Monday, March 11, 2013

GRAFFITI FOR GOOD: Q AND A WITH MILES WICKHAM, A.K.A THE RESKEW


I generally read the Thursday and Sunday editions of the NY Times with my Twitter account at the ready.  I see this reading time as an opportunity to research, follow, and sometimes contact the people in the arts, business, and style sections whose work catches my interest.

One such interaction led to a friendship with an inspiring graffiti artist named Miles Wickham.

I first learned about Miles, also known at The Reskew, in a NY Times article about artists and models who also work as cater waiters. Intrigued by the mention of Miles being a graffiti artist and actor, I reached out to him via Twitter and eventually met him in person in the lounge of Brooklyn's Nu Hotel at a small gathering of artists I organized last summer.

An interesting part of Miles' story is that he has created a series of video graffiti tutorials, mainly aimed at young people. Through personal notes written to him by parents of the children who have watched and learned from the videos, Miles has learned what a difference these tutorials are making in their young lives.

Read on for more about The Reskew in his own words:
CT:  How did you get interested in doing graffiti art?  Were there any early sources of inspiration for this particular kind of art?

MW: I got into graffiti in 2000, when I started going to high school in Brooklyn. I saw a guy in gym class tagging some padded mats, and went to check out what he was doing. I vaguely remember him encouraging me to try it out.

 When i figured out what it was about - cool forms of self expression and identity and recognition -I got interested. I think the possibility of friendship lured me in first, then noticing that others were doing it.  Impressed with the styles, and the feeling of the tags, I became hooked.

When I lived in Italy from ages two to seven, I watched trains pass from our 5th floor apartment and would see colors which stood out from the usual orange/tan pattern of all the cars.  I wondered why there were these random colors. Now I know they were graffiti.  Something about the rebellious feeling of the "flow" of the letters and tags of other people made me want to learn all about the art.

CT:  Do you feel like you have or are part of a community of other grafitti artists?  If so, what role do those people play in your life?

MW:  When I was a street tagger,  I was part of the huge underground community of taggers. They served as my driving force to continue my pursuit as a tagger and an artist. They motivated me to refine my skills and talent.

 Basically, I wanted to make a good impression on them. As much as graffiti writers claim they are such rebels that they don't give a crap about what others think, graffiti tends to be heavily based on what others think. Why would we all get so offended by "disrespect" if we didn't care? Why would we be so angry at the world/system/society?

Now that I am many years sober of the criminal/vandal aspect, I am in contact with very few taggers. The ones I am in touch with are the ones who have had a bigger impact on my life than the general community of taggers. Also, I am a big part of the community of young grafitti writers, worldwide, through my YouTube tutorials. I like to be a positive inspiration and example to them. I feel much gratitude in knowing that I inspire them.

CT: What words of advice do you have for people, especially young people, who are interested in learning graffiti?

MW:   First, I believe we all have creative abilities, and we need to discover and refine them. Some of us grew up without the proper support to know this about ourselves. Remember that graffiti, like all other skills, take LOTS of experience, lots of hours of practice, to refine to a level to where you know you are good. There can and probably will be LOTS of frustration and disappointment on the path. Don't give up on yourself. Remind yourself that it just takes time and dedication. Try to practice every day. And take this knowledge with you if you transfer to any other creative pursuit: every reward takes lots of dedication.

Also, if you're into graffiti, and you're into tagging, being a rebel, breaking the law, etc., nobody's going to stop you in your tracks except for yourself.   Just remember, you're choosing to take actions that have certain  potential consequences. And if you have such an urge, may I suggest doing it for the sake of beautifying ugly, uncared- for things.  Don't tag someone's brand new delivery van, or a freshly painted wall in a nice neighborhood. The principle I now live by is "Treat others as I'd like to be treated".

CT:   What kind of feedback have you received from both young people and their parents about your video tutorials?  Any specific stories about that that you want to share?

MW:  I have received amazing feedback. The feedback that I love getting (and i get lots of it!) is that my tutorials are the most helpful out there,and  that people actually feel inspired, supported and optimistic because of my approach to sharing my knowledge. Many claim they have suddenly improved exponentially because of my videos. Some say they have been doing it a while and that my tutorials  opened their eyes in a new way.

One great story is about a younger guy from a small town in Alabama. He asked how I get to paint legal murals in the street. There was definitely no 5 Pointz - type of legal graffiti wall in his town. I told him go around and ask permission from building owners, which did not work out for him. He asked about abandoned buildings, and since I told him its technically still vandalism to paint on them, he took an easel and a board to the building to paint on, just to have an outdoor space. He told me he got his materials confiscated by the police. He kept reporting back to me through YouTube comments, telling me his journey to figure out how to do this.  I  kept encouraging him, telling him that where there's a will there's a way.  He said that even the police officer gave him some suggestions, and returned the materials to him. He finally came to me with great news and gratitude months later. According to him, it was through my encouragement that he persisted enough to get approved, by the city, to zone this space as the city's legal graffiti wall!

I also received  two emails from a mom of a teenager in Toronto, Canada.  The essence of the email is that my video graffiti tutorials had had a huge impact on her teenage son.  She was grateful to me for being a role model

CT:  What have been some of your recent projects and what are you working on right now?

MW:  I've been working on my Alphabet Series for almost a year now, putting hours in at The Brooklyn Workshop Gallery.   I also recently worked on 19 murals at 55 Hope Street, a new condo building in Williamsburg. They are all colorful abstract pieces. The last two pieces are a culmination of many years of experimenting and mixing styles and techniques.

CT:  What are some of your dreams for yourself in the coming year or two?  What would be a dream come true for you?

MW:  I dream of having a huge studio space in NYC in which I make the  large pieces that I LOVE making.
I dream of  selling to collectors who share my joy and excitement about my work. My dream come true is for the work that I love most to get exposed to the masses, so that as many people as possible can have the chance to see and connect with it.

CT:  What are some of your interests/loves/pursuits in addition to making graffiti art?

MW:  I love the arts. I enjoy acting, martial arts, dancing, playing classical piano, drumming.  I also love    surfing and snowboarding. I have learned Wing-Chun Kung Fu, and am currently in my 3rd year of Daito-Ryu Aiki Jujutsu, which is an ancient form of Jujutsu, a very refined and disciplined martial art and  the predecessor to Aikido.

 It fascinates me to explore and experience the human body's dynamics and energy in relation to itself and in contact with the elements and other people. All these things I am interested in seem to be, in essence, like some form of dance. The ultimate experience in all of them is to be fully connected with yourself and your tools, canvas, surroundings, etc. - physically, emotionally, mentally, energetically, and spiritually.

More about Miles:   http://about.me/mileswickham

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