As you have probably noticed, I’m trying to work grafitti/street tags into both layouts and contents. That and city spaces, but let’s stay with the grafitti for a second. It is a form that is completely foreign to me; I was never a tagger, or part of the whole hip hop/street culture. Since I started teaching comics, however, I’ve had one or two students in each class who almost manically filled sketchbook after sketchbook with elaborate signatures and aliases.
I’ve come to appreciate the form and penmanship required to do these pieces, that sometimes remind me of Quranic calligraphy (which, because of language barriers, I don’t understand either, and therefore am equally fascinated by). The funny thing is, some of these students find it very hard to separate the form from the literal meaning of the words. They simply cannot translate those letters into other forms that don’t carry verbal meaning. I have still to find some way to handle this in my teaching, but now I’m trying to practice what I preach.
These early, awkward attempts to ape “street” calligraphy are mostly done from photo references that I have collected the last couple of years (among those a very thorough documentation of a Finnish bar toilet that was covered from floor to, and including, ceiling in layer upon layer of tags) so if anybody recognises their handiwork on these pages, remember what they say about plagiarism and flattery… Besides, I’m still learning.
Another thing: I’ve always hated when somebody tries to mimick a culture they don’t understand or belong to, usually getting the whole thing ass-backwards. Lego pillaging Maori culture to make their Bionicle line, springs to mind; or Lichtenstein’s comics swipes. But here I am, doing the same. Maybe it’s a midlife crisis. Apologies in advance!