Q&A with ChrisRWK

sticker shot

ChrisRWK is an artist whose work I’ve followed pretty much since I got interested in street art. He has a strong cult following of fans who love how his work brings joy, and he’s probably one of the go-to artists that people getting started in stickers look to. Chris is the latest artist in the space across the street from Woodward Gallery and he and Veng recently painted a wall in Little Italy for The L.I.S.A. Project (for which I am a co-curator). And then I read this interview and found out that’s he and Veng are doing a print with 1xRun, whom I’ve worked with as well. Basically. All in all, seemed like a great time to ask Chris a few questions…

RJ: What do you look for when you’re thinking about collaborating with another artist?

Chris: Over the years I’ve learned a lot from Collabing with artists. I remember asking artists if they would like to collab back in the day and people had no clue what I meant. Mainly cause no one was doing it on stickers. I had collabed with artists for years on murals and artists have collabed on canvases for years. Some that always struck a chord with me was the Basquiat, Warhol and Clemente canvases. So I figured bring it to stickers. I had been making stickers for years and they’ve always been a favorite medium of mine. From collecting to making, I always loved em.  So with some artists I know to just do some hand drawn ones but with other artists I do printed ones. Some artists like El Toro, Bob Will Reign, Under Water Pirates I’ve collabed with for years, since around 2004. With guys like them I always love doing hand drawn ones because of the diversity. They would always do something new. Artists like Royce, MCA/Evil Design, Flying Fortress I’ve done both hand drawn and printed. Printed because of the strength and iconographic imagery.

ChrisRWK with Jos-L
ChrisRWK with Jos-L

RJ: Why are stickers an important part of street art and graffiti?

Chris: Stickers have been in graffiti for years but people never paid attention to them.  I remember seeing ones with tags on them in the early 90’s when I’d go into Manhattan. In the late 90’s stickers started gaining popularity overseas from what I saw. In 2001 when kevin and I launched robotswillkill.com, stickers were starting to catch on in the US as its own scene. I remember when PEEL magazine contacted me about doing the cover for their first issue. I was amped, a zine all about stickers?!? And I was doing the cover?!? That was in 2003.  In the past few years the Graff scene has rediscovered stickers and seems like their appreciation has grown for them. For years it was like they looked down on them. The sticker scene itself has grown over the past few years which is good and bad. You have tons of “artists” who just collect them and use the ones they get to trade up. It’s the baseball card theory, well for this generation maybe the Pokemon card theory. Don’t get me wrong – collecting is cool, but to an extent.

ChrisRWK with Skam Dust and MQ
ChrisRWK with Skam Dust and MQ

RJ: About how many stickers do you draw or print each year?

Chris: Print I’d say 15-20 thousand. That’s mainly for trades, giveaways etc. I always liked putting up hand drawns. Printed are great for putting up because of longevity and ability to grill an area but there’s something about finding an original on the street. So hand drawn ones I’d say around 10-15 thousand. It’s tough to say cause I just sit down and throw on a movie and do em until the packs empty or the movie is over. So that could be a hundred or couple hundred in a sitting. Also depends on what style I’m doing. If they are black line ones then those I fly threw. If I’m doing color fills, shading etc it’ll be less.

Study of False Hope
Study of False Hope

RJ: A lot of your recent paintings feature your trademark characters less prominently than your work has previously. Where are they going? Where are you going?

Chris: Well I’ve always had an array of characters but the Robot always caught everyone’s attention. He became the icon for the stickers, clothes etc. I did him on paintings for years also. The boy and girl characters have gained more recognition in the past few years. Between the murals and canvases I can have them convey more emotion or tell more if a narrative. It’s funny because for years when I’d paint something everyone would say, “Are you doing the robot? I hope you do the robot!” So I did the robot. Nowadays people don’t say that because they’ve become familiar with the rest of my work. Granted when I sign black books, do stickers etc I do the robot.  The newer work has subconsciously become more autobiographical. When I was talking to a friend of mine, he made that remark. So I started to think about it and he’s right on some levels. For example Veng and I did a show at Low Brow Artique called “From the Start: a collection of studies” and when I chose my 5 study subjects, they all had a deep connection to me and my life. So for the newer works, I try to tap into that more.

Mona Lisa by ChrisRWK and Veng
Mona Lisa by ChrisRWK and Veng

RJ: How was it painting your version of the Mona Lisa in Little Italy?

Chris: To be honest, tough at first. When Wayne from The L.I.S.A Project mentioned it I automatically thought ok time to paint a Mona Lisa. For some reason it didn’t dawn on me right away to do it in my style. I just figured paint Mona Lisa. So after a few sketches I did my style. Wayne showed it to the owners and they loved it. I showed it to Veng and he knew exactly what he wanted to do. This was the perfect project for him to bring back his circles.  We put together the sketch fully and it was def meant for the spot. The L.I.S.A Project has a great thing going. It’s funny too because my best friends Godfather ran the restaurant where we painted for years.

ChrisRWK with Veng
ChrisRWK and Veng

RJ: You’re pretty popular on Instagram. What do you think Instagram has done for street art or stickering?

Chris: Things like Instagram have definitely brought more attention to things like street art and stickers. It’s quick and has its own scene. Once you mix things that have their own subculture it’ll only help promote each other. Blogs and stuff helped promote street art for years but were mainly constrained to desktop computers etc so with something like Instagram you have it right on your phone at any moment of the day. People love instant gratification. And to be able to post something from anywhere in the world for anyone in the world to see is amazing.

RJ: Have you got any upcoming projects that you can let us in on?

Chris: I just finished up 4 panels for the Woodward Project space across from the gallery. It’s titled “Those Summer Daze”. Veng and I have a print coming out with 1xRun soon. I’m involved in Sticky Situation NYC by Ink Monstr. I’m working on inventory pieces for Dorian Grey gallery. I’ll be painting at Jersey Fresh Jam. I also have a two man show coming up at Mighty Tanaka with Michael Banks(Sugar Fueled) this October. Oh and also finishing up issue #3 of Surface Area zine. Of course there’ll be some other outdoor art going on.

Those Summer Daze at Woodward Gallery
Those Summer Daze across from Woodward Gallery

Photos by ChrisRWK

Welling Court Mural Project launches fourth year

Caleb Neelon & Katie Yamasaki, photo by Lois Stavsky
Caleb Neelon & Katie Yamasaki. Photo by Lois Stavsky.

For the fourth consecutive year Ad Hoc Art has brought dozens of artists to the Welling Court community in Astoria, Queens, transforming it into a first-rate open air museum. Here’s a small sampling of what could be seen this weekend:

Queen Andrea, photo Lois Stavsky
Queen Andrea. Photo Lois Stavsky.
Veng at work on collaborative mural with Chris, RWK. Photo by Tara Murray
Veng at work on collaborative mural with Chris, RWK. Photo by Tara Murray.
Kimyon Huggins. Photo by Lois Stavsky
Kimyon Huggins. Photo by Lois Stavsky.
Kosbe. Photo by Tara Murray
Kosbe. Photo by Tara Murray.
JC. Photo by Lois Stavsky
JC. Photo by Lois Stavsky.
Mata Ruda & N'DA. Photo by Lois Stavsky
Mata Ruda & ND’A. Photo by Lois Stavsky.
Icy & Sot. Photo by Lois Stavsky
Icy & Sot. Photo by Lois Stavsky.
El Kamino. Photo by Lois Stavsky
El Kamino. Photo by Lois Stavsky.

If you are anywhere near NYC, a visit to Welling Court is a must!  The diversity of the works and the responses of the local residents to them are astounding. And if you’d like to help fund this project, check this out.

Photos by Lois Stavsky and Tara Murray

A Little Italy Christmas special (with special appearance by The Grinch)

Nosego at work
Nosego at work. Photo by RJ Rushmore

This past Saturday, I was in New York’s Little Italy helping to facilitate some more walls there. Thanks to Little Italy, Sambuca’s Cafe, Umberto’s Clam House, The Low Brow Artique and Montana Cans, we brought Chris and Veng of Robots Will Kill and Nosego to Little Italy for two new pieces of Christmas-themed art. It was a great day, and everyone had a lot of fun painting and chatting with all the people who stopped by to see what was going on.

Even Santa stopped by to help out
Even Santa stopped by to help out. Photo by Wayne Rada.

Chris and Veng painted a spot just next to Umberto’s Clam House on Mulberry Street between Grand and Hester. I love the detail on Chris’ character’s sweater of a Robots Will Kill logo made partially from candy canes.

Veng and Chris

Unfortunately, this photo is about all that’s left of Nosego’s piece, painted on Mulberry Street between Hester and Canal. A vigilante Grinch must have not wanted us to be spreading Christmas cheer, because the piece was painted over in a really poor buff job on Monday night. Such a shame, given how many people seemed to be loving the piece on Saturday evening. Nosego, Little Italy, and Vandalog wanted to get people smiling and excited for Christmas, but somebody wasn’t smiling. But hey, art outdoors is always temporary. Sometimes this sort of thing happens. Of course, we didn’t plan for the piece to be up forever anyway. Christmas in July is for retailers, not murals. I just feel bad that I dragged Nosego up from Philly for the day, and that so many people are going to miss out on a seeing a great mural.

Nosego. Photo by Ruddy Was Here.
Nosego. Why would anyone buff this? Photo by Ruddy Was Here.

Photos by RJ Rushmore, Wayne Rada and Ruddy Was Here

Illegal Baltimore part three: The city’s streets


Part one of the Illegal Baltimore series can be found here, and part two can be found here.

Walking around in the abandoned areas of Baltimore gave me a peace of mind that the NYPD would never allow in New York. However, engaging life-long citizens of Baltimore about the graffiti surrounding them in the streets came with its own merits. The blending of New York and Baltimore-based artists that I saw in the the city’s innards was mirrored in its streets. With the, then recent, invasion of international artists for Open Walls Baltimore, the city had become a hub for any east coast street artist to visit. As long as you had friends in the area or on the roster, chances are you ended up there. Continue reading “Illegal Baltimore part three: The city’s streets”

You & Me at Bushwick’s Low Brow Artique

EKG & Dark Clouds

Opening this evening from 6-9pm at Bushwick’s stylish Low Brow Artique is You and Me, an intriguing exhibit of collaborative pieces in a range of textures and styles. Curated by Rhiannon Platt, it features works by Cash4 & Smells, OCMC & This Is Awkward, Veng & Sofia Maldonado, Chris & Veng (RWK), EKG & Dark Clouds, Matt Siren & Fenix and Royce Bannon & Russell King, The exhibit continues through September 1 at 143 Central Avenue.  Here are two more pieces:

Veng & Sofia Maldonado
Matt Siren & Fenix

Photos by Tara Murray and Lois Stavsky

Williamsburg murals


Gilf recently organized a legal spot for seven artists, including some of my favorites, at 229 North 10th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Here are the finished results:

Sofia Maldonado
Joe Iurato
Icy and Sot

Photos by Gilf

Welling Court Mural Project Readies to Launch Year Three

Katie Yamasaki and Caleb Neelon

Organized by Ad Hoc Art, The Welling Court Mural Project is once again bringing some of the finest artists anywhere to Astoria, Queens to grace the walls of the Welling Court community. The event opened officially today at noon, coinciding with Welling Court’s annual block party, but a number of artists have already had begun making their mark earlier this week. These images were captured yesterday:

Toofly @ work; image begun by Sheryo on the right
Subtexture — with a message
Christopher Cardinale

Images from opening day to follow.

Photos by Dani Mozeson

ND’A, OverUnder, Chris and Veng, RWK Busy off the Bowery

OverUnder at work

Earlier today — on this Memorial Day weekend — some of our favorite artists were busy over on East 4th Street off the Bowery. Tara Murray, a former student — who has become as addicted to street art as I am — caught up with them as they were finishing. Here are a few images from this latest MaNY Project with FABnyc under the direction of the indefatigable Keith Schweitzer:

OverUnder close-up
ND'A at work
Chris & Veng RWK

Photos by Tara Murray

Veng’s Stylish Birds @ Brooklyn’s Mighty Tanaka

A huge fan of Veng’s larger-than-life signature character that surfaces frequently throughout NYC and beyond, I was delighted to discover another side of his talents in his small, delicately-rendered birds — largely fashioned with watercolor and ink on paper — at Mighty Tanaka.  Here are a few more images:

The exhibit, The Birds and the Bees, also featuring work by Gigi Chen, continues through May 4th at 111 Front Street in Brooklyn’s DUMBO district.

Photos by Tara Murray & Lois Stavsky