ArtAttack had the chance to visit the studio of one of our favourite LA street artists, WRDSMTH, to discuss his practice, inspirations and what it’s like to be an urban artist in Hollywood.
ArtAttack: Lots of your art revolves around the theme of Hollywood — what’s your Hollywood story, how did you end up here etc.?
Wrdsmth: I am a writer — always have been. However, I was living in Chicago, working in advertising as a copywriter and had a realisation one day that I was not happy and was not doing the type of writing I wanted to be doing. So I quit my job and started to move in the left direction, which turned out to be the right direction. Ended up in LA and I really love it here. I’ve written screenplays while here and a novel that ended up getting published. I started WRDSMTHing two years ago and began using the medium to talk to all the people doing time here in Hollywood — all the creatives who move here with a dream. I began to say encouraging and motivating things that I wished people would have said to me when I first got here.
AA: So you’re a writer first and foremost, what made you decide to transition into art? And why street art specifically?
W: I’ve always loved and have always been inspired by street art. Even as a kid, I’d see scrawlings on walls — things like “Tony Hawk is god” — and I wondered who did that, why did they do that, and when did they do that? However, as my fascination with street art evolved, I always thought it was something I probably couldn’t do. I never considered myself an artist of the paint/brush variety and I felt street art was better left to the superhero-like types who hit the streets at all hours of the night. But in 2013, I had a really good year creatively and that meant I was sitting in front of the computer for long hours every day. I had a realization that I needed an active hobby to get me away from all the sitting/typing for stretches. But it became a conundrum because I didn’t want to take up something like photography that I’d probably ultimately resent because it would be taking me away from my first love — writing. It had to be something active that involved my passion and calling. That’s what led me to street art. And that’s what motivated me to overcome the notion and fear that it was something I could not do.
AA: Your typewriter has become iconic. What originally inspired the concept?
W: Well, when I was contemplating doing street art, I knew if I did anything it would be word-based. When I thought word-based, the image of an old school typewriter immediately came to mind. So did the name Wordsmth and Wordsmith in LA. At first I thought I’d just do white stickers with a black typewriter and black words floating above. It wasn’t until I realised that the typewriter could/should be stenciled/painted and the page wheatpaste above that I was mentally all in on the idea. To me, that natural combination of the two most prevalent methods used in street art was so simple, yet so unique.
AA: Name 3 of your favourite slogans and why they are special to you.
W: If by slogans, you mean my WRDs, I’ll go with:
“Aspire to inspire others and the universe will take note.”
“I love the way you blush when I tell you how you shine.”
“The only lie I ever told you is that I liked you when I already knew I loved you.”
‘Aspire to inspire’ was penned by me early on and has become somewhat of a mantra and staple for WRDSMTH. I think it encapsulates what I’m aiming to do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis with my street art. And I hope the universe is taking note. ‘blush/shine’ was inspired by a girl, a muse of mine. It’s special to this day, because she actually stumbled upon the WRD in the streets while driving even before I posted a pic of it on social media. That was pretty cool and a pretty romantic moment. The words also combine inspiration and romance effectively — at least in my eyes. ‘The only lie’ is another WRD inspired by and written for a girl. It’s one of those fulfilling moments when something so personal to me resonated and continues to resonate with the masses. I imagine a lot of singer/songwriters experience this type of thing when they pour their heart out in a song that becomes something of a hit overnight.
AA: Do you remember your first experience putting up a work in the streets? If so, can you talk us through it? What was it like both as a physical process and emotionally?
W: I do. I ventured just a few blocks from my home to paint/paste a WRD that said “there’s nothing sadder than a pawnshop in Hollywood” — which is just a creative way of saying, ‘don’t give up on your dreams.’ I placed the piece on an electrical box across from a pawnshop and I was hooked. There was an adrenaline rush and a fear of getting caught that mixed with the excitement of doing something new and kind of kick-ass. Over time, the fear subsided, but there’s always some level of adrenaline when WRDSMTHing. And the excitement has not leveled off whatsoever — and that’s the most important thing for me. I’m having a lot of fun. Period.
AA: In terms of your peers, name 3 artists you think we should definitely check out.
W: IMHUGE, unfukyourself, and Morley.
AA: Is there any advice you would give to young people looking to get into street art?
W: Sure. “Do it for yourself and hope it resonates with others.”
AA: What’s next in 2016? Any exciting projects in the works that we should know about?
W: I am always aiming to surprise people and I think year three of WRDSMTH is going to be entertaining. I’m going bigger, which is always fun. And I’m always contemplating innovated delivery methods for my WRDs. There will also be a few shows mixed in — maybe even a solo show, which I have not done yet. Stay tuned…
– India Irving