Normally we interview a different artist once a month but this month we took the opportunity to interview Endless Paul at Endless Canvas across the Bay. We enjoy so much of what they do and wanted to understand how they went from covering street art locally to putting on some of the biggest shows on the West Coast. We also feel that the rise in legal walls is affecting the dynamics of street art in San Francisco and wanted to have some insight from someone who has been documenting the art in this area longer.
Thanks Endless Paul. We really enjoyed this!
How long has Endless Canvas been around?
EndlessCanvas.com was launched in 2008.
Why did you start it and what is the purpose?
EC: Three photographers, whom had been independently documenting graffiti since the 90’s, started Endless Canvas as a blog to compile a comprehensive representation of what was happening on a day to day basis on the streets of the Bay Area. There are a lot of websites dedicated to posting the best and most polished graffiti productions internationally, but few that represented what was actually going on in the streets in specific regions. The idea was for someone sitting over seas to be able to look at our blog and know who is up at the moment or who is putting in a lot of work in Oakland. We’ve tried to stay true and keep a balance between shots in the yard, illegal and legal. Between handstyles, wheatpastes, bombs, stickers, pieces and murals. We feel that all of these elements make up a rounded scene and should all be respected.
Has the street art scene changed in the San Francisco Bay Area since you began? If so how?
EC: Over the years in San Francisco the graffiti removal has become a lot more intense. They city has done specific campaigns to remove all the historical rollers visible from the freeways and to go after and buff out specific artists. As condos spread into the industrial areas, public works as gone after shutting down remote graffiti yards like Warm Water Cove aka Toxic Beach. Places that used to be safe havens where artists could take time to paint beautiful pieces that would be viewed only be people who intentionally went out of their way to see them. The intense buff makes tagging a lot more relentless. Writers start scribing more windows and tagging murals out of desperation to have something run.
People are pushing more outside of traditional letter based graffiti. A lot of character based monikers have become major players in the game.
Technology is changing the scene a lot. Instagram with its GPS pin point positioning is blowing up all the yards. Pieces a half mile underground are getting buffed. On the up side, a yard can pop up over night because communication between writers has never been more accessible. Also, everything is documented instantly now. There are more graffiti photographers than ever now.
There seems to be an increasing rise in legal walls. What impact do you think this has had on the work since you started documenting the scene?
EC: Legal walls are a natural evolution of many artists careers. After an artist reaches a certain amount of recognition, people just start asking them to paint walls. Muralism is nothing new, but where in the past a business would need to spend thousands of dollars and artists would spend a year painting, an artist can now bust out a large scale mural for a few hundred dollars in a month. There is definitely a difference in detail and the amount of time the mural will last, but it makes the medium accessible to many more people.
In a way, this makes younger graffiti writers appreciate traditional murals less because they don’t understand that someone was painting that mural every day for a year for free and it’s about a significant struggle the community went through. Murals are sacred to me.
The legality of murals fluctuates. At the moment it’s illegal to paint murals in Los Angeles and Portland. When artists are given the opportunity to take their time they will. When they aren’t they are going to paint anyway, regardless of legality. What legal walls do is allow artwork to exist for a while without getting painted over. As long as graffiti writers are included and the city isn’t pitting them against each other, then it is a beautiful thing for a thriving community.
We firmly believe these artist are who will be hanging in museums tomorrow, some of which already do so today. How do you think public perception is changing towards street art that is leading to this recognition and conversely do you believe it is having any impact on the scene and the work coming out of it?
EC: A lot of these artists are gaining recognition in museums. A video about our SPECIAL DELIVERY Bay Area 2012 Mural Exhibit is actually about to be featured in a film festival at the De Young and the Berkeley Art Museum.
Artists are being celebrated for painting in the day time, the exact same thing they are being chased for at night time. People are learning to appreciate the aesthetic of graffiti but are a long way from accepting the action of graffiti.
You have created some of the largest multi artist installation on the west coast, Special Delivery in Portland and the East Bay, show casing many local artist. Can you tell us how that came about? What is involved in putting on a production that size? How many months does it take to organize?
EC: Special Delivery can only be summed up as a miracle. It was only able to happen because everyone involved wanted it to happen so bad that they were able to completely throw themselves into it. We had no budget. When the exhibit was in Portland, many of the artists hopped freight trains to get there. One of the artists quit their job and put all their belongings into storage in order to come to the show. One of the artists was on probation, drove through the night straight after work, painted at 9am with food poisoning and then immediately drove all the way home.
Both of these last Special Deliveries were organized pretty last minute. Portland, maybe a month in advance and Berkeley, about two months in advance. Venues for this kind of event are near impossible to find, so when someone offers you one you have to jump on it. Ideally an event like this would be organized at least a year in advance.
Will we be seeing more shows? Please say yes! The last one was too amazing.
EC: Yes. We had to take a break because Special Delivery was so intense, but we are looking for more venues for future projects.
When did you start creating your Zine and can you tell our readers more about them?
EC: Individual members of EC have been putting out graffiti zines for over a decade. We collaborated on our first issue of Endless Canvas in 2008. We were going to be tabling at the San Francisco Zine Fest and wanted to throw together some of our photos in order to promote the blog. Swampy drew a centerfold poster for us and we did a quick Ras Terms interview to fatten up the content. We were honestly just throwing something together last minute and people loved it. We got such a positive reaction that we kept putting them out, improving on each issue. The print aspect of EC did so well that we started publishing zines and fine art prints for local graffiti artists. Our next issue of EC will feature an interview with Pemex, a full color center spread, perfect bound binding, and photo quality paper. I’m sending it to the printer in a couple days.
We have spotted you at Art Murmor screen printing. Are you there regularly and is there a place people can look out for you there?
EC: We have been screen printing a poster for a different artist every month at the First Friday Art Walk in Oakland. We set up near Rock Paper Scissors Gallery on 23rd and Telegraph and usually print from 6pm-9pm or until we run out of supplies. We print live and the posters are donation based. This month (April 5th) we will be printing an Endless Canvas poster designed by Ohioe. Recently we’ve given out posters by Anemal, Nina STM, Ghost Owl, Uter and IMP. If we can raise more donations we would like to switch to larger paper. In the spirit of street art we are bringing art directly to the people.
Lastly you recently told us about a series of films you are putting together. We have enjoyed following the trailers. Can you tell us more about that and what we should be looking for?
EC: Video is a new medium for EC. We’re making an effort to expand in that direction, but at this point we’re not sure what that’s going to look like. Thus far we’ve begun collaborating with other filmmakers, bought a camera and begun documenting but as to what that will manifest into in the future is yet to be seen.
Right now we’re focusing on getting three publications out; Endless Canvas Issue #6, A Fine Art Edition Handstyle Book, and the Special Delivery 2012 Book.; We’ve added a couple editors to the team so that our interviews will be of higher quality; We’re experimenting with adding a couple more photographers to the website so that we can better cover the areas of town we don’t make it to as often and better organizing our internal structure so that we can work towards larger future events like Special Delivery.
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