On the last Tuesday of every month, I feature a fellow type lover from the Richmond, VA area.
The term "graffiti" can get confusing. The lines are starting to blur between vandalism and street art. I caught up with local aerosol artist ENVYS for his take on the subject and to figure out how he creates those crazy-looking letters.
SARAH BARTON: How did you start doing graffiti? What made you fall in love with letters?
ENVYS: I’ve been into type and letter forms since I was a kid — I’d like to think my elementary school award for good penmanship helped with that, haha. I actually was into calligraphy for a bit, using India ink with quill pens to write words. Typography has always been a great influence and interest with me, from focusing on what people are doing with type treatments in design to what folks are doing with retro sign work really stand out.
SB: What do you like most about working with paint at such a large scale? What's the hardest part about working that way?
ENVYS: That's exactly it…scale! Being able to produce a design or sketch and apply it on a much larger scale is challenging, so for me it can be motivating. I would think painting large-scale poses a challenge to anyone depending on what your content is; I know for me it's getting the right dimensions and correct proportions.
SB: What does your creative process look like from idea to final product? Can you walk us through step-by-step?
ENVYS: Depends on what it is. I try to be good about conceptualizing and thinking things through if it’s a collaboration effort or large-scale mural. I’m more likely to do that if they are paid gigs. So if I had do a quick step-by-step it would be: brainstorming concepts, sketching, refining, maybe a bit of color theory, and execution. But if we are talking straight graff, I tend to just wing it. I really don’t know what I’m going to do until I get to where I’m going to do it.
SB: How do you draw those crazy letters? Just experimental trial and error?
ENVYS: I take a basic letter structure and put my spin on it. I tend to gravitate towards legibility with some funk to it.
SB: How long does a piece generally take you from start to finish?
ENVYS: I’m a bit of a procrastinator, especially at events. I’ll paint in bursts, then chill. I’ve really never timed myself. I want to say it varies depending on how complex and clean you want to be, what you're painting, and where. Maybe 3-4 hours on a decent legit piece, maybe more if you're trying to flex.
SB: What are your favorite tools (paints, markers, etc.)?
ENVYS: I don’t think I have favorite tools. I tend to make do with anything or whatever I have at the moment. I do tend to lean towards specific caps for different uses. I did always like those old school Sanford Deluxe Perm Markers. They're what the normal Sharpie King Size is now, but half the size. They were short, metal, and had warm grey stripes with a black goofy cap.
SB: What has been your favorite piece and why? Hardest piece?
ENVYS: Painting the GRTC Bus Depot for the 2013 RVA Street Art Festival was pretty fun and hard all in the same, due to surface, scale, and using a lift.
SB: 2016 was your second time painting at the RVA Street Art Festival. What was the experience like? Was it weird to have everyone watching you while you worked?
ENVYS: The experience was cool, I don’t mind public art events. I would like to be more involved with them, I just don’t get the opportunity. Other than that it was super windy, and the panels we were painting were wanting to blow away. I’ve done so many different events I don’t really mind anyone watching me. I like the attention, aside from putting a face to a name.
[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE.]
SB: Do you have any crazy stories about pieces you've created?
ENVYS: There are always a bunch of crazy stories behind graffiti, I’ll keep all those for the books.
SB: Graffiti tends to get a bad rap. What would you say to people to help them realize the beauty in this art form?
ENVYS: Graffiti tends to get a bad rap anywhere. It just depends who you ask; it's pretty subjective. I will say that it's definitely viewed differently now than it has been, especially in this city. To me graffiti is vandalism straight out of the gate — nothing more, nothing less. I think what people confuse it with is “graffiti-styled art” and “street art.” In my opinion there are so many different aspects of it now as a culture, it's hard to tell what falls with what. I can generally find something cool about graffiti in any form, from simple tags, fill-ins and toss-ups, to panels and pieces. Not sure I can influence someone's opinion about the subject.
SB: If you had a list of ‘best-kept secrets’ (websites, books, tips, etc.) you’d recommend for graffiti, what would you include and why?
ENVYS: Not sure I have many best-kept secrets under my belt I would/could recommend. The more things evolve and change the more there are new things being introduced. I feel like now there are always some new types of paints, caps, adapters, markers, etc. being made. I guess you either roll with it or lag behind. Me, I just do what I know.
SB: What do you love most about being a creative in Richmond, Virginia?
ENVYS: As a creative, I feel like as Richmond’s art scene grows, there may become more opportunities to be involved with its art community and collaborate with like-minded artists.
SB: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
ENVYS: I was going to do the cliché graff roll call, but I’m going to just give a general shout. Props to all my homies and fools I’ve met out there doing their thing and still playing this game.
To spot new work by ENVYS, keep your eyes peeled around Richmond...