In a book filled with vibrant and dynamic examples of the graffiti of Los Angeles that I’ve had for a little while now, there are also some fascinating testimonials of crew members and how they came to learn, develop and apply their skills.
Graffiti is all about identity but it’s also a highly collaborative business. The key to the success of the LA graffiti artists and the spread of their amazing work perhaps rests on the treasured piece book.
One graffiti artist known as CRE8 recalls seeing his first piece book and the impact it had on him;
“Bizarre One, older than me by seven years, showed me his piece book, and I hadn’t ever seen anything like that, pieces with markers and fresh color (sic) schemes; I was speechless. I eventually asked him to teach me, and he said he would teach me only if I was serious. At one point, he told me I could keep a piece book of his for a couple of days – well, I couldn’t sleep .. I slept with the book by my bed, and I’d wake up at two in the morning and study stuff like it was serious literature, just soaking it up.”
Powerful testimony, indeed.
Our high schools have a few too many disaffected students in them and I’m starting to wonder what we might learn from the graffiti crews of LA and elsewhere about motivation, collaboration, and mentoring.
I’m especially curious to see how we, as English teachers, might take the idea of the precious piece book as an artefact and as a process and adapt and use some of its methodology in our classrooms. Imagine the impact it might have, for example, on the stubborn issue of students’ writing. What do you think? I’d like to hear from you.
I’ll be returning to the subject in a blog post or two soon.