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3 May 2007

Graffiti Art

I go by the name of Parra and I've been a writer for 16 years. I started off using pencil and paper. I think everyone... most people with any kind of creative expression, they start there. And then from there I just went to markers and tagging anything that would accept the ink. And then from there to paint, just aerosol paint.

Writing graffiti art is letter forms. It's all about the letter. It's about letter styling. It's about letter creation and, you know, using words which are really powerful as a medium but then using them again by trying to transform them. And whatever you're trying to say, you're rewriting it by creating this new form of word, you know? You start to understand that if you can put your name up better and nicer and neater or, like, have a better style or do it in colours or get more everywhere, so you're up, it's empowering, because, you know, you walk around, everyone knows who you are, but no-one really knows who you are, they just know that... Your presence is felt.
It's like any kind of culture of any kind - people who are interested in the same things, they always tend to migrate together. You'll find each other. It just happens. So once you meet people that you like and, you know, you connect with, then you can just further develop those relationships. And that's what happened with our crew.

Hip-hop movement as a whole owns the word 'graffiti'. Because when you think about graffiti, you really can bring it down to tags, throw-ups and masterpieces, or 'pieces'. A tag is usually just someone's name in some kind of style. They use whatever their name is, whatever they go by as a writer, because writers tag. And throw-ups are an elaborated version of that. And then a piece - a masterpiece - is, like, full-colour production with, you know, a full style incorporated, a full kind of theme around it.

Most artists have an outline - they sketch an outline up - and then that's what they work from. They put the sketch up then throw the paint on the wall in the way they know how to make it work. Public style is simple. People can read it. It doesn't matter who you are, you could look at it and go, "Yeah, I can..." It's sort of like sign-writing - that sort of simplistic style. And then you've just got styles.

Like, every different crew has their own way of describing their styles. But you'll be able to notice the endings - the bar endings - or letter endings or letter styles or slants or angles or... know, things that they add that makes their style, sort of thing. And then you've got wild style, which is wild - so wild that you can't read it.

You don't know what's going on unless you study graffiti or you know who did it. Most of the time you'll be just, like, thinking it's a giant, colourful mess. There's basic etiquettes, but it depends on who it is. 'Cause everyone has their own ways of imposing how they feel about their art and the way they participate in graffiti culture. But throw-ups beat tags, pieces beat throw-ups. So that's basically the sort of etiquette. If there's space on a wall and there's a throw-up on it, you've got to have a better piece to go over it - a full-colour, full-styled piece to go over the top of it - otherwise you're not gonna get any respect and you're just gonna insult the person who you went over. So that's basically how it goes.

Canberra's known for its legal spots. It's really forward-thinking, Canberra, in that regard. It just gives you an opportunity to practise and get better, for sure. So you've got days - you could spend it going back and forth to a wall, changing it if you don't like it, coming back with more paint if you run out, you know, those sort of things. So it definitely helps you increase your ability as an artist.

Nowadays, the last couple of years, the new generation - a lot of them have never done any illegal graffiti. This actual wall has been painted prolifically since it's been here, just about - I mean, since the mid-'80s. But, yeah, there are places that writers don't paint - churches, cemeteries, private properties - houses - private vehicles are usually off-limits. I mean, every writer's got their own way of what they think's right, but mostly those things are pretty much off-limits. People... It's just... You know, it's just rude, you know?

I just think the main thing is people don't understand it so therefore they fear what they don't know and they just want to get rid of it. And people aren't that open to, like, a chaotic environment. And graffiti brings a lot of chaos into a blank space, you know? And so sometimes that can aff... It's not gonna be as widely accepted as graphic images that corporations develop for catching your eye and your attention. 'Cause graffiti artists don't do that. They just create what they want to do.