Mike Giant Discusses Graffiti Culture and his New Book, ‘Eternal’
FNG Magazine recently sat down with famed graffiti writer, illustrator and tattoo artist, Mike Giant, for a chat about his new book, Eternal. At 320 pages, Eternal offers an unparalleled look at the San Francisco-based artist’s work, including many of his illustrations and photographs that represent the multi-faceted creative life he leads. As usual, Mike comes across as passionate, considered and outspoken in conversation. Read an extract of the ensuing interview below and head over to FNG to check out the complete feature.
So Mike, where did your graffiti influences start from?
Hmm, I’ve been very influenced by the Frisco stuff, the early Twist pieces… but also the Seb and Diego stuff, they’ve been a big influence for my style… I started to think more dynamic, more funky, after seeing their stuff. Before I was more into the symmetrical pieces, very straight. Right now it’s all about Funk and Flow!
It feels very strange to know you’ve been influenced so strong by Euro writers.
I’d say the Euro scene is bigger, more complex and more active than the US one. Also, what has to be said is the most appreciated styles overseas are the MSK crew stuff, you know… right now loads of kids are following this wave. In Europe it doesn’t seem like you fuck with it too much.
Since we started to discuss about style, let’s go deep into this topic…
In the last years, I started to invest more into the style matter. I proved to myself that I was technically skilled, you know with the symmetrical stuff I was doing. I felt it was more an academic exercise. But if I thought about my teachers from LA and NYC, they were doing something more funky, there was more flow in their pieces but probably I was too young to understand it. Right now I feel myself more spontaneous, the environment plays a big role in my productions, the architectural meaning is so important… mostly because I don’t sketch anymore, when it comes to graffiti. I try to follow the flow of the surface that I’m going to paint on.For me graffiti is more about the experience, going out and doing something really big. I’m used to passing my time doing tattoo drawings, small stuff, really precise… so the counter part is going out to bomb!
Where do you think is going the public opinion regarding graffiti, in USA?
Well, let’s say in US we have got a concept of private property which is stronger than the rest of the world. Private property is holy there. That’s why graffiti writers are so tough over there, people risk jail for a tag. When I started in 1989, it was known to me I was risking jail doing graffiti, you grow up with this in mindset, and this counts a lot. Just consider, when it comes the election period, every mayor launches an anti-graffiti campaign, in order to collect votes… it’s a hot theme in US. But it’s impossible to get rid of graffiti because for every old writer caught, there will always be a new kid getting up, very aggressive.
What still drives you in doing graffiti?
The experience. Dealing with the environment and the graffiti community. It’s the best way to get in touch with my old friends and to meet some new ones.
We talked about going out to bomb. You’ve been really exposed as artist in the last years. Don’t you feel you’re risking too much doing outsides with your name?
In Albuquerque they know me, of course. Then I have to use another name to do my things, even if I know they have learned to read my pieces, you know, it’s easy to recognise a style. Also, I know the mayor is particularly interested in catching me. I’m a sort of trophy for him, so I have to be really careful.