Interviewer: Izzy Church
Col is an established graffiti artist born and raised in New York, representing Brooklyn, tried & true. He has a degree in advertising and is self-taught in aerosol. He paints with a crew of about twenty worldwide named Wall Nuts. Their name is pretty self-explanatory. They believe they are nuts for tagging the walls of NYC. He began in 93’ after he saw a writer known as SWEP bombing the highway on his way home from dinner with his family. “I’ll never forget the moment I made the decision to become a writer. We were driving along the BQE going towards Bay ridge, Brooklyn when I saw SWEP tag his name. The experience gave me the swift kick in the butt I needed to follow my dream of becoming a graffiti writer. The following night I picked up my first can.”
+++To learn more about New York Street art and to meet interviewer Izzy Church check out Free Tours by Foot New York Street Art tours. +++
Could you please describe what you do for me in one or two sentences?
I paint my name: COL. My medium is aerosol, whether it’s illegal or legal, because at the end of the day, through all the up’s and downs, I have no regrets. I wouldn’t change what I do for anything in the world.
How old were you the first time you tagged a wall?
The first time I caught my tag I was thirteen or fourteen years old. It was toy as fuck, but it still felt great. The adrenaline of writing on a wall versus writing on paper is a crazy feeling.
Can you tell me how you met your crew and when you began writing with them?
I started following their work early on in my career and eventually I linked up with them. We did a couple of walls together and after that I got let into the crew. Those guys are like family to me. I would bleed for them. I’ve been with Wall Nuts since 95’.
When did you do your first mural?
I did my first really big wall in 98’. I had to lie to the owners. I told them I’ve done it before, but truthfully I had only worked on canvas. Let me tell you, working on canvas and working on a wall is a totally different thing. You can spin a canvas around, but you can’t spin a wall around. But, hey, everyone has got to start somewhere, right? And, the more I bull shitted the storeowners the more walls I got to paint. The key is not to let them see you sweat.
How many walls do you do a year?
I paint anywhere between seventy too ninety walls a year worldwide. This does not include canvases and commissions.
Can you describe what is like for you to be a graffiti artist in New York?
It is a struggle every day of the year. People see your work everywhere and they think that you are making millions, but it’s not like that. New York doesn’t want anyone using aerosol. If I did the job with paint, they wouldn’t care, because to them aerosol is not a medium, it’s a crime. They associate graffiti writers with drug dealers and gangs, but a graffiti writer isn’t going to kill you. It is a totally different mind set. I live in a really bad neighborhood and there is no graffiti in that neighborhood, because the writers aren’t looking for a fight they are trying to make the walls they paint beautiful. When you live in a run down industrial neighborhood it feels like a prison, but if you add a little color to the walls, all of a sudden people are happy. People like color!
Can you tell me what it’s like for you when you paint a wall?
When I paint a wall it’s a very spiritual experience for me. I can be enraged inside and then I pick up a can and I just let it all out on the wall. When the wall is complete, I take a step back and look at what I did. It always amazes me how art changes the landscape and the community.
Do you have work in the gallerias?
Yes. If you want to make a life as an artist you have to cater to both worlds. I’m still getting used to the gallery scene. I always struggle with going to the opening of my work. I know people are curious about what is going through my mind when I paint a piece, but I‘d rather not say. I want them to have their own experience. Every person see’s something different because every person is different. I want to see what they see.
What is your take on street artists?
If you are an artist that uses aerosol you can never be narrow-minded otherwise, you are dealing with the same shit we deal with. Stencils, stickers, and wheat pastes add another dimension to the streets. The street is the largest gallery in the world. Everyone follows the streets; gallerias follow the street, museums follow the street. At the end of the day, we are all in one scene, like it or not.
++Check out ColWallnuts website!++