In the introduction of Un*Leaded you have this to say about graffiti: ?The essence of graffiti culture is the deployment of the word where to word becomes the story and where the letters are the mechanics of delivering that story.?
What story are you trying to tell with your work, and with this book? What is its intended aim?
well for me this art is about letters and developing a style that’s individual; by developing that style and showing that development, a story can be told or seen – visually, the book features a lot of sketches, a lot of ideas, a little bit of an insight into sections of development. Both with lead pencil and with the application of the atome style to a variety of products and surfaces; you know a picture tells a thousand words, that’s the story.
Do you feel that you are moving closer or further away from letters as you develop your style? Some writers become so abstract that any traditional sense of lettering is all but lost, in favour of experimenting with shape and form. Do you feel that you are becoming more, or less intimate with the letter as artistic element?
Im enjoying what im doing with the letters and the atome style and right now its more about experimenting with the application of my style to different formats that keeps me busy. i think sometimes people move away from original formats because they are developing and I think that’s good. For me personally, im always experimenting, sometimes with colour and sometimes with shape, but in this context its always about the letters.
You explain your love/hate relationship with lead in this quote from the book? Mentally it has been the hardest of all tools. Personally it is education. It is Mathematics. It is Letter Domination.?
There are only 16 colour images in this 70 page book. What made you decide to concentrate on the raw pencil sketches rather than the final full-colour pieces?
it had a lot to do with wanting to present something different and something personal. Something that had not been done before in this format. Theres a lot of books and magazines that just do the same thing and I really didn’t want to do that! I wanted it to be really personal also. I mean I really struggled with lead pencil, so just getting my head around presenting sketches was a big thing. And apart from all that I also wanted to create something that showed a different side of our art; you know I want the book to reach an audience that may never see this side of it! The colour pages were really to show different products and or surfaces that ive been lucky enough to have my style applied to… I just thought it would be boring to show all pieces. This way it’s a bit of an insight into some of things ive been involved with other than straight graf, you know its like heres where the style has gone, graf can be more than just pieces on walls and trains.
You mention the phrase ?letter domination? several times in the book. What does that phrase mean to you?
yeah its about an understanding of letters that is intimate and articulate.
How many of these sketches would have resulted in becoming pieces?
More than half for sure. But I mean keep in mind, these sketches are only a small fraction of my overall sketches too.
I notice there are no tags in Un*Leaded. Is tagging something you are still interested in, after 20 years of painting, or have they lost their appeal? Did you used to tag, and have now moved on to doing something different? Or were you never really interested in tags?
nah man, I love tags. I think Tags is where it all starts and you know even with them its all about style and funk. Again, the book wasn’t really about tags. The focus was the lead pencil sketches that show the development of a style.
Could you tell us about the flip-top cassette tape containers on page 33? What?s the story behind them? It looks like you have designed the cardboard inserts?
Yeah, during the early / mid 90’s mix tapes were a massive thing in New York. It was predominantly hip hop or hip hop Dj’s doing them so someone thought about covers I guess. Chino was working at “The Source” magazine, and they must have seen it as a nice little product to put out. They chose the pieces that were applied and then sold them out of everywhere in New York. It was fresh. I mean I felt pretty honoured and lucky to have one of my pieces on one of them.
What inspires your style? Do you interact with the work of other writers and draw inspiration from their approach, or do you see aspects in the built environment that trigger an idea?
in the beginning the New York Subways movement was the biggest inspiration. Now its all about continuing to develop and push on. I get inspired by just wanting to keep pushing forward, thinking about how and where I can apply my style to, you know each time I have the opportunity to be involved with something different, that alone inspires and triggers other ideas.
Who do you see as the intended audience for Un*Leaded? Is it primarily for writers and those interested in the construction of graffiti, or do you think it has a wider appeal?
well I hope the appeal is a lot wider than just the writers and hip hop heads out there. you know the aim was to create something totally different and show a side of this art that hasn’t really been presented in this format before, and do it in a way that can reach a much wider audience. I mean at some point you wanna try and contribute to the overall scene and or give a little back. Im definitely not the “be all” of anything within this culture, but in saying that I definitely wanted to do something really positive and hopefully touch as many different people as possible.
Finally, can you tell us a little more about your work with oneleginc?
Yeah oneleginc is the design and clothing company I started a while ago. Again its another outlet to apply our designs to. It’s good and its a lot of fun. We specialise in limited edition Tees and each winter we do jackets or hoods. We’ve done a lot over the last few years and while the demand is there we’ll keep them coming. But in saying that, we don’t treat it like a fashion house – its an ongoing fun project that we enjoy. I always thought id keep it going while it was fun. The feedback is good and maybe somewhere down the line we’ll turn the switch on, you know?
Check out Atome’s Website for all info on how to get a copy of his new book Un*leaded @ http://www.atomeunleaded.com
[alert type=white ]Ⓒ All Rights Reserved ozhiphop.com 2002 /// This article originally appeared here on the ozhiphop.com Forums [/alert]