A stenciled typewriter, a wheat-pasted quote; something inspiring and uplifting to make you look, think, smile. This is the work of WRDSMTH a writer who while ‘doing time’ in Hollywood, took to the streets with an art project that has spread from LA to Philadelphia, London, Paris and New York.
His repetitive typewriter motif and inspirational messages are instantly recognizable, and his text-based works speak to the individuals who are so often lost in the mass of these burgeoning, crowded cities.
I chatted with WRDSMTH via email to find out what motivated him to begin this street art project.
UCC: Where does the name ‘wrdsmth’ come from, and why did this name appeal to you?
WS: When I was contemplating hitting the streets with my WRDs, I thought the idea of “a wordsmth in LA” was kind of funny — almost an oxymoron given this town’s poor reputation. But when I tried to grab Wordsmith on social media sites — namely Instagram, it was taken. So I removed the vowels and immediately fell in love with the name/moniker WRDSMTH. Also no longer thought it was funny. Thought it sounded mysterious and compelling.
UCC: When did you start putting art up on the streets?
WS: I began late November 2013. November 29th to be exact. I am just a baby in the world of street art.
UCC: What (or who) motivated you to use this space as opposed to other more conventional spaces?
WS: I have always loved street art. Always have been intrigued and inspired by it on many levels. But I have used other mediums for my art — or at least half of it. I am referring to my writing, which I have been producing for years in many mediums — novels, screenplays, shorts, short stories, etc. I am a published author and also work in TV every now and then. The WRDSMTHing began because I needed/wanted an active hobby. I spend so long in front of the computer laboring over words, I was seeking an outlet to get me out of the chair/office and out and about. Street art filled that need, and from the moment I started, I felt energized and invigorated.
UCC: You have a widely recognized motif of a stenciled typewriter with a wheat pasted quote. What lead you to develop and settle on this motif? What inspires the different quotes?
WS: Back to when I was contemplating hitting the streets, I kept thinking I’d do something word based for obvious reasons. When I was playing around with the names Wordsmth and eventually WRDSMTH, a typewriter seemed like a natural motif/icon to use. At first I thought I’d just do stickers — white ones with a black typewriter and the words floating above it. But when I stumbled upon the notion to spray paint/stencil the typewriter and make the page a wheatpaste, I knew I needed to make WRDSMTH a reality. I had not seen a lot of artists combining stenciling and wheatpasting, especially in a manner that makes so much sense and seems so natural. The WRDs come from many sources — things I think of in passing daily, conversations I have or overhear, music, the media, etc. I’m always jotting down thoughts and those eventually form into WRDs.
UCC: Do you have a specific message/s or purpose you want your art to serve?
WS: I enjoy being a positive voice in Los Angeles and in the street art community. Specifically in LA/Hollywood, I know that positivity resonates with many people because such a large percentage are out here chasing their dreams and that journey can be a bumpy one filled with many downs and ups. When I started WRDSMTHing, I realized that no one was really talking to all the people “doing time in Hollywood” as I like to call them – all the writers, actors, musicians, dancers, artists that reside here. So I went out of my way to talk to them and I think that may be what initially put me on the map. I like to provide inspiring thoughts and messages on the streets because I am one of those dream chasers and I always love to stumble upon things that help inspire me or motivate me. Basically, I am saying things that I wish someone would have said to me when I first arrived here.
UCC: Have you ever had any run-ins with the law?
WS: Some close calls, but nothing major. And hoping it remains that way.
UCC: Street art is still considered ‘vandalism’ by many people, and is generally illegal- how do you justify and reconcile with this? How do you think it should be treated in the eyes of the law?
WS: It’s such a tough debate. Personally, I would never hit any private property. I put my art on abandoned walls and buildings and all those electrical boxes that are everywhere. That’s the grey area (pun intended). Those boxes technically belong to the city and they are the ones that buff them regularly, but it’s obviously better and safer than hitting someone’s business or home. The other thing I will say, is I do think street artists do a lot to brings people to areas of the city. The arts district in downtown LA and even Melrose Avenue (which I know artists either love or hate) are great examples. People venture to these areas to see the art and also spend money in the places of business. I know groups of photographers that have planned days to hunt for street art in/around Melrose and guess what they do in between? They eat and drink and shop in all the stores in the area. All I am trying to say is street artists generally have the best intentions and it sucks that the law often thinks quite the opposite.
UCC: What do you like most about street art?
WS: For me, I love the fact that my WRDs are being read and even anticipated by some many. First of all, that’s a writer’s dream. Second, it just makes me happy to know I might be inspiring others. Big picture, I love the street art community. Here in LA, it’s a pretty close group that really goes out of its way to support one another. I’ve made a lot of great friends so far. And that also goes beyond LA. Because of social media, I’ve been able to get to know a lot of artists all over the world and I hope to meet as many as I can in my travels.
UCC: Who or what has influenced/ inspired your work?
WS: I find inspiration in countless things and many people. In the world of street art, Morley is and was a big inspiration. His art made me realize that people might actually read words temporarily tattooed to walls and that realization set me on the path that led to WRDSMTH. I got the chance to meet Morley shortly after I started up with my art and now we’re friends, which is pretty damn cool.
UCC: Have you worked in any other spaces such as art galleries? How does it differ from putting up work in the streets? Could you work exclusively in either context?
WS: I have been a part of several group shows and it’s always great to get up in galleries. I enjoy it and gallery shows are a great opportunity to meet/meet up with other artists and also to say hello to fans of all our work. I would never want to solely work in galleries – I love being up in the streets too much. In fact, if I’d have to make a choice between the two, I’d stick to just the streets.
UCC: Thank you for your time!
Follow @WRDSMTH on Instagram, @WRDSMTHinLA on Twitter and http://WRDSMTHinLA.tumblr.com for more of his work.