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With new projects on the hush until completion, we wanted to take a moment to shine the light on one of our favorite artists and certainly one who should be considered among the greats, we think, in American graffiti today.

You have heard of Pose and Omens. You have heard of MUL and DC5. You are probably aware of the major players in the Chicago clean train movement. Too few people, however,  know about an artist whose mastery of graffiti is the result of a finely tuned design sense and a unique vocabulary of shapes and colors that would be impossible for most. Sometimes complex, but never basic.

Like One is a friend of the crew for several years now. He, like most of our closest allies, has been at our SubSurface jam almost every year and was one of the first writers we met on our first trip up to East Chicago with CISA crew. His style has always been unmistakeably Chicago, but still unlike anyone else. Over the years his style has evolved from a smarter version of panel pieces into something else. The graffiti as well as the art of Like One are always design first, lettering or painting second.

If you already know about Like, do him a favor and tell someone who doesn’t. He’s as fresh as your favorite writer and a hundred times more humble.

 When did you begin writing and how?

My good friend DUES convinced me to pick up a can in ’94, and I mostly did a bunch of garbage at this bridge spot and a nice freight yard close to where I lived. He pretty much schooled me, but a couple years later he passed away, so I didn’t do much for a little while. I met Flex in 97′ and that’s when I started painting again, but this time more consistently and trying to develop.

What are some key experiences you have had in graffiti, or art in general?

I feel like cumulatively, my graffiti and art experiences taught me a lot. Goal setting, networking, persistence, to not pay attention to rules, and the buff has definitely taught me to be humble.

Who did you look up to in Chicago and who do you mostly paint with?

I’ve looked up to many, in terms of Chicago graffiti it’s been SB, ASC, THC, DC5, CMW, XMEN, the usual staples. I’ve always been a fan of Raven, Zore, Rawfa, Slang, Trixter, Casper, Sivel, Kuaze, Kep, East, Pose, Ark, and plenty more. Cove, Jash, Asend, Morgan, Awol, Greve, Omens. I love seeing stuff from all those guys. I feel fortunate that I’ve painted with quite a few people in my city. I’ve always painted a lot with Flex KYM, he’s been a longtime painting partner and friend. I’ve painted a lot with Exhaust and Beon as well. Nowadays, I guess I paint more by myself because of the nature of my work. Although I’ve done some collaborative murals with a few people that I’ve really been digging. So I think looking forward, “painting with other people” will be more in this context as opposed to painting a piece next to someone. I did a collaborative mural with Chris Silva over the summer that was a very different (painting/learning) experience of working with someone compared to how I’ve done it in the past. Painting graffiti with someone is great because you vibe off each other and you pick up on each other’s techniques, or match certain things if you want. But when you work with someone on the same piece it’s kind of nuts because you start to see how the other person thinks creatively, down to the next line. It’s kind of like tic tac toe but much larger, colorful, and challenging. So this is intriguing me a little more at the moment.

When did you start to think outside graffiti and gravitate toward murals or studio?

I’ve always done studio work, but just not as heavily and consistent as graffiti. But in the last year and a half or so I really made it a point to push myself do both just as much as the other. And what’s started to happen is that the two are fusing together more and more as time goes on, which is how I started doing more of the mural work. I also wanted to make work that catered just a little more to the public. There’s been many times when passers-by stop to check out what’s going on and complement my/our efforts to add some more color to the neighborhood. But the reality is that most of these people don’t really understand what we are doing. They just see bright colors and they know they like that more than a plain wall. So I thought if I can paint something that is a little bit more universal, while still maintaining my style and enjoying the process the way I normally do, the public would be able to understand it more and maybe enjoy it a little better. So that’s what I did. it was an experiment. This of course opens a whole new set of challenges, and that’s what is refreshing to me. Painting graffiti is very formulaic in a sense. I know what the components are, I know what colors to use where, when to add contrast, etc. So now when I paint a letter based piece, I like to mess with that formula a little i.e.; a partial outline, multi colored outline, no outline, playing with the flatness, changing the weight of the letters, etc.

How do you work differently on street level work than in the studio? What’s the difference or is it different?

The main difference is the environment. Though the end results may appear similar, the process is completely different. For me, studio work is a lot of multitasking. I can bounce from piece to piece if I want, or I can make some coffee, or check my email, sketch some more, overthink, or whatever. I tend to jump around a lot when doing studio stuff. Painting outside is a whole different thing. I pretty much absorb the surroundings, settle in, and just blast it out. I’ve gone whole days without eating just because I didn’t think about it while I was painting. I’m definitely more “in the zone” when painting outside. The process is a lot faster for me too. I can take a few days to make a small collage in the studio, but I can also paint a 10’x20′ wall in a day. The mind, body, hand coordination are a little more in sync on a bigger scale I think.

Do you think legal walls or permission walls are still graffiti?

I think they are a part of what graffiti is at this point. Obviously graffiti is not the same animal now that it was in the NYC subway era. It’s changed, evolved, and so have the people doing it. All the active train painters get my respect. It’s a rough game that requires a lot of dedication. And we’ve all heard the arguments that “real graffiti” can only be this or that. And there is definitely some validity to that, but there are so many people writing now in so many different places, that the format for how it’s done has mutated. I think it’s only natural for people to look around them and think “what else can I paint on?” In terms of categorizing whether things that are spray painted on (which are not trains) are still graffiti, I don’t really dwell on it. I give props where they are due. I think at the end of the day, if it’s your name with letters, then I’d probably call it graffiti.

Where do you like to paint? What environment?

Every place I’ve painted has had its own unique feel and experience, but I have to say that places like tracksides, bridges, and abandoned buildings are my favorite. I like the exploration feel that comes with that, and the fact that I’m painting in or on a place that has/had a history.I like finding new spots. I’m not a big fan of painting the same spots over and over.

How have you developed your letter style? What were trying to do or are you still trying that makes yours so unique?

I feel like I’ve experimented with the typical elements for letter style, just stretching things, making them move a little, giving them some sleekness, and playing with the letter weight. I’ve always been a fan of wildstyles, so I’ve tended to lean to that side. I think over time, my style has simplified. I like my letters to look sharp and lean back a little, and leave a little breathing room between each other. I use color to separate them sometimes too, instead of just relying on the outline. I also try to make connections in places that aren’t typically connected. I’m sure that’s the same stuff everyone does, I just try to do it my way.

Your choice of colors is always a highlight of your work. When did you get a handle on color?

Thanks. I am a little particular about colors. When I first started painting, my color schemes sucked. I’ve gone through a lot of changes with how I use color, how much contrast, what kind of palette, how much black to use. I didn’t use black for a really long time. It just seemed like the default way to make your piece pop. There’s other ways to create contrast without using black all the time. Even now, I’ve probably done less than ten black outlined pieces in my entire life.  I’m not even sure how to explain how I feel about color. It’s always a changing thing, and I could spend all day picking out the right colors for what I want to do. No secret formula, just go with the gut.  Most of the stuff I’ve done this year was of a more minimal palette than usual. If I don’t have the right colors, I won’t paint. It kills me to see a dope piece done hastily with the wrong color in there.

Is spray paint your preferred medium? What can you not do with spray paint that leads you to use other media?

Spray paint is definitely preferred. I think the weather more so is  what pushes me into other media. It’s just not fun to me anymore painting under 30 degrees in the wind.  So I try to keep busy in the colder months by making studio work.

Have you accomplished many of the things you set out to do with graffiti writing?

I never really set out with a specific goal with graffiti, other than to have fun. That’s definitely been achieved. I know that’s a little vague, but that’s really the backbone of it for me. I’ve made some great friends, met some awesome people, traveled, ended up in situations that were never expected, and it’s all fun. I’ve hit points where I started to lose interest, but I just find new ways to challenge myself creatively. If I feel like I’m doing the same pieces over and over, then it’s not as fun. So now I try to do something I haven’t done before with each piece. This way it feels fresh to me, and still has that instant gratification feel.

How would you describe the mural world in Chicago?

It’s a funny thing. I think it just depends what neighborhood your in. Some are really embracing, some don’t really care, and some don’t like it at all. Chicago has a rich history of murals and muralists. We’ve had people migrate here from Mexico and contribute vastly to the public art identity. Mario Castillo, Marcos Raya, Hector Duarte have all put in work here in the 70’s (and now). And plenty more than those guys. Unfortunately only a fraction of that stuff is left. Lots of murals (non graffiti) have been buffed here. For many stupid reasons. The winters are pretty brutal on the lifespan of public works here as well. But there are also lots of artists producing public work. There’s muralists doing their thing, Jeff Zimmerman has quite a few, and the Chicago Public Art Group continues to facilitate new murals each year. There’s also graffiti writers doing big walls that can be called murals as well.  Though I think they are for the most part pretty separate from each other. there are a handful of people who come from graffiti roots who are making public work as well like Chucho and Rahmaan Statik, Erik De Batt. People like Dzine, Chris Silva, Mike Genovese have also contributed some amazing public works as well that I think has inspired a lot of people, and their studio work is definitely another caliber. There’s definitely a lot to see here.

What do you really want to do now?

Paint more, do bigger and better, and get some more traveling in. I’d like to try to keep pushing the mural work and do some really large scale stuff if possible.

Do you think you will always be in Chicago?

I’m not sure that I’ll completely leave here, but maybe just in the winter months.

See more work of all types by Like One here: http://theshiftchange.com

Once again our work has allowed us to attend a party to which we would never be invited.

We had the great fortune to contribute our work and style to one of the most exclusive Super Bowl XLVI parties in Indy. The NFL Players Association honors its members each year with an invitation-only formal night out. This year, with some luck and a wonderful recommendation from the Arts Council of Indianapolis, we hooked up with Orange, CA based ZOe Productions to fill the room with as much of our flavor as we could while they took care of the rest.

Many thanks to Jessica and Ryan from ZOe, their whole crew and especially Aren and Paul; the property managers at BDA Warehouse that let us all do our thing our way. What a great experience.

Photo courtesy of ZOe Productions:

Red Carpet Interviews:

The team at ZOe was great to work with. FAB’s done events in the past but the scale of this thing was grand. As they wrangled and constructed everything from temporary walls to sponsored furniture , we jumped right into the operation and worked in their team for most of the week leading up to the party. It was inspiring and refreshing to see a much larger team that worked together as well or better than we do. It was a lot of work and very challenging, but it was also fun and very educational.

We prepared these pieces before the event, then delivered them to the space a few days early so the team could use them to build some of the temporary walls.

This was also prepared in advance for us to complete during the party, adding a live component.

Once we got to the space, first order of duty was to finish off graffiti signage for coat check, exits and restrooms. After that, we got to work on the shipping containers. You can imagine it was a treat to get loose on some intermodals and do it properly.

Once the containers were finished, we moved on to our final task: cover as much wall space as we could before party time. We are not known for our simple styles or bubble letters, but we got loose on a lot of them. We don’t have all the photos due to poor lighting and the fact that we painted all the way to the very last possible minute. But here are some of the highlights…

And last but not least, we knocked out some moderatelydetailed pieces which the property managers have decided to leave up.

In spite of all our work, the real attraction of the night was J. Cole (who told us several times that he is grammy-nominated), followed closely by Jermaine Dupree on the tables. During all the music, models and bottles, we managed to finish up the live piece. Many thanks to our new friend, we couldn’t have done it without her.

This is a nice panoramic of the space during set up. It was huge:  http://360.io/wT8fCh

We’re in the midst of one of our best and most high-profile projects to date. The major lesson for Indianapolis locals has been that the super bowl is a deep, rushing river of money. Now that the game is only days away, it’s increasingly impressive to see just how much is going on. We have had a full weekend of free concerts, block to block food and drink and celebrity sightings complete with a pyrotechnics display.

Vendors and service providers in our city have been hard at work for weeks and FAB Crew is no exception. The super bowl created a public art push that resulted in two very significant murals for us (Fish After Bait & Furry Animal Buddies), both providing new creative opportunities for us and the proper resources to realize them fully. The project we’re working on now with ZOe Productions is a new kind of even for us to be a part of and the experience we’re gaining through our partnership with them is absolutely priceless. No doubt about it, the big game has caused FAB Crew to step our game up.

We can’t share too much right now but rest assured that photos and anecdotes are on the way. Humbled and grateful to be a part of this huge moment in the life of our city, we welcome the challenge of rising to it.

RTD familia Tazer on a Chinese New Year wall with Beast in Denver. Tazer’s rocking a sketch by our IWS brother, Detour. Crew representing left and right. Lookin good.

Our CISA familia Omen74 doing an interview for Chicago Rocks Magazine. Never heard of the mag but it’s a cool bit of history from the the Gary, Indiana p-wall president.

It’s always nice when crew gets some shine.

IDADA, The Indiana Downtown Artists and Dealers Association has staged a show at the former City Hall and Indiana State Museum in time for the Super Bowl. The TURF Exhibit features artists from Indiana, Mainly the capital, in a widely varying range of disciplines. IDADA’s goal is to show off some of the more experimental work being made in Indianapolis. We are very proud to have had our work included in the show. The graffiti mural we painted with Malcom Mobutu Smith and Brisk has been showcased in one room of the beautiful old building.

The roster includes past professors, fellow 46 for XLVI artists and a few people we have worked for or with. Although we have always taken pride in our achievements, this seems to elevate us to a new tier. In the last year we have found that many see us not only as graffiti artists, but as skilled and creative painters. To be featured alongside some of Indy’s best and brightest is an honor.

Go check it out and stay tuned because you know this isn’t the only project we have going for the big game…

First joints of the new year…

0712

0711

Finally dropping photos of our first mural for 2012…

Throughout the holiday we were working first on the concept, then the execution of our latest mural in Indy. This was a rare opportunity to do some work for a global company and a leader in their industry. The process was pretty thorough and we think the result is something new for us: a character-based painting with abstractions and movement throughout the piece.

The project came to us via InSite Art Consulting. InSite is Indianapolis-based and has been working on the new Indianapolis headquarters of Kronos in PNC Center downtown. They contacted us with this unique challenge and made us feel comfortable from the very beginning.

After this job, we have to say that painting on the ninth floor of an office building was as cool and as difficult as you might imagine. The building manager gave us 24 hour access and forbid us to work when other people were on that floor. She had once  apparently had to pay for someone in the building to take vacation after ‘smelling fumes’ so we wrapped up the wall extra tight and worked inside our plastic bubble for about 4 nights. We learned a lot to say the least.

Thanks to Soni from InSite for keeping the creative door open.

Well some days you jump online to troll your friends and coworkers and there’s just no news to be found.

Other days you stumble onto a video of your friends painting a commission for one of the most respected rappers on earth.

Teel, Gamble, C3po and other friends of FAB Crew are handling business on a first name basis with Mistachuck himself. What can we say? This graffiti life will take you to the top of many mountains. Good work fellas.

We’ve been in the studio working on a concept and the subsequent mural for the past few weeks. Although we have much to show, the lighting and space around the wall make shooting photos impossible. We’ll have to share that in the future.

But in the meantime, here is the concept we came up with first. The client passed on it and we developed something more appropriate. fine with us, we’ll find the right spot eventually…