If style is a simple way of saying complex things, Dezio may
be the most multi-dimensional writer around. Writing now for 20 years he still
keeps graff interesting and engaging. I was able to sit down with him and get
his take on writing these days....
-Dezio where are you originally from and when did you start writing?
I am originally from Paris, France, and I did my first piece in December 1994 in a city called Le Mans. I am down with crews from france (MCT, AJT and XIT), from the states (KCW) and also one of the founding presidents of CLW, my Chinese crew.
-You have a very unique style. How did you develop this style and what are some of your influences?
I’ve never really been on a quest for any particular style. I think it’s more something that crept in over time. Since I started painting I’ve been interested in every aspect of graffiti, from the tag to the throw, block to wildstyle ... but more importantly the stories and the history of graffiti. Looking at pieces done from all over the world at different time periods; how ideas came about and what people did with those ideas … it’s kinda endless and I’ve been passionate about it. This obsession makes that I think about graffiti almost every day, so often ideas pop up from things I see or hear that make me go : “hmmm … I wonder if I did (this/that/whatever) what it would turn out like.”
I think people often confuse style, effects and flow. Style describes the general category of what you are going to paint : tag, throw-up, block letter, piece, production, 3d … Effects is the decoration that goes around it, be it fuzzy lines, shadows, outlines, clean or messy … Finally, Flow is what defines your letters, your thought process and the way you perceive them, no matter what effect or in what style that is done. I personally try to have a unique flow but I’ll interpret that flow in as many different styles and using as many different effects as I can.
-Your technique and detail work is very eclectic. I especially liked the piece with the bunny fill. Can you speak a little on how you approach your work and your thought process?
Thanks. Well I don’t really have a specific process. As I said earlier, I usually start a piece with an idea that I want to try out, I build everything around that idea as I paint.
I sketch a lot, almost every day, but never full colored
finished sketches. It’s more scribbles and doodles on the side of pages. It
could be a D, or an I, or a E-S connection, often not more then 1 or 2 cm’s
long. I sketch above previous sketches, never erasing anything, always with a
pen … I look back at it and sometimes new ideas come from that and I sketch
again to the side something else. When I go to the wall, or wherever I’m going
to paint, I never bring anything with me. I just recall what I sketched, some
ideas I came up with recently and I just go ahead and try them out.
For the Bunny fill piece, all I had in my mind was the Z and an illustration I had seen a couple days before in a book on Japanese toys. So I started out painting the Z, then I quickly sketched out the other letters accordingly, and I started filling in; trying to balance the colors and the shapes as I went along. I liked the multiple bunny idea so I decided to do that in the Z, and then I just little by little came up with the different parts of the different letters. I believe for that one, my E was the last letter I painted, then the multiple colored lines to create a sense of visual vibration.
-How would you describe your style, do you feel like it’s an extension of yourself?
If you are talking about my flow I think little by little it is starting to set in and I do think it’s kinda following my character traits. I’m very lazy and I don’t like spending too much time on things thus my letter constructions are getting simpler and simpler. Usually my initial sketch on the wall is done in just a couple minutes.
Over the past 2 years I’ve been working on modernizing the 3d style that used to be in fashion when I started out painting. It fell off after 2000 when writers started wanting to paint more bubbly and less photorealistic walls, but I think it’s been underrated. Thus I’m trying to create depth and volume with my letters but in a more modern, simple, and illustrative way requiring less patience and more freedom in its interpretation. I’ve worked on creating effects that follow that trail of thought, sketchy lines, blur, field of view, spatter … work in progress.
-You have been writing for a long time now and your style still remains relevant. I know it’s hard to explain but how do you maintain this level of relevancy without your work looking trendy?
Nice to hear J I’d say by always trying to find new ways of doing things. Also, after a couple pieces done in a certain style or with a certain effect I try to go back to a previous piece I did, a previous style or effect … and try taking that in another direction. Also I try to balance between going painting in legal spots and going out bombing … playing with time constraints and stress is always good for creativity.
All in all I think that by being away from the big cities where graffiti is so prominent makes that I am more painting for myself then for any scene. I think this helps a lot as it enables me to isolate myself from any global influence that I would get by being in cities where graffiti is so widespread. I go at my own pace.
-Is there a difference between relevancy and chasing trends?
Yes. Personally I try to avoid trends as much as I can. I
admit that it’s hard to do and often you will see a bunch of writers rocking an
awesome trendy effect, that you know will look cool if you do it as well … but
usually if 2 or more people are doing it then it’s already too late. Some
people rock certain effects and it becomes their signature. Once I can define a
signature to a writer then I consider it biting to replicate and trying to pass
it off as yours. However, doing it and giving the guy props is ok. Trying to
understand how he came up with that idea, and if there is another way of going
about it then that is even better. That’s the difference between biting trends and
being relevant. So many different styles and effects have been created in
graffiti that it’s hard to come up with something new, yet it’s crazy how when
you look at global graffiti pieces today, many look alike as they just follow
what is already relevant today instead of finding what will be relevant
I get so annoyed by people saying they paint new-school or
old school styles. Most don’t have a clue what that means as they never really
looked at any other pieces then what they see on the web. In the past some
people went absolutely freestyle, way more deconstructed then what is being
done today. You had so many styles that disappeared over time, some very
intricate, others very simple yet with a simple trick that made pieces burn
more than many things we see today. Grouping all those under
“oldschool/newschool” is such a sign of ignorance.
This is true for the new writers coming up, as for the old writers that have been painting for years. Many see this as an excuse as they feel the need to judge and justify their flow or style. For many, all they do is follow a certain trend that was popular 20 or so years ago, whenever or wherever they started painting, that they didn’t even come up with at the time, and insist that by doing so they are painting the “old-school” way of painting.
Don’t take me wrong, I respect those who have been continuously painting in the same style for years, who keep doing what they like, because that's how they like painting. Also those who came up with something 20-30 years ago and who keep painting it because that’s their trademark, that’s what they created. Just don’t go about justifying this by claiming it’s old or new school …
-What is your favorite style of cooking?
Oh I have many. I love cooking. Besides painting that’s what I do. At the moment I’m finally learning how to cook different Asian dishes… spicy and full of taste.
-You spend a lot of time visiting China. What’s that like in terms of painting? What are some of the difficulties and surprises you have discovered while painting in China?
I love traveling through China to paint. Most of it is
untouched territory where graffiti has never been, so that's super inspiring.
You can get some awesome spots. Unfortunately, graffiti here is more of a
personal experience. It’s more for the memory and the picture as nobody notices
it other than you. Those who do generally don’t understand it. Most of what you
paint will get buffed quickly and will have zero to no impact on the population.
So going all out bombing is basically pointless. It’s all about an ego trip.
This is fine by me, and still fun to do.
The scene here is very small, this is rapidly changing as China is developing yet I’m not sure it will ever really catch on. A couple of writers here and there are painting and have become very good, these writers have reached out to each other and created a strong community. There is very little beef and most people get along very well with each other. Once you are accepted into this community, it’s a great experience to go and meet the writers in different parts of China as you will be very well received. I created a crew here called CLW that stands for Can’t Let’m Win along with Fluke and Vexto. We are now around 15 writers, half are local from many different cities, and the other half are foreigners who all live and paint in China.
I can’t say I’ve encountered any real difficulties. The surprise is the reaction that you get from the people who do see you. Most are curious and will stop to look. No matter if you are painting legally or illegally. Many will have a very positive opinion with what you are doing. You even get brides and grooms who want to have their wedding pictures with writers in the background.
-Are the penalties for getting caught painting in China severe?
It all depends on what you are painting. Graffiti here is considered a misdemeanor, so most of the time you risk almost nothing to go out and paint in the streets. Cops will catch you and you will get arrested and spend maybe a night in jail but most of the time you can get away with a small fine, and if you are lucky you can talk your way out of it as well. Unlike other Asian countries, here you can’t pay off the police officers, and I wouldn’t recommend trying it (even if I’m sure most of the fines end up in their pockets). Penalties are small.
However, this is only true as long as what you are doing is in no way political or religious. The penalties are much more severe depending on where you are painting and the consequences will change drastically if it is on a government building, a party member’s house, a train, a subway … In those cases the best you can hope for is to get deported …
-Outside of graffiti do you do any other visual art or design?
Yes. Recently I’ve opened up an art studio in Shanghai called 900 with my friend Keflouis, a French street artist, and I’ve started to paint on canvases and start different projects along that line (I sell paint for those who are interested as well).
-Any closing thoughts
You can follow more of Dezio's work on instagram: @dezioone and Flickr: Dezione