Sprayin with SMURFO

Interview with New York City street artist.
Tell us about your childhood, were you an artistic child? Were you a trouble maker?
I was a pretty good balance of both haha. I had a younger brother I constantly harassed and I always was up to something. But I would say I was more Casanova than troublemaker.

How old were you when you first picked up a spray can, what was the first name you used to tag with?
I was 16. I practiced graffiti for 2 years before I ever started to write outside in the streets. I practiced with a couple of really weird tags like Kookoo and Izm and I finally settled on writing Smurf 718 . I noticed there was already a Smurf writing in Queens who was already very known so I put an “O” on the end just to try it out. And it stuck. I started going super hard with it and it just wouldn’t stop.

When you go out on missions did you prefer to go by yourself or with a crew?
When I would go out I really enjoyed being out by myself. There was something very therapeutic about it the whole element of walking alone and being careful about doing something illegal that you also wanted to look nice most of the time. Or I would go out with one of my friends or two.  Usually my boys Tiba and Matt. Now at days its way better to kind go in a group but not with other writers all the time haha. Like you know we go out with a group of friends and mostly girls so it looks less suspicious and my home girls will always look out for me. Super clutch!
Do you remember the first time you had to run away from the police while painting?
Yes I was with JMYROXZ S2C in Red Hook Brooklyn. It was really fun. It was 2008 or 2009. It was actually fun because he was a bigger dude than me but he zoomed! I ran and it felt so good and it was a time where it almost felt safer to run. I couldn’t say I’d run from police nowadays at 27.

To get pumped what albums would you listen to before you went on a mission?
Before I go out to paint, or party or anything I always listen to funk / disco . Its just super hype and groovy and makes you feel very free and loose. So I’m constantly listening to 70’s disco 80’s funk and RnB and 90’s house and garage.

Besides New York City what other places in the country have you painted at?
I have painted in Chicago, Washington DC, and I’m on my way to paint in LA! Hopefully a lot more before the end of the year!
What are some of your favorites graffiti crews that you look up to?
From the older days defiantly UA TFP RTW from the train era. I also love seeing dudes from Top Dogs and NSF and KF and KCW. But I have to give the most light to the crews I’m apart of that all have amazing dudes and gals NBT XBS CS PPP! Also much respect to SB crew and BTM.

Spending a lot time painting with fellow writers must’ve been a bonding experience. Do you consider some of these individuals as family?
Yes. Defiantly my brothers we all take care of each other, drink together, do art together, vandalize together. Its past crews honestly it is family.

Was there ever a transition point in your life when you wanted to stop painting?
Only time I ever didn’t want to do graffiti is after getting arrested and having to be in bookings.  But it’s more to me like a short lived retirement every time. I’ve never wanted to completely stop. I don’t think I would ever completely stop. That high is too good!
How has your style developed in the past couple years from street to contemporary?
It has just started to evolve on its own. The more I practiced my art the more it changed. The more art I’m exposed too in graffiti, contemporary and pop I just soak it all in my brain through my eyes and transfer all that information to canvas via my hands. As off right now I am trying a lot of new things out and also bringing back older aspects of my art from when I first started doing these styles. I also really love using older 1970’s blending techniques with spray paint then doing fine detail with acrylics by using tape on other objects on top. But I don’t see it stopping there at all. The more I start to appreciate the virtue of patience the more it will come out in my work and I am very exited for what I will be producing in the future although not being sure exactly what it will be.

Is there a difference in energy when you are painting on the street versus on canvas in the studio?
Hell yes. For instance, in the street I need a lot of distraction around me. I need people outside drunk rolling around in groups, girls in high heels clanking down the bowery talking too loud, sirens going off all over, bar music echoing into the street, etc. All that shit is disconnecting everyone outside from what is actually happening. I can organize how I’m going to be crazy because of it. When I am painting in the studio I want no one around me and very low music playing. NO TV, NO PHONE, NO TEXTING. Just some classic house music and the brushes and mediums. Needs to be calm because what I’ll be painting will be crazy. It is always organized chaos. Its psychotic and chaotic yet sane and strategic. 

If given the chance where would your favorite place to paint be and what would you paint there?
I want to paint in Amsterdam, Paris, and Osaka. I just want to put my cartoons up all around with some cultural aspect from wherever I am. But I would love to paint all around the world if my body will let me.
Do you ever feel the need to get political or insert social commentary into your art pieces?
I put messages often, kind of cryptic, a little bit on the occult and esoteric side. It is to bring awareness to what has always been veiled around us.  In society there is a lot that is concealed but I see that when you put out those obscure images or messages in art, it makes people want to see it more subconsciously. I’m very much about educating through or with art.

Who would you like to thank for influencing you and your art and shaping the artist that you are today?
My mother Sandra Perez and my father Dennis Michael Weeden for raising me with Christian values and to be compassionate but strong. My brother Darius for fighting me everyday. All my friends and fellow writers that support me. My DJ crew the WCKIDS NYC. There are a few artists that have influenced me coming up such as David Cho and Eric Jones. There are some that have influenced me in the past such as R. Crumb and Big Daddy Ed Roth. And there are a few I am pleased to call my brothers such as Reginald Pean and L’Amour Supreme. I thank all who support me and love me directly or from a distance in this dimension. For the record I’m not from this dimension… I’m just visiting for the last 27 years.

What advice can you give to young kids who are creative and feel the need to express themselves by using spray-paint even though it may be illegal and looked down at by society? 
If you have that itch young go for it. Everything is in moderation. The most important part is that you express yourself artistically. Every child is born with a creative side that they need to express. So to all the kids young and old it’s never to early or to late to start. Put down the game controller and the Pokemon Go. Pick up a can, go down to the riverbank and draw some faces. Then just keep painting them and improve them and just keep going. Keep painting keep drawing. Your hands are weapons. Use them for good.