Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Big Graffiti

When I set out to paint my latest piece on Sunday, I almost chickened out.

I knew it was going to be big. And in your face. And seen by hundreds, if not thousands, of people every single day. And it was also going to be in my neighborhood.

Now take that last paragraph, and change all the tenses to present, and you have my latest piece. I could add a bunch more adjectives, like 'sloppy' and 'simple'.

I think I've compared painting graffiti to playing Capoeira in this blog before- not in the physical sense obviously, I don't paint upside down or anything like that. But one of the greatest challenges for me in playing Capoeira, especially in the beginning, was getting into the roda, in front of everyone. I would either do well or make a total ass of myself, and I never knew how it would go beforehand. I feel the exact same way about graffiti. When I set out to do it, I have no idea if it's going to turn out well or badly. The difference is, a game of Capoeira only lasts a few minutes, then it's over. Gone forever, unless someone happened to film it. A shitty piece of graffiti, especially here in Brazil, might haunt you for years- unless you go and paint over it yourself. I've been tempted to do so in the past.

I don't want to paint over this piece, it turned out better than that. However part of me feels like I wasn't quite ready to make something quite this imposing, quite this central. It's on a pedestrian walkway just off of one of the busiest streets here in the center of the city. I'd been eyeing the wall for weeks, I even tagged it as mine so nobody would paint it before me. I did several sketches, which is unheard of for me, usually I do a two minute drawing and that's what the piece is based on. Not this time. I felt this one was important, because it is so visible, so I wanted it to be done right. I did the best I could, and it came out pretty well, but I still struggle to control the paint so if you look at it closely you'll see the errors.

I also really wanted it to be tall. One of my (minor) gripes about the graffiti here is that almost none of it extends more than about six feet off the ground. I so much wanted this one to be talle that I built a little ladder out of some leftover wood I had so I could extend my reach, and I think this made all the difference. Instead of six feet it's about twelve feet tall.

Some interesting things happened as I was painting it. I got pretty severely heckled by a big drunk guy, who eventually went away. Two people asked for my card, which like an idiot I didn't have with me. I told them to come back and copy my website address off the thing (yeah I can actually write contact info on my pieces). Several people told me it was really cool, and two women asked me what the two guys were doing. I told them they could make up their own story, maybe they were just about to get in a fight (it does look like they are about to kick each other in their non-existent genitals). One of them said it looks like they are old friends who haven't seen each other for a long time and just ran into each other out of the blue. I like that interpretation.

But the best comment I got was from a woman who asked me how much I charge to paint. Never having been paid to spray paint anything, I started to tell her how much the paint costs- this usually causes people to lose interest. She told me she already had the paint. Then she told me I wouldn't be interested. Of course, this made me even more interested, so I asked her what it was. She told me she was looking for someone to spray paint a school.

Painting a school is something I've been dying to do. Schools here tend to have super cheesy cartoon characters painted on the outside walls, and I really want to do something original and cool for a school, I also think it would be great publicity. I told her I have really been wanting to paint a school.

Thing was, she used the verb pichar, and she meant it. Pichar is the verb 'to spray-paint,' and while I do spray paint, what she was referring to was pichação, which is the illegal, vandal side of graffiti here in Brazil. Many people would consider this the only true graffiti that is done here, because doing something illegal is part of the definition. While what I do is quasi-legal, what they do is definitely not and can lead to arrests and occaisionally even shootings. But we generally respect each other, with one not painting over the work of the other, which is good. It's not the same in São Paulo, a bunch of pichadores there invaded a gallery a few months ago and painted over all the work in it, it being a street-art gallery. Luckily we don't have that kind of climate here in Salvador.

So it turns out that this woman's husband has left her for another woman, and the new woman runs or owns a school. She wants someone to go and deface the walls of the school to exact her petty revenge. She was right, I wasn't interested.

After about four hours of work I finished my painting, which is way too long for something like that. Part of what is so great about graffiti is it's big and it's fast. It should have taken me half the time. Initially pleased, now I'm mildly embarrassed by it. It's just a little too much. I'm worried people won't like it, or will get sick of it. But it will certainly take care of my anonymity problem- pretty soon, I'll be able to tell just about anyone that I painted those two guys in Dois de Julho and they'll know my work. So what do I do? Well, I wanted to take my work to the next level, so now that I've done it I guess I've just got to paint a lot more.

Evani showed Lucas and Ruan my painting the following evening on her way back from Paripe. Lucas said the blue guy is Evani, and the green guy is Ruan. I'm surprised he didn't say one of them was him!


Leo said...

The artist is always his greatest critic. My first impression, two enthusiastic thumbs up. Mark homeruns again.

And come on man...mistakes...what in zzz zippin hell are you talking about. Your going straight to the top with that one.

markuza said...

Thanks Leo- I needed that. Yer awesome.

lovelydharma said...

Congratulations! It came out great. And congratulations for just doing it and letting yourself be vulnerable. That's always the hardest part to get over - not the talent. Being talented or not (you are) isn't your responsibility, but the actual doing it is. How many talented people are there out there who don't ever let the world see what they can do because they can't get over vulnerability and just put themselves out there. So you scored big on both sides this time!
Pretty funny about the revenge lady. Hopefully this great piece will lead to a real school painting someday.

markuza said...

Thanks LD- I think what made it so hard was the fact that I _have_ been that shy guy who preferred not to put himself out there rather than risk failure- I guess it took until now for me to grow up and take a chance :) glad you like the piece. One thing I think about is when I'm an old codger remembering what I did with my life, I think things like this will come in near the top of the list.

Mei said...

Honestly, my street in Miami Beach could use something like this. . . I love the long-lost friend interpretation, and I don't think artists are ever satisfied with their creations. Let the compliments speak for themselves!

AkuTyger said...

I hope this means I will finally see some of your art somewhere. I'd like to see you, also, at some point. And Lucas. We never do get around to that. I'm at the wrong end of the city for the expat crowd I guess.

markuza said...

Hey thanks everyone- I really appreciate it. I went out yesterday and 'reserved' two more spots to paint, so more to come.

Mei- is Miami full of Brazilians?

AkuTyger- you're right. this has gotten silly.

Mei said...

For sure! I have a feeling that Evani would hardly feel out of place in Miami, what with the beach and the big Brazilian community! Actually, there's a place here called Pompano Beach (outside of Miami) that's basically just Brazilians, but you can also find lots of them right here in North Beach.

Jesse said...

yeah, I like this new painting too. It has good fun energy. I agree that it is more like 2 friends meeting up again (possibly drunk) rather than 2 getting ready for a fight. keep up the good work!

gantzsk8 said...

what i saw when i looked at it was like the upper and lower classes of brazil getting together and laughing over their differences