Risk has been practicing his art, (not craft!), of graffiti for well over 30 years now. He is not your typical graffiti artist. A graduate of USC, Risk studied fine arts and is a well-respected legitimate artist. Not that he started out that way…

He almost fell into his signature high-up locations – “I couldn’t find a train. I didn’t know about yards. I got chased. It was all bad. So I did a roof top.”

By the time he got to USC, he’d already gained some notoriety as graffiti artist and some credibility as well, winning a London art competition. Risk knew he wanted to be in museums and knew he wanted to be a famous graffiti artist. Which is exactly what he has done. 

From fly by night anti-establishment right-of-way graffiti, to major pieces covering the sides of private buildings, to commissioned public art work by cities, to pro bono work for metropolitan school districts.  

“I didn’t do it so much for the money. I did it for the paint.”

Quick fluid motion
doesn’t come from patience

“The generation coming up now wants to skip over the fundamentals, they claim it is changing anyway.” Risk discusses the trade-off we make with the advances in technology and having experts, knowledge, and online video tutorials at our fingertips. “It’s too easy for them, you don’t understand unless you know where it came from. It is changing how people are learning.”

“In the world of illegal graffiti, it is all about having quick, fluid motions. I can tell by looking at a graffiti artist just by the pace and fluidity of his movements that he never had to do anything on the freeway. You can tell every stroke was patient.”

Raising A Street Art Connoisseur

Risk’s young daughter is encouraged to paint at will. Walking down the street she can point out her father’s art vs. another graffiti artist’s based on their styles alone. Some college art students don’t have that kind of eye!

However, not everyone appreciates Risk’s style, or methods for that matter.

“There’s two detectives in Los Angeles who are still waiting for me…” he says. “There’s also a lot of really cool cops.”

Risk doesn’t pretend his less than legal methods should be ignored or praised. He’s always lived by the Johnny Dangerously mantra – “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

At the same time, he explains, “Any time you try to contain it, it ends up bad. It has to be what it has to be.”

“For a long time I didn’t use the g word. It’s aerosol art.” He laughs.

For some there’s no difference between tagging, gang signs and graffiti art. Perhaps it takes a connoisseur.

The Quartyard transformation

The guests of San Diego’s Quartyard happen to be connoisseurs of many things – great music, good comedy, killer coffee, and time with pets, to name a few! And luckily, they appreciate art. 

Risk was commissioned to transform the rather uninspiring blue, white and brown blocks that dominated the side of the adjacent building into an iconic downtown San Diego mural, vibrant and colorful, with butterflies floating across the spilled paint landscape.

The art transforms the event venue and catches the eye of passersby as they walk and drive by, marveling as they look up into the sky toward the building at his colorful mural art in wonder – much the way his original graffiti murals struck passersby as they walked and drove by, marveling as they looked up into the sky toward the bridges and overpasses toward his art in wonder.

Listen to the original Crappy Awesome Podcast Interview
Risk: An Illegal Love of Life