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Graffiti art - Artist Interview - ESTO

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

A wall with red and violet Esto graffiti on it

1. Firstly, please introduce yourself. How did you first get into graffiti art, Why did you choose your tag name and what inspired you to pursue it as a form of expression?

EZTO/FTS KREW, originally my tag was EST.96 to represent my date of birth, but as time went on, I started to experiment more with different letters because writing the numbers at the end of the tag was taking too long, this led to me writing ESTER then settling on ESTO as it was the quickest to write. In the beginning, I was doing a lot of street photography/graffiti hunting then suddenly one day I asked myself why instead of taking the photographs of graffiti do I not instead write it? And from that moment, it has led me here.

2. What does graffiti art mean to you personally, and how does it fit into the larger art world?

Depending on the time period you asked me this question, could mean an array of different answers. Back when I was first started writing in 2016/17, I would have told you it was solely for the destruction of property and vandalism, getting up by any means possible and as much as possible. However, nowadays I truly appreciate the artform and lettering and letter structure. To me, graffiti will always overlap with the art world whether writers like it or not. There are so many aspects of graffiti that correlate into other avenues of artistic outlet, like shadowing and highlights are something learnt from graffiti but carry across into my general art.

3. Can you describe your creative process when it comes to creating a new piece of graffiti art? Do you plan your designs in advance, or do you prefer a more spontaneous approach?

I mean, I never go to a wall without a rough idea in my head, but usually I just have a throw or straight letter I’ve been doing for a while, something like a trusty reliable I can always paint. There have been many occasions where I have arrived at a wall with no plans and just spontaneously throw something onto the wall – sometimes these can be the most fun, but the most stressful. That’s why I keep my letters simple, always legible.

4. What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a graffiti artist, both in terms of the creative process and the overall perception of graffiti in society?

For me personally, the biggest challenge faced as a graffiti writer is the law and legality. After being caught a few times, you suddenly become a lot more weary/paranoid/conscious of where and when you write your tags, whereas in the past it would have required next to no thought. Due to this perception in society, it can be hard to know where and when people are going to get vocal with you whenever you are out painting, I have had good experiences with the public and bad whenever they walk past. Depends on the area and the people.

5. Are there any particular themes or messages that you try to convey through your graffiti art? What do you hope viewers take away from your work?

Core themes and messages that transcend across my work are anti-establishment, anti-police, individualism, and through my musical background and enjoying heavier, metalcore/deathcore music, I often incorporate imagery, numbers, symbols, and letters which are oftentimes deemed ‘satanic’, like the pentagram in an O or 666 inside letters and lettering. I like a lot of dark imagery, and honestly, I am not too fussed on what others take away from my work, they can love it or hate it.

6. How do you select the locations for your graffiti pieces? Do you have any favorite spots or specific environments that inspire you?

At the moment, I like to paint abandoned spots, chill spots or subs in Craigavon. If you asked me this question a few years ago, I would have told you the centre of town.

Black and white Esto graffiti photo

7. Graffiti art mainly involves working in public spaces, which can sometimes be seen as illegal or controversial. How do you navigate the fine line between artistic expression and the legality of your work?

For me personally, if anyone takes issue with me whilst I am painting or has concern, I try to showcase a positive attitude which oftentimes overrides the illegal act I am partaking in, once they realise the person behind the art or graffiti is not this terrible person that may be demonised within the media or portrayed by further society.

8. What role do you believe graffiti art plays in fostering creativity and engaging with local communities?

Graffiti has a funny place within local communities, where some support the idea and some do not. Whether a person or community support the idea of graffiti or not, it cannot be disputed that graffiti does foster creativity amongst the youth. Graffiti does not only lead to bad habits and delinquent behaviour, it can be a steppingstone for younger generations on their way to something much bigger and better, like a clothing brand or business in the future.

9. Are there any other artists or art movements that have influenced your work? How have these influences shaped your style or approach to graffiti art?

I was always fascinated by the early 2000s era or graffiti, where for some reason or another, there was an element of darkness in these pieces. A couple notable influences would be IAGO and REA around this time period. The RHS era of graffiti was a major influence to me.

10. Graffiti has a long and rich history, evolving from its roots as a form of urban rebellion to being recognized as a legitimate art form. How do you see the future of graffiti art unfolding?

Graffiti will forever-evolve. I believe graffiti will become a lot more commercialized, with an underlying corporate agenda over looming. I think graffiti will always dip its feet in and out of virality and popularity like anything, but there are some great writers out there in the scene putting in work and for those who stick around through the spikes of sporadic writers, those in the scene will be able to tell, helping them to garner respect for their dedication. I’m honestly optimistic for the next generation of writers and excited to see what they do.

11. Do you have any advice for aspiring graffiti artists who are just starting their journey?

Be careful, be safe and be aware of your surroundings.

12. What materials and techniques do you primarily use in your graffiti art? Are there any specific tools or mediums that you find particularly essential or enjoyable to work with other than spray paint?

If something can leave a mark, I am liable to use it. Tippex, correction pens, paint sticks, anything that can write at all I will use it or find a way to use it and leave my mark.

13. Graffiti art often carries a sense of anonymity or pseudonymity. What significance does your chosen artist name or tag hold for you, and how does it contribute to your artistic identity?

I guess originally it was sort of like a teaser piece of information about me.

green and black esto throwie

14. Collaboration is a common aspect of graffiti culture. Have you worked on any collaborative projects or participated in group exhibitions? How does collaboration influence your artistic process and the final outcome of your work?

Collab walls are always the best walls. Whenever you finally get your whole crew together to get a production done, the feeling can’t really be beaten. There always an essence of influence between one another while doing pieces in a production as one person may say to another little bits and pieces they have missed or something they may add in that originally, they wouldn’t have, but overall making the pieces come together and set on the wall themed or not themed is still a great feeling.

15. Technology has made a significant impact on various art forms. How has technology influenced graffiti art, if at all? Do you incorporate digital tools or techniques into your work?

I strictly operate on the ideology that digital graffiti is not graffiti, in any sense of the word or action. I do not use digital tools, nor do I enjoy creating art on digital spaces. In terms of technological influence, Instagram has had a huge affect on graffiti and the way in which we consume graffiti media, you may also realise that the graffiti scene is completely over-saturated especially within the online space. I don’t have much respect for those who only write digital graffiti as to me, they are not a writer. Not in the true essence of the term anyways. But if a true writer, from the streets, then goes digital, this to me is acceptable.

16. Many graffiti artists have transitioned from the streets to galleries, showcasing their work in more traditional art spaces. What are your thoughts on this evolution, and have you exhibited your art in gallery settings?

Honestly, I think it’s cool. Especially if they are a part of the older generation of writers and have unseen footage, flicks, and videos from their time period that they can now show off without the fear of punishment. I have not and do not plan to exhibit any graffiti related work, but maybe one day I will do an art exhibition, who knows.

17. Graffiti art has often been associated with social and political commentary. Have you ever used your art to address specific issues or spark conversations about societal matters? If so, could you share some examples?

I do not engage in political or social issues through graffiti although I am not entirely opposed to the notion either. It truly is dependent on situation. But personally, I would avoid political graffiti of any nature. Sticking solely to crew shit and ezto shit.

18. Are there any particular cities or regions in the world that have left a lasting impression on you as a graffiti artist? How does the local culture and environment influence your art when you travel or work in different places?

Portugal, man. I was originally there around 2019 and had never saw anything like it. Every single area or avenue you stepped in to, graffiti. Every train that rolled past or rolled through, graffiti. Toilets? Graffiti. The inside of McDonalds in central Lisbon? Graffiti.

19. Graffiti art can be ephemeral and subject to removal or alteration. How do you feel about the impermanence of your work, and how do you document or preserve it?

Removal or alteration of graffiti is a part of the process and lifestyle of graffiti, its sort of the beauty of it in a sense where you may do something one day and it’s gone the next, but you do another and it runs for the next year or two. Flicks are usually the best way to capture stuff before it gets buffed or dogged, but this isn’t always an option when moving quickly. A way to preserve work is to pick spots which are hard to buff – like bridges, heavens and locations that are slightly out of reach or an inconvenience to buff.

Esto writing their tag on bridge

20. Graffiti has faced both criticism and appreciation over the years. How do you navigate the feedback and reactions to your art, both positive and negative? How does it impact your motivation and creative process?

It is always nice to be appreciated, however neither criticism nor appreciation will have much of an effect on my writing. The only criticism I have ever received is whenever local new articles get dropped about the plague of graffiti in my surrounding area and this is often where you get the local vigilantes talking in spite about graffiti whilst doing nothing to improve their area in the same breath or comment. If anything, they are just adding more hatred and fuel to a fire that does not need to be lit. If the correct facilities were at hand, it would deter those out writing in frustration and give them a spot where they can practice graffiti and hone in artistic skills within a safe place.

21. Can you tell us any crazy Graff stories you remember when out writing?

I mean, its hard to think of one specific story but most recently me and AEROS were out painting under a bridge whenever we noticed a cop car pull in, we split quickly leaving all of our paint at the wall alongside some four lokos. We ran around the corner whilst the police got out of the car, jumped a fence, ran into a wooded area, and waited. Whenever we left the forest area, we quickly got a lift and went our two separate ways. The next day, AEROS went back to the spot to find our paint and four lokos still sitting in the exact same spot. Also, anytime whenever you are hiding or waiting in a bush for the perfect opening to get a piece of graf done is always exciting, with high levels of adrenaline throughout.

Thanks for the interview. It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you listening to your views and experiences. REAL1 - Thick As Thieves Crew

FTS Crew group graffiti wall photo

FTS graffiti under bridge sprayed in red with black outline and white powerline

esto graffiti sprayed in pink, blue and yellow

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