Graffiti Interview: Tuke one
Alright so thanks for taking the time out to do this interview, can we get a brief run down of who you are and how long have you been in the game? What crew do you rep and how did you get the name Tuke one?
Well thank you for having me, I appreciate the support. I started writing in 1991 shortly after moving to Denver from where I grew up in Arizona. I started dabbling in many mediums at a young age as both my parents are also artists. I was influenced by the MTV generation and grew up with an eclectic taste in music. Everything from classic rock, new wave, hip hop, and punk. This exposed me to graffiti style that I was even trying to emulate in high school but it wasn’t until I was in a bigger city that I really understood where this came from or what it meant. I immediately fell in love the with the can as well as the style and began painting with some other writers I met as often as possible. My original name was 2quick.. a nod to the original quick in New York but without writing quick2.
I liked the name but soon after getting into graff I took a trip out to the west coast and saw the mayhem of 90s Los Angeles kids. It blew my mind.. nothing was off limits. It gave me a different way of looking at spots.. but more so that there were all these different styles of bombing: heavens, highways, billboards, trains and what spoke to me the most, full on productions with multiple writers and technical effects. Once I returned to Denver I did my best to execute each of these different elements because in my opinion to be a good writer you should be well rounded and even the smallest to largest should be done with the same level of skill. Denver was different back then so I drew a lot of attention and after a few too close of shaves with law enforcement I realized I needed an alias.. a good friend of mine @jher451 and I were working together at the time and he suggested using the first and last syllables of 2quick hense “tuke”.
I liked the originality of the name and actually didn’t even realize it meant something till many years later but also appreciated its other context once realized.. it’s cerebral (laughs) I was also lucky enough to experience the Connecticut scene and New York classic walls early on and equally tried to bring that energy here with my long time painting partner and crewmate @emit_df. I represent DF Crew and have since the 90s and more recently was blessed to be picked up by the Creatures as well.
What I like about your work is that not only are you super dope with your spray paint, but you’re not afraid to dig into the philosophical aspects of creating art, what it really means to you to create and talk about your creative process. I really enjoyed how you broke down the story and process of the recent piece you did as tribute to Denver 5 Points jazz era, do you mind sharing that story and process with us?
I appreciate that insight and compliment immensely.. and yes I do tend to be long winded sometimes.. haha but I suppose its been sort of a natural evolution for me. As my eduction of graffiti grew I would occasionally find that some peoples work was so relevant.. whether in style alone, messages wrapped in visual ideas, or social commentary if not all three together. I can remember having an epiphany at a certain point about what it was I wanted to say. There’s a fair amount of my recent work that radiates from this point. Having the tools of social media can give you a platform to discuss these things in a constructive way that you feel strongly about, which I think gives people a better idea of the type of person you are.
I do my best to use any spotlight I have to be authentic and grounded in the communities that I’m painting in and represent their culture/ideas in a way that also allows me to maintain my integrity as an artist and to my style. I always want people to be able to see where my design aesthetics come from, which is predominately graffiti style/nature. As for my discussions about my process I’m usually just hoping I can convey a general mood or feeling to my post so that the viewer has an experience beyond just seeing a picture. Naturally these elements play a big part in how I create the walls I paint whether from illegal graffiti all the way to stylized murals. My father has always been a great teacher and also taught at a community college for many years, I’ve always appreciated his kind and gentle way of explaining things so that I understood and I suspect this has always had a subconscious affect on the way I talk to others in general but especially other artists/writers.
My hope is probably that one person out there is inspired or able to unlock something in their own process. My recent 5 Points jazz wall was an interesting concept to figure out.. the client had lovely taste in subject matter but it was a bit of a challenge to wrap several conceptual ideas into one wall and still have it convey a certain mood or feel. The district here in Denver was labeled “Harlem of the West” because it had such a vibrant scene from the 1930s on and naturally a good part of this community was inhabited by some of the most underserved in the city. I wanted to pay homage to that first and foremost. Secondly my client’s Grandmother immigrated to New York and card hustled on the streets to make her way and thus start her family here.
Both are also driven by music and he plays several instruments. I essentially combined all of these elements on the wall. I do my best to absorb the community I’m in and don’t think I’ve had so many compliments on one wall which is really an honor. And honestly I feel that graff writers have a leg up in this sense.. every writer that’s been in a dirty alley, a train yard, abandoned building has experienced the visceral sense of how an environment shapes your craft. I simply apply the same logic to nature and other aspects around me.
Another really cool piece that you did was the piece you did in Mexico recently, what grabbed my attention about this is that you travel while you work which must be quite an adventure! When did you start traveling to do paintings? Was it just a process of getting known through social media and then all the sudden people reach out and invite you to paint their walls?
So my traveling started picking up more once I had the freedom to do so. I’ve had a bit of a checkered past and was bound by legal restrictions for many years because of some poor decisions made in the past. Without delving too far into that story I drifted away from graffiti in the late 90s because of several factors. I’d been in a several year battle with another writer and was exhausted. But more so didn’t feel like I was good enough to continue.. this poor self esteem led me down a different path of hustling and generally partying with my friends. This one choice ultimately led to me being in prison for about 15 years because of violations and more charges. I had some tough talks with myself on my last stretch which was 10 straight and realized that I was my own maker of my fate and that if I could bring this reality on myself I could also create a different one. I’ve been out since 2016 and haven’t looked back. I promised myself that the first chance I had to travel I would and have been many places as a result.
I was also fortunate enough to be in a position to practice/hone my craft over that last sentence so that I was prepared to hit the ground running. I’ve met a lot of people over the years through many different circles and a good part of my travel experiences are a result of those connections. Yes social media also helps but 80% of the opportunities I’ve had have been because of either new or old friends. Going to festivals and painting is incredible and a great way to expand these networks but in my opinion need to be approached with an open mind/heart. If you’re just going somewhere to try and climb a ladder you’re missing the entire point. And now more than ever there are less purely graffiti events so you might as well enjoy them when they come. Yes, I’ve definitely expanded my reach and relationships through social media but nothing beats being in another city/country painting with your mates and just experiencing life. Traveling for me personally has been about having no agenda except to be able to paint and see my friends.. I’ve been blessed with several adventures as a result and can’t thank my people enough.
What is your favorite documentary or book that covers the history or major players of graffiti and why?
Wow.. that’s really a tough one. I haven’t kept up as much as I should so my answers may be a bit dated however, I was able to go to a screening of “Piece by Piece” when it came out and always appreciated the style of filming and depth they took it to, for the time it was advanced. Of course grew up on graffiti tv and lots of old mags: Scribble, While You Were Sleeping, and Can Control being the most memorable. But during my time inside I got books/magazines so I could study and do my best to keep up with the evolution. Graphotism showed me what euro kids were doing. World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti and The Mural Book series showed me how people were merging styles of technical productions with aspects of realism. And Bay Area Graffiti has always been a favorite as well.. it introduced me to @sidename who is a good friend today.
From the way you move on social media and the amount of high quality work you do I assume you do this full time correct? How did you get started in making this your business? Did you offer to do murals for free at first and then expand?
Yes I do paint and design full time. I also do more commercial painting jobs that I usually don’t show to help pay the bills because I have an adaptable skill set that not all muralists do, that comes from a more sign painting approach and a familiarity with typography however, I have been vigilant about pushing my own style as much as possible and more and more having the freedom to create the type of murals I want to create, that are rooted in graffiti style. That’s a good question it was a really a culmination of things. For the most part my parents have been self employed so I saw the way to do it but also the work I was doing at the time dried up.. none to my dismay. I had a warm reception back to the city and a lot of people that knew what I was capable of so fortunately the universe has kept presenting me with opportunities to do what I love. It’s not always easy.. mostly feast or famine. I have my own share of anxiety around my profession that most do.
But at the end of the day I have a vision of what I want my life to be and I’ve just been putting one foot in front of the other ever since I made the decision to do this full time. The one hard part for me personally is I become invested in my projects and there really isn’t an off button so I’ve learned ways to offset my OCD which mainly consists of doing as many things as I can at one time to keep me from getting hung up on details as much. I realized at a certain point if I’m in a train yard on a timeline I can get out of my own way and just go because I don’t have time for anything else. Am I always happy with the result? Not necessarily but I can feel good about doing the best I can in the time I have, I apply the same logic to my projects.. does it always work? No.. I tend to spend too much on some things and not enough on others however every time I learn a little bit more about my process and what I want my work to be. They say if you stop learning you’re dead and I’d tend to agree.
For people that are looking to get into doing street art for the sake of murals and that sort of thing but don’t necessarily have the street cred to their name, how do you recommend someone going about getting work? Do you recommend just going and doing painting jams and making connections there?
As I mentioned before, while jams can definitely expand your network they, in my opinion, don’t make up for pure experience/hours on the wall. I’ve been asked similar questions by street artists or if I can get them a wall. It may sound callous but generally just go out and get your hands dirty once in awhile.. there’s lots of walls/opportunities to get your stuff in the public eye. I also have street artist friends that go out and paint/install illegally which is always a plus in my book. It shows their willingness to face the same opposition we get as writers and a taste of what its really about. The beauty of art in general is it’s all open to perspective and sometimes the environment may not be conducive to that OR you paint so well people respect your work. I think this teaches you about absorbing your surroundings as I mentioned previously. But also if you want something you’ll figure out how to get it.
Speaking of jams, I see you do a lot of collaborative pieces with your friends, would you say this is your favorite part about doing graffiti? I really like the piece you and @aweille_esti did together it’s super dope!
Yes hands down painting a track side/bando, talking about life in general, cold beer, challenging eachother and letter funk. These are the things that I appreciate the most. I can sometimes be an intense painting partner because I like to push myself and sometimes take on more than I should however over time you find those that share your energy/passion. @aweille_esti and I had a wonderful session and a great conversation about graffiti while painting this wall: being that.. what other cultural phenomenon allows you to visit another country or city and instantly have people who will look out for you? People who may not even speak the same language will show their support and help in countless ways. It’s very heartwarming and actually gives me a little hope in humanity. So I do my best to be a good host in my city, its created a lot of great walls and opportunity to meet people in the flesh.
As far as travel goes, where have you all been? Any crazy travel stories you can share?
I’ve been lucky enough to paint in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, South Dakota, Wyoming, Texas, Nevada, and Arizona in the last several years as well as painting in both Mexico and Belgium. I’m actually about to head back to Antwerp because of my contemporary and influence @riseone_ak and his great team for @meetingofstylesbelgium as well an amazing spot in Amsterdam. Looking forward to the trip and meeting up with some of my American friends over there.. should be a blast. I’d like to expand that up into Canada and start working down the east coast a bit too. I’d also love to travel to Japan and Iceland once I have the opportunity. Yeah I can think of at least one good story.. always hard to narrow it down. While traveling through Seattle with my girlfriend on the advice from my man who was there at the time @hellboundfrieght I went out for a quick morning session before my girlfriend woke up.
As I drove into the city in the early morning light it was fogged in so I couldn’t make out any landmarks on my way.. about 5 min away from the wall my gps went out so I looped the area several times trying to find the spot. Well the thing is I’m driving a white dodge charger (which I later found out the cops use in this area) and underneath all the bridges where the spot is there are multiple homeless camps and this particular area is mostly African American guys and seeing a white clean cut boy in this car led to some interesting expressions generated in my direction. I think I found the wall but by this point also trying to figure out how I’m even going to get back and feeling a bit like a sore thumb. So after an adventure finding my way back to the Airbnb I’m severely disappointed with myself for not catching a piece.. and happen to have a conversation with another good friend @thatsadewzy that led me to another rather famous cut spot over in Tacoma by a map point.. I took my girl with this time still feeling a little shook and out of my element and we triangulated the spot and found an entry point.
My girlfriend was freaking out.. “we cant just walk in there!” To which I consoled and explained that we haven’t done anything illegal we’re just a couple walking.. After a bit more gentle directing she acquiesced and we made it in to the spot. Within moments we are in another world.. as soon as we got in it was calm and serene. She kept me company while I scratched my itch in one of the most magical spots I think I’ve ever painted. I recently heard my piece is still running which I take as a huge compliment.
Any shout outs you would like to give? Where can people follow you and purchase your work?
Always huge shouts to my crews DF and Creatures but also to all of the people out there who have supported and influenced me on this incredible journey we call life. My Belgian, Spanish, UK, French, Italian, Canadian, Australian family is strong. Also a huge thanks to you guys at Bombing Science for this interview, preserving the craft and for all the support and great supplies through the years. I’m on ig @tukeone or fb Tuke DF Crew. I have a link to my store email@example.com in my bio.. but am also always open to commission projects/murals and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org as well. Thanks again..