(L to r) Graffiti artists Shek and Supher spend some quality time together. Photo by Mark Greenberg
Supher and Shek are two of San Antonio's most visible graffiti artists - when they want to be seen. Aside from their public art, both have work at the art warehouse Ellis Bean, and .357 Studio at Blue Star. Their works can also be seen at their show - together with artists Soup, Vincent Valdez, Cruz Ortiz, and Ruben Luna - on Saturday, July 26 at 414 Brooklyn.

Supher: What are your graffiti stats? How long have you been writing? What's your favorite thing to do, like catching tags or street bombing or painting trains or painting walls?

Shek: From seventh to eighth grade, I was catching tags. About 10th, I was doing fill-ins, illegals, and then from there on out was trains to pieces, from pieces to artwork, to artwork and the occasional dip and dab in the illegal.

Supher: I started tagging in '90, and started getting into graffiti, thanks to my boy Jibe from the Deadbeats. He showed me Source magazine, and from there it was on. I thought that graffiti had died, then he showed me Rap Pages and all that old stuff. Then I started painting trains by myself and tagging in ditches, and started painting a lot from '95 and on.

Shek: How do you feel about trying to get accepted, to being embraced, then to being exploited, but then back to being a bum?

Supher: That's crazy, because I wanted to get accepted, but nobody gave me the time of day. But now that I put in a little bit of work ...

Shek: Basically what you're saying is screw everybody?

Supher: No. They just should give younger kids a chance. They don't have to all do "Chicano art" and do portraits of homegirls and dudes and all that. Just 'cause we're Mexican we don't have to do all that. That stuff is old skool.

Wendi Kimura: When you say "accepted," accepted by whom?

Supher: Fine artists.

WK: What's the acceptance like in the writing community?

Supher: You have to pay a lot of dues for a lot of years. Then you get down, people accept you 'cause you put in your work.

WK: What do you think the difference is between your own community and the fine arts community? You still have to pay your dues.

Shek: There's a big difference. Paying your dues for the illegal graff scene - or just the graff scene in general - is a lot more risky, raw, true. I mean, you risk everything just to put your art out, instead of just risking a "I didn't sell anything at First Friday" type of thing.

Supher: And then, usually when you start, you're like 14 or 15, and you're a juvenile, and you're gonna go and destroy a bunch of things. Not like these kids who went to art school.

Shek: It starts off more quantity than quality.

Supher: Yeah, and it's raw.

Shek: Then more quantity and quality - as opposed to quality every so often.

Supher: It's a lot of qualities. What's your favorite color and brand?

Shek: Favorite color's Krylon - just Krylon - Global Blue. Keep it to the roots. What's yours?

Supher: BriteCoat chrome from Rust-Oleum. That's for bombing, though. What are your favorite mediums to work with, and what other types of art do you think you're gonna start doing?

Shek: Right now I use household paints. At the Bean, we're real artists who keep it grimy, creating anything with what we can get our hands on. Right now I work with spray paint, Griffin ink, and I want to take it to stencils, and take it to the streets on stencils. Where do you plan to take your art in the future?

Supher: Do a bunch of murals, teach kids, on clothing, and on more trains, more buildings. Around the world. Not just in town.

Shek: I want to show that I can take it from the streets to corporate America to art galleries.

Supher: Real art in the 'hood.

Shek: Something different. Nothing that looks like I painted it with a stick in my ass, so to speak. Keep my nose down, just go from doing pieces to clothing to design, graphic design, maybe, in the future.

Supher: Is that you in the Pepsi commercial?

Shek: Fuck you.

WK: (It is.) Supher, you mentioned that you want to teach kids - in what capacity?

Supher: I want to be a teacher, an art teacher. Then I want to teach mural classes. But modern-day murals. You have to break the mold, you can't do everything like everybody else does.

Shek, how did your characters develop, and what are your characters' names?

Shek: None of my characters have names. I don't think I should title any of my paintings because I don't feel any moods when I'm doing them, or get emotional while I'm painting it. I just draw what my mind tells me to draw, and try to balance it out with my vision.

WK: Who are some of your influences?

Shek: I don't have any influences. Bean and the graffiti scene try not to copy or bite or try to ingest any other styles from anybody else, you know? Keep it your own. So after working with that since the beginning, I kinda stuck to never look to anybody to get my style across.

Supher: Mixmaster Mike makes my brain get all weird. Michael Salgado makes me want to drink. There's a lot. There's too many people. But my hype man is Duo. He makes me want to paint all the time. Everything in general influences me.

Shek: Life.

Supher: Yeah. Do you see your art as modern-day hieroglyphics to the hip-hop culture?

Shek: I have three kinds of art, three styles that I play around with. I have my graffiti art, which is a completely different entity, which I guess you can use for modern-day hieroglyphics because, well, it caters to a culture of people. Only they can understand. We don't expect anybody else to read it. I do that for them. I've got the other kind of art, which I do for my culture, which is my hip-hop characters. I do a lot of punk-rock characters, just stuff that I grew up with. Stuff that reflects back on me. Then I do another kind of art where I just create. Where it just comes out. Where I just let it come out. I mean, in all aspects. It all fits into the same thing, but this is a little bit out of the ordinary, a little bit different, a little bit deeper.

Supher: Who do you think are the new up-and-coming artists?

Shek: Streetwise, I don't know. I haven't been out too much lately. Painting-wise, I think, Prae. Prae has motivated me a lot. He's the first person I've actually seen just start painting and actually develop crazy. He's just getting better and better, so I'm looking forward to seeing more of him. Cien 63 has a hidden talent that I think should be showcased a bit more.

Supher: And whoever thinks that Soup is sleeping right now, he's not. He's gonna burn every artist in this town.

Shek: I'd like to see Supher get better.

Supher: I'll try. •


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