For lack of a more significant post, this article will document my transformation from stencil and street art enthusiast to criminal graffiti artist.
So in high school, I was kind of a skater-punk (probably a wannabe to some) but for a while, I was pretty obsessed with DIY stuff like recording your own music and making your own clothes. My friends and I would use stencils from Stencil Punks to spray paint our own custom band shirts, jackets, patches, etc. From there, combining my passion for graphic design, I began creating my own stencils, just for personal use. At the time, I did not like graffiti for the most part. I thought stencils were super cool but I didn’t really understand the point of tagging and could not comprehend wildstyle piecing. I’ve drawn my name in block and bubble letters since I was a kid but until the interview I did with Savor, I never realized how much that affected my interest in graffiti. It’s still throwies over everything.
Then in 2008, my senior year, I was grouped with an acquaintance in my video production class who strictly blackbooks, meaning he draws graffiti but doesn’t paint illegally. From sitting next to him and talking about this type of artwork, I began to doodle more aggressively in my school notebooks. After graduation, I moved to San Francisco, a graffiti mecca. I’m not sure what it was exactly, I think becoming familiar with writers and finding their tag somewhere or noticing local taggers who put up new tags everyday in my neighborhood, but suddenly I wanted to be apart of that too.
Fast-forward to 2010, the summer of my freshman year at college. I was visiting my friends in Chico – one of which is my stenciling buddy introduced previously – and of course they were designing their new beer pong table with spray paint. I had a few too many and think it would be a good idea to tag their driveway… only it was not their driveway… it was a public sidewalk. After returning to the house, I decided I wanted to paint some more.
The neighbors had called the police thinking I had also tagged their car so I hadn’t even made it down the block when a squad car zoomed past me, skidded to a stop and peeled out in reverse to get to me. (Apparently the whole party heard the screech). I guess it was bad timing walking out, paint in hand but being 18, I got to spend the night in the cell. I was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor vandalism, sentenced to community service (which ironically introduced me to more SF writers) and paid fines for the removal. I was also just recently released from my three-year informal probation (meaning I didn’t have a probation officer).
Virtually the first time I ever went out to “paint,” I got caught. My friend still calls me Leon.