Writing on the Wall
Story by Adam Cochran | Photos by David Gonzales
It is a mass communication medium for urban artists to convey their thoughts and expressions in the most colorful ways possible. Walking down streets and alleys, looking for the perfect place to paint is almost an everyday occurrence for them. They look for any blank wall of brick or concrete that would be perfect for their next canvas.
Graffiti artists around the world have made a name for themselves by spray painting on public and city walls. It's no different for local artists in Bellingham.
Growing up in Fayetteville, Ark., Shawn Cass, 30, had no idea he would end up all the way in the Pacific Northwest. Cass began practicing graffiti in 10th grade.
He lives in a small apartment near Western, which doubles as his art studio, cluttered with spray cans and drawings. It reeks of fresh paint, as if he recently finalized a new piece of art.
After being in the game for more than 10 years, Cass, who tags under the name Ruckas, considers himself to be somewhat of an expert on graffiti.
"There are not many people that have the same level of style and control that I have," Cass says.
Professionaly, he has done everything from murals to painting Dr. Seuss characters for children's rooms.
"Everyone likes Dr. Seuss. Not everyone likes graffiti because it has a bad connotation with it," Cass says. "What's cool about Dr. Seuss is that it goes really well with different colors. Sometimes I'll take a face from Dr. Seuss and twist it up to make it my own."
Last winter, he created the mural on the outside wall of McKay's Taphouse at Pizza Pipeline, which is the biggest mural he's completed in a public spot.
It's an intricate piece, showing a crowd of cartoon people sitting at the bar with taps hanging above them.
Above the design, it reads "McKay's Taphouse," and beneath the painting is Ruckas' tag.
For 20-year-old "Teevee Cult" it's a similar story. Cult has a tall, slender stature. A dark brown stocking cap barely sits on the top of his head as he describes what it's like being a graffiti rebel.
He got his start in graffiti after moving to Seattle from Whidbey Island.
The first people he interacted with were graffiti artists who tagged with little concern for consequences.
He considered them to be role models, similar to Cass with the older kids who moved to his town. Now, Cult tags in Seattle. Sometimes he steals paint, or buys the cheapest glossy-white and glossy-black cans at Wal-Mart for 99 cents.
He says he appreciates peoples' different styles and individual takes on the urban art form Ñ but that appreciation for others' work can also inspire competition.
"If I see a homie's piece up and if it looks good, it makes me want to paint right next to him," Cult says. "Because if he did it, I know I can do it as well."
But maybe that competition is useful for advancing in realm of tagging; for gaining experience, flair and a knack for beautifying an empty space with a spray can.