Smog-One is considered one of Florida's finest graffiti artists, well known on the Miami scene for his impressive 3-D style and life-like detail. Currently living in South Florida, Smog was born and raised in Paris, France.
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Artsology's exclusive interview with graffiti artist Smog-One came about in an unexpected way: I was contacted by an individual who said I should check out the work of Smog-One, followed by the statement: "I'm not an artist, but Smog and I have worked together on a number of projects."
I thought it was a little strange that a graffiti artist would have a handler, and when it was decided that we would set up an interview, the go-between person handled it all. I had some thoughts that maybe the handler and Smog-One were one and the same, and there was the suggested notion of two separate people in order to keep Smog One's identity secret.
Perhaps these thoughts were inspired by the secretive manner in which the notorious artist Banksy keeps his identity hidden. Since graffiti, if done without permission, is an illegal act, there's a sense of mystery as to how one balances the public aspect of the art versus the private nature of the individual artist.
In Smog-One's case, I finally learned that it was simply the fact that Smog-One wants to focus on his art and social media, and the friend takes care of the business and marketing side of things. Amidst this initial mystery, the interview took place, and Smog-One shed some interesting insight on what it's like working as a legal and legitimate graffiti artist.
Artsology: The name "Smog-One," can you tell us what it means, or how it came to be?
Smog-One: Just thinking about what I did, creeping through the streets in the middle of the night like the smog, I liked the way the letters flowed together and I always felt like the smog rolling through the streets of Paris.
Artsology: Do you ever reveal your real name, or do you handle all art-related business as "Smog-One?"
Smog-One: I've revealed my real name, but I do handle all art related business as Smog-One. People definitely know me as Smog.
Artsology: You were born and raised in Paris - at what age did you come to the United States? What led you to Florida?
Smog-One: I came to the United States at the age of 13, it was my parents' decision to relocate in Florida.
Artsology: I had a chance to visit Paris last fall, and was extremely impressed with how vibrant and sophisticated the street art and graffiti scene was there. What can you tell us about the graffiti artist community in Paris?
Smog-One: I really can't comment on the current scene, I have not been back in a very long time, but I know there are many amazing graffiti artists there and all over Europe.
Artsology: How much of your work is out in the streets as opposed to paintings on canvas and work in galleries?
Smog-One: Most of my works are murals in the streets, many of which are still running. I do more murals than canvases, but I always have a canvas in the works. I don't have any work in galleries at this time.
Artsology: Would you say that most graffiti and street artists aspire to show their work in galleries, or is the idea of having your work in the streets, visible to a wider range of people, more appealing to you?
Smog-One: It's nice to have your work in galleries and make money, but having your work in the streets is everything. I use the streets as my gallery.
Artsology: How much of your graffiti art is done with permission from the building owners versus doing pieces discreetly? If you have done work discreetly, have you ever been arrested for it?
Smog-One: I've been at this since 1989, so I've done my share of illegal work, but now it's mostly legals. I've been in the back of a cop car three times and only had to go to court once, let's leave it at that.
Artsology: In cases where you do your work with permission from the building's owner, how do you go about seeking out or finding these opportunities?
Artsology: Are any of your public murals done on commission?
No, as a matter of fact, I spend a lot of time and a lot of my own money painting these murals, even knowing that it can be painted over at any time, but I get the satisfaction of sharing my art with everyone.
Artsology: Is most of your mural work in the Miami area, or do you travel and make murals in other parts of the country or world?
Smog-One: Most of my work is in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach (Florida).
Artsology: Do you make a living from your art, or do you have a "day job," and if so, what kind of work do you do?
Smog-One: I'm a tattoo artist at A New Dimension Tattoos in Palm Beach, Florida.
Artsology: Do you have any formal art education, or are you a self-taught artist?
Artsology: Can you explain to us how you came up with the idea to make your graffiti style three-dimensional?
Smog-One: I was always looking for the next level of graffiti to come about and the first time I saw a 3-D piece by Erni, in the early '90s, it inspired me to try 3-D.
Artsology: What artists inspire you?
Smog-One: My inspiration comes from a mixture of artists, everything from Michelangelo to M.C. Escher, from Mode 2 to some of the best graffiti artists of today.
Artsology: On your website, you have a section called "Blackbook," which appear to be sketches - why do you call it "Blackbook?" Are all of your murals directly translated from the sketches, or do you sometimes improvise on the murals?
Smog-One: The term blackbook was around before I got into graffiti, it's basically the sketch book to practice your letter style in. The most frequently used books actually have a black cover, hence the name. I use about 10% of a sketch for murals, and I freestyle the rest.
Artsology: You also create sculptures, which seems unique for graffiti artists - can you tell us more about your sculptural work? (see one such sculpture by Smog-One below)
Smog-One: I do sculpture work to study, or reference for the light source and cast shadowing in order to perfect the 3-D. Because I don't use computers, I actually have to physically construct the letters.
Artsology: Are you part of a "graffiti crew?" What purpose or benefit do graffiti artists get from being in a crew, whereas there isn't a similar thing happening with studio artists?
Smog-One: X-Men and BSK (Blessed Style Kings). Your crew becomes your friends and family, same purpose, many benefits - we lift each other up, paint together, motivate each other, look out for each other - we have each other's back.
Artsology: Have you been to - or created work at - 5 Pointz in Long Island City? What do you think of the plans to raze the complete structure and therefore obliterate an incredible array of graffiti covering a 200,000-square-foot factory building?
Smog-One: I know of it and I'm quite aware of many pieces there, but I haven't been. It's a graffiti landmark, I hate to see it go.
Artsology: If a student wanted to pursue an art career similar to what you do, what advice would you give?
Smog-One: Don't do it. Graffiti art is not something you pursue as a career, it's done from the heart and soul - it's not about the money. If you want a career, learn computer programming or become an engineer.