Good writers aspire to greatness. Great writers aspire to instill greatness upon others. Such is the case with Los Angeles-based street artist WRDSMTH, whose work can be seen everywhere from electrical boxes in Venice, CA to the cobbled walkways of Shoreditch, London. A Robin Hood of painted prose, WRDSMTH steals from his rich imagination and gives to poorly lit walls at dawn, when the streets are quiet, the city still sleeps and he can spray paint his iconic messages of hope, joy, love and inspiration (mostly) undisturbed.
Then, when the world awakens, his WRDs are simply there, sentences scattered on a once-blank urban canvas to lift the spirits of even the most sardonic nine-to-five commuter or weary passerby. What you feel when you read his creations is hard to describe, like you’ve just downed a shot of liquid sunshine or emerged from a Jacuzzi bubbling with enlightenment. No matter how you explain it, to view his work is to view work written by a great master.
And that’s exactly as it should be. When not poised with paint can in hand, the incognito artist is, as he says, “doing time in Hollywood,” which translates into enjoying a successful screen and novel-writing career, though who he is or what exactly he does remains a Banksy-esque mystery. So maybe it’s this mix of intrigue, experience and skill that allows his work to resonate with such simple deepness, transforming plain collections of words into unforgettable WRDs of art.
But enough from me, let’s talk to the WRDSMTH himself …
MELISSA: How did the original idea come about to paint L.A. with WRDs?
WRDSMTH: I wrote a novel about Hollywood a few year prior to the inception of WRDSMTH that ended up getting published. In it, there were a lot of views about Hollywood and the determination and effort and luck it takes to succeed. The reaction to that work was positive and many people also doing time in Hollywood reached out to me to say how inspiring and motivating the book was. So, when I was seeking an active hobby in 2013 and contemplating the notion of doing something word-based, I thought, “Maybe I’ll talk to the people doing time and maybe I say things to them that I wish people would have said to me when I first arrived.”
What’s your WRDSMTH writing process like? Does a line for a piece just pop into your head or does it develop slowly over time?
Both. Some are born into my head fully-formed and some are just ideas or a seed of an idea that needs to be thought out, written, re-written and polished.
Your WRDs are so beautifully put together but as a writer myself I’ll sometimes finish a story and think, “Is this really any good?” Are you ever uncertain about what you write and if so, how do you overcome this creative doubt?
Even after two and a half years, there are still times when I put a piece up and wonder if the WRDs will resonate or be interpreted as intended. Having said that I always trust my instincts as a writer and put the words I believe in out there. You have to. And most if the time, the WRDs I questioned the most end up being the more popular pieces. Funny how that is.
Which writers—screen, TV, film, books—inspire you?
I am a fan of Charlie Kaufman, Aaron Sorkin, Chuck Klosterman, Michael Lewis and Chuck Palahniuk, just to name a few.
Who are your artistic influences?
The list is long … everything and everyone from John Lennon to The National, Woody Allen to Wes Anderson and JMW Turner to Banksy.
When you’re feeling uncreative, how do you get the creative juices flowing?
I don’t really believe in writers block, I believe in project block. So if I am feeling blocked, I usually shift gears and work on something else—even if it’s writing in another medium. Also, I think there’s not much that a long walk or run or hike can’t solve. I guess clearing the head and recharging the batteries isn’t that difficult for me.
You mentioned you have a love/hate relationship with L.A. What’s one thing you hate? One thing you love?
I hate the people sometimes. I love the people most of the time.
When someone walks by one of your creations, what’s the first thought you’d want to pop into his/her head?
First thing I want is for their mood to possibly be changed in a good way. If they’re down or moody, I hope my WRDs make them smile or inspire them. If they are doing well, I hope I inject some added motivation to their day/week/month.
You recently said you “change out your WRDs if they’ve been riding a long time.” What do you mean by that?
I mean I’ll replace the page and the message above the painted typewriter. I don’t do it often, though. I obviously like when pieces ride a long time, but occasionally the WRDs are time-sensitive—like the work I did around the Oscars. When that time has ended, I might update the messages.
— WRDSMTH (@WRDSMTH) February 23, 2016
In your opinion, what’s the coolest place your words are displayed?
I love hitting Sunset Boulevard or Runyon Canyon because they are close to where I reside and offer countless eyes on a daily basis. But I also love hitting choice spots in London, Paris and New York.
If you could choose a spot for your art anywhere in the world, where would that be?
I’d like to put a piece on the moon that would be visible nightly.
You write a lot about love. In one sentence, what does love mean to you?
Love is the hope and notion that someone can torpedo your world and your life and instead of sinking the ship, they set you on a brilliant and unforgettable new course.