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The 'Thrill And Addiction' Of Seattle Graffiti Artists

Seattle’s art scene spreads from music to visuals, from studio to street. Two artists that go by the names of Baso Fibonacci and Skeez are living in the shadows of the misunderstood graffiti and street art world.

“It’s so much of a thrill and an addiction,” Skeez said. “Even back in high school I’d be running around tagging up the hallways and bathrooms at school because it was my human nature to have to do it.”

He said his graffiti is for himself and the underground community of graffiti artists. According to Skeez, “true” grafitti writers abide by strict rules: “You don’t tag on houses. You don’t tag on churches. You don’t tag on federal buildings or anything that looks nice.”

Skeez said he instead looks for abandoned buildings and old, dusty, crumply brick walls. “What’s wrong with that?” he said.

But not everyone loves graffiti. Christopher Young is a detective for the Seattle Police Department specializing in graffiti. He explained that "only a tiny percentage" of Seattle graffiti is gang related. Still, he called it a “gateway crime.”

"If a teenage boy does graffiti," he said, "and they grow out of it and stop, they're probably going to lead a normal productive life, but if they keep doing it into their twenties and thirties it usually doesn’t turn out too well for them. They get involved in prowling cars, doing burglaries, and doing drugs.”

He added that getting caught doing graffiti could land a person in jail. This hasn’t stopped Skeez though, who said he’s already gone to jail multiple times for graffiti. He said that he has run from police – “sometimes I get away and sometimes I don’t” – but there have been times he hasn’t run because there is nowhere to run to.

Fibonacci also got wrapped up in the graffiti world in high school. “I was a skateboarder,” he said. “It was kind of a way of marking where you’ve been, like an extreme sport.”

But after high school, Fibonacci and Skeez chose different paths. These days, Fibonacci mostly works in a studio. He said he still loves graffiti, but he doesn’t do it anymore. “I’ve pretty much grown up, moved on in life and have different goals.”

Fibonacci’s best known work is a two-story commissioned mural on Seattle’s Capitol Hill depicting a yelling man with balloons and clouds coming out of his mouth. On June 5, a solo show of his paintings opens at Flatcolor Gallery and the New Mystics collective, of which he's a member, will install a permanent sculpture in Nord Alley in Pioneer Square.

Fibonacci's art is big, and so is his purpose. “If I can make peoples’ day-to-day lives a little bit brighter and more colorful, then that’s a good thing,” he said. “I want people to hang my paintings in their house instead of having a blank wall, just have aesthetically pleasing things in their lives. It’s something that’s good for everyone.”

Like Fibonacci, Skeez plans to show paintings and photographs in art galleries, but he can’t seem to leave the heart-racing game of graffiti. He loves riding the bus or his bike through Seattle and seeing work he created on a wall. “I’ll just be hyped on myself like, ‘Bam! I accomplished that. I did that.’”

RadioActive is KUOW's program for high school students. This story was produced in RadioActive’s Spring Introductory Workshop. Listen to RadioActive stories, subscribe to the RadioActive podcast and stay in touch on Facebook.

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