guy, and of course lots of people who only do letters. I want to paint something different every time, or at least every two or three times.

Now I just need cash for more paint!

No comments: