SF Weekly Promotes My Tour

Original blog post here.

Graffiti Guru Offers Street Art Tours

art by Get Up, Upper Haight St.

​No matter how cool you are, there’s still a pretty good chance that the only thing you know about street art is sometimes you come across it, and sometimes it’s amazing. Who did it? What’s behind it? Where can you see more? Who knows?

We do. Or, we know who knows: stencil artist Russell Howze. He’s the author of Stencil Nation, and he offers a three-hour, small-group tour called Scout for Street Art. Howze just started giving these tours two weeks ago, and promises to provide “expert explanations, stories, and background for most of the art that constantly changes on the streets.” And he’s not joking about the “expert” part.

Russell Howze

​Howze has dedicated his life to street art, especially stencils, and he knows a lot about the S.F. street art scene. “I have this particular affinity for San Francisco street art,” Howze says, “especially Mission district — there’s something really special and magical about it.”

Originally from Greenville, S.C., Howze has lived in San Francisco since 1997. Since he saw his first stencil in 1990 in Clemson, S.C., Howze has been photographing the public art in places around the world. In 2002 he created an online stencil archive, which features tens of thousands of photos of stencils. Stencil Nation, published in 2008, is the paperback extension of his site, documenting 350 artists in 28 countries.

Howze does not have a fixed schedule for his tour — you can just sign up by yourself or in a group ($37) per person and state your preferred times. The tour is run through Vayable, a company that draws on locals to give their own tours. Anyone can sign up to offer a tour, and Vayable acts as the conduit, handling bookings and payments. Vayable operates worldwide, and as one might expect, it offers numerous S.F. tours, including horseback riding on Ocean Beach, a used bookstore crawl, and a potentially perilous “Whiskey on Wheels” tour.

Vayable hosts a mixer called “A Vayable Idea” on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Galeria de la Raza, where Howze will start the night with a 10-minute talk, “The Present Future of Street Art.” The event is free, but you can register here.

(de)Appropriation Project (Video)

For well over 10 years now, I have been documenting stencils on Bruce Tomb’s wall on Valencia Street (If you search the Archives for "DAP" they will appear). I have also put art up there and enjoyed all the other art that I do not document. Tomb may not confess to actually owning this wall, because over the years it has become a wall of Free Speech for many artists, neighbors, and organizations. Some call it the Democracy Wall, but Tomb named it the (de)Appropriation Wall, especially since he resides in a former SF Police Department building. The building had a literally tortured past (Chicanos and Latinos were treated poorly by the mostly Irish police in the last century), and a bomb was placed at its back door during the violent era of radical factions in the Bay Area. Tomb decided to use the facade of this building as a force of freedom, more specifically of speech.

Tomb had a brief tussle with the City authorities over his free access to whomever wants to get up on this wall. When the City realized that it could potentially be a Constitutional matter, they backed down. The DAP wall shows up in my book "Stencil Nation" about half a dozen times. He has written about it in the book "Mission Muralismo," where it was featured. Before the book came out, some of the contributors had a show at ATA. I showed a slide presentation of Mission District stencils. Tomb showed the following video of the photographs he has taken over the years. I believe he stands in the same exact place about once a week and snaps a photo of the wall. Being a historian and documentor, I asked him to post this video for others to enjoy and analyze. For a reference of time, notice how the tree grows in front of the wall!

And for a better explanation of Tomb’s concepts and ideas around the wall, go to his site: http://www.deappropriationproject.net/

The (de)Appropriation Project Archive will be participating in the Theoretical Archaeology Group Meeting held at the University of California Berkeley from May 6-8, 2011.

Resident archaeologist on the project, Phoebe France will present a paper for session 15: Graffiti and the Archaeology of the Contemporary.

This is an exciting chance to present the project in a new context, and to get feedback on the most recent iterations of the web resources and tools. Please join us!

Dec. 20: Stencil Nation Lands in Greenville, SC

“Russell Howze is a native Greenvillian and a stencil artist. He runs the Stencil Archive and published the collection Stencil Nation: Community, Graffiti, and Art in 2008, documenting the work of over 350 artists from 28 countries. The Stencil Nation Book Tour will stop by the Warehouse Theatre Monday, December 20 at 7 PM.”

Check out the rest of the Create Greenville interview here. FaceBook invitation and info found here.

7 May: Stencil Nation Meets Mission Muralismo

Cultural Encounters: Friday Nights at the de Young presents “Mission Muralismo” in partnership with Precita Eyes Muralists

Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo series presents “Directional Signals:  Pranksters and Preachers, Paste and Stencil” featuring talks by Rigo, and John Jota Leaños.  Also, Jack Napier, BLF co-founder, and Milton Rand, Kalman BLF chief scientist, will give a presentation titled “The Art and Science of Billboard Improvement,” plus stencil cutting demonstration by Russell Howze author of Stencil Nation: Graffiti, Community and Art.

Friday, May 7, 6–8:45 pm
Live music in Wilsey Court: Marcus Shelby Quartet featuring vocalist Faye Carol performing the MLK project, 6:30-8:30 pm

de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park

Programs are free of charge

www.deyoungmuseum.org and www.MISSIONMURALISMO.com

On Friday, May 7, the de Young Museum presents another dynamic program, luminous projections, and book signing in the ongoing series Mission Muralismo, in conjunction with the recently published book Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo, edited by Annice Jacoby for Precita Eyes Muralists, foreword by Carlos Santana (Abrams, 2009).  The evening focuses on the talent and passionate work of major contributors to the book: Rigo, John Jota Leaños, Russell Howze, Jack Napier Billboard Liberation Front (BLF) co-founder, and Milton Rand Kalman BLF chief scientist.
Continue reading “7 May: Stencil Nation Meets Mission Muralismo”

Stencil Whirlwind :: Banksy Frenzy

Whew, what a spin I’m in at the moment. Friday afternoon, after a carnival gig in the Mission, I headed over to the de Young museum to speak with Renee about my stencil bit for the Mission Muralismo event coming up Friday, May 7. The theme is “Preachers and Pranksters,” so I guess that stencils fit nicely somewhere in both of those angles. Their political bent preaches messages, and some of the more notorious street artists throw up the stencils in prankish ways.

The Mission Muralismo team has had three or four events at the de Young over just as many months. They’ve found that they book speakers for 20 minute talks and end up going over their short allotted time, much to the chagrin of the rest of the lineup. So they approached me with the idea to NOT speak about stencils. I offered to create a stencil making station, but they didn’t like the idea of putting me outside and away from all the action (Marcus Shelby will perform his jazz composition about famous preacher Martin Luther King, Jr., RIGO will introduce the speakers, including the Billboard Liberation Front). So I worked out a second idea with them: I’ll sit in a booth and cut a stencil before the speakers begin. I’ll hang samples of stencils behind me, and then photos of Mission District-based stencils will run in the auditorium. So I met with Renee from the de Young and we worked out most of the details. I love cutting stencils in public, so it’ll be a fun, quick bit.

I got home after that and got a call from Laura telling me that there was a Banksy stencil on the wall above the Amnesia Bar. What? Looked in my email after that call and found a video of a definite Banksy stencil at Commercial and Grant in Chinatown. What!? I dropped all plans, hopped on my bike, and hauled ass down to Chinatown first, thinking “this one’s on the street and will get buffed soon!” I found the location by pausing the emailed video and seeing “CIAL” on the concrete curb. Got there and found people already photographing the stencil. A huge Hummer was parked in front of it, so I began the shoot by contemplating climbing on the huge SUV.

Glad I didn’t. Maybe five minutes passed and the owner of the SUV got in and drove away. With this lucky parking space opening up, I had a great straight-on angle for snapping up pics. I chatted up some men as they snapped up pics, and one said he knew the bakery owner’s son (the Chinatown piece is on the outside wall of a bakery). The son said that Banksy paid his parents $50 to spray the stencil. A piece of paper has Chinese writing on it, with a hand-written note asking to please not paint over the Banksy art. A friend from Taiwan translated the Chinese for me, apparently written via an online English>Chinese translation tool. The sign said: “Please don’t erase this graffiti. It’s said that police are  investigating this case. You can erase by the end of next week, end of April.”


Back on the bike and straight down Market St. I was wondering where else in the City Banksy had hit. They could be anywhere! The Luggage Store Gallery door happened to be open. I have been needing to meet with Luggage Store Art Director Laurie Lazer so that I could get a copy of “Stencil Nation” to her, which I didn’t have due to running out to snap pics. I went inside anyway, to show her the flicks and to see if she had any leads on Banksy. She had none, though heard that he may have wandered into the gallery the day before. She’d just sold a Banksy panel, cut in two, to raise funds for the gallery, and said that he knew about this. After promising to meet with her next week, I went to Amnesia Bar for the second piece.

People were already snapping photos. After getting some photos, I met up with Christine Marie, and wandered in to an empty Amnesia Bar at happy hour. We both sorta knew Shawn the owner, and he sorta remembered us. I asked him for some time up on the roof, and he said he’d have to make a phone call. I told him that he’d be doing the City, and the street art world, a great service if he let me up there to snap some pics for the Stencil Archive.

Woke up Saturday morning and got an email from Shawn soon after breakfast. He was offering rooftop access for a small group of videographers and photographers, for 30 minutes only. Amnesia Bar has a testy neighbor, who had to give permission to have some people up near his windows next door, which I understand. As I prepared to hit the Mission again, word online said that there was a large rat on 9th St. at Howard in SoMa. Another spot! Where else could these pieces keep popping up? I packed my laptop for this trip, with the plan of stopping off in a cafe to quickly post the rooftop photos.

I got there early and the bar’s manager climbed up onto the roof with me. Two rickety ladders led us up there, and a French videographer was winding things up on the hot, white roof. While up there, I met Mike Cuffe from Warholian.com. He’d broken the story on the web, and was now spending his Saturday following a list of locations to shoot. I also spoke to a nieghbor, who waved a copy of “Wall and Piece” at us and told me he was devastated that he’d missed Banksy in action right outside his own back door. Cuffe had tipped me off about a fourth piece on the side of Cafe Prague on Sycamore at Mission St., so I shared that with the grateful neighbor. After thanking the Amnesia folks downstairs, I biked over to Sycamore.

When I showed up to the Cafe Prague piece, a van blocked the art work on the brown, graffiti’d wall. Damn! Time to get creative again in order to snap the Native American sitting on the ground holding a staff with an real “No Trespassing” sign on the top. Just as I started snapping pics, a young couple came up and unlocked the van. “Are you all leaving?” I asked. “I am,” the woman said. She pulled out, and I had another magic parking space to stand in to get perfect shots of the art! Twice in under 24 hours? What luck.

A blog post had an incorrect location, so people were at Dolores Park looking for the work, but people were finding out the real location via phones with online social connections. I chatted with folks, passed out cards, and watched the frenzy. San Francisco openly loves technology. Online chatter seemed to be frantically discussing these pieces as movie promotions, and so people were tweeting, FaceBooking, and blogging away pics and text about the Banksy easter eggs across San Francisco. Being the most obsessed stencil photographer in the City, I left Sycamore and went to a cafe on Valencia to try to scoop everyone with the rooftop pics and the No Trespassing pics.

As I sipped iced tea on a sunny April day, I posted my best shots on FaceBook and Flickr. I put them in all the stencil and street art groups on Flickr, and spread them around on FaceBook. I then put them on Stencil Archive. After having scooped the first pics, I’m sure Warholian.com has major traffic, but it seemed that my corner of Stencil Nation was scooped by yours truly.

Ah, to be wound up in a spiral of Banksy mania, screaming like a rabid teenybopper Beatles fan. You’d think Obama was in town, speaking to the starry-eyed masses, who in turn wrote and posted every last detail of their experience on the Internet social sites. Call me a sucker, but I know that street art can quickly disapear, so snapping pics must happen asap. (Blogs are reporting that Banksy’s fresh piece in LA has already been taken down by professional art experts.)

Back on the bike to head to SoMa to snap the rat. Once I grabbed some photos (not much of a crowd there), I spoke to some of the local store employees about rooftop access. Struck out on four locations and got a nibble on a fifth. Sent emails to the manager tonight and after two bounces, found another email address for him online. Fingers crossed.

Came back tonight to see that a fifth and sixth stencil has been documented. Warholian.com either held back on the Erie at Mission (near 14th St.) piece or found out after I saw him at Amnesia. He has since posted flicker pics of that one, which has a bird on a tree. The other piece is the same large rat from SoMa, with a different punchline. So back down to the Mission I go tomorrow to snap up the Erie piece.

With the flights screwed up between USA and Europe, I wonder if Banksy is going to just stay in North America and tear shit up while he cools his heels during the flight ban? I also wonder if he got my email telling him that CELLspace is fair game? And finally, I wonder who he’s with and where he’s staying? I have theories, but it’s all fantastical and just plain fanboyish. When I said years ago that I as a Certified Stencil Geek, I wasn’t kidding!

Let the frenzy continue….

Stencil Nation 3rd Print Out Now!

Jennifer at Manic D Press just contacted me to let me know that the 3rd print run of Stencil Nation: Graffiti, Community, and Art is out now and ready to hit your coffee tables and local (hopefully indy) book stores.

Keep an eye out on upcoming Stencil Nation appearances here and there throughout the spring and summer!

DISTRO INFO (for any interested shop/gallery owners):

  • USA
    • Consortium 800-283-3572
    • Last Gasp 415-824-6636 contact: Jon Longhi
    • Ingram 800-937-0995
    • Baker+Taylor 800-775-1800
    • Manic D Press 415-648-8288 contact: Jen Joseph
    • Publishers Group Canada 1-800-747-8147
  • UK + EU
    • Turnaround PSL (London) 020 8829 3000

Stencil Nation to get 3rd Print Run

As some of you may know, Stencil Nation has been hard to find online and in the book stores. As the economy collapsed and fluttered over the past year, I ended my touring and began focusing on other projects (Stencil Archive, puppetry, events production, etc.). As things faltered in the world, Stencil Nation’s 2nd print run began to run out. There were moments in the year when I could barely fulfill the orers from www.stencilnation.org.

But I did, and Manic D Press continued to ride and survive the troubled waves in the publishing world (will the Kindle, etc. kill the book? Think not, but now something to think about.). Since Stencil Nation was released, dozens of stencil, street art, and graffiti books have been released, making a 3rd print of the book a hard decision for the always scrappy Manic D Press.

I just got word from Manic D that a 3rd print run will get distributed Feb. 24! This is good news to those of you who haven’t found the few places left online (like the book’s site) to find the book for a reasonable price. Amazon.com had copies of the book for sale well past $100 each. For those who don’t dig online for the best deal, that’s an unreachable amount to pay for the book.

Now that a 3rd print is about to be released, the price will once again be reasonable.

Thanks again for all your support over the past few years. I hope you all are enjoying the book.

I currently have 1st and 2nd print copies for sale via www.stencilnation.org

Russell —

woah… empty blog…

Hey there. Did anybody miss me? Has the webos-cloud of attention moved away from the humble digs of HappyFeet Travels? I can only guess that you all have been sucked into the micro-webos clouds of Twitter and FaceBook. Huh? Have you? So easy to blog in 100-ish characters or less, isn’t it? Simple to throw some links to vids, articles, and pics over on those sites, yes? Beyond bands, has anyone wandered to the MySpace-webos cloud lately? They’ve made it less blinky last I checked, which was a while ago!

I’ve been laying low for several reasons. Getting off of a year of touring and promoting and producing has been part of the reason. Resting, regrouping, and reconnecting has been another. Not feeling like I have much to say that isn’t too personal (I don’t post too personal here) is yet another reason for the blank cal on this site. And just plain coming to grips with life in the microcosm of the reality-cloud we call a crappy economy has been another.

Things here at HappyFt HQ are feeling caught up. The Fall is looking great for potential creative endeavors. Some of them might actually help me pay the rent! On the book front, Stencil Nation is currently “out of stock” while Manic D tries to figure out the future in what is now a glutted street art book category (we were there before the wave crested…. I beat the crowd once again!). I still have some banged up return copies that I’m trying to sell on my site. A few have gone out.

Continue reading “woah… empty blog…”

Final Pics fm Stencil Nation Tour

Stencil Nation Tour: the table

Just posted this up in the HFt Productions page, and thought you all might like to see the final listing of all the tour dates from the past year. Every thing adds up to 60 stops, with only two cancellations. THANKS again to ALL the people who helped keep me on the road, in the air, and in the spaces with all these fun, stencil-related events. Things I did this year: digital slide presentations, skillshares, street art tours, stenciling demos, book signings, stencil VJ’ing, exhibits, interviews, window displays, budget stencil art sales, and much more!

Continue reading “Stencil Nation Tour: the table”

FORA.tv Stencil Nation Video

Back in April, FORA.tv recorded the Stencil Nation presentation at Booksmith up on Haight St. in San Francisco.  It has been posted on their site for a while (over 700 views, who knew?) but I decided not to spread the word until I finished the touring. With the Year of Stencil Nation finally complete, I present to you the presentation in all its guts and glory. Or should I say umms and uhs. This presentation changed over time (in Middle America, I opened up the presentation with pics of stencils and street art from Iran), and was always different. So here’s a unique slice of what was going down on tour a few months ago.

If you have Windows Player installed, you can see the Dec. 12, 2008 version of the presentation from A Cappella Books in Atlanta, GA (recorded by the Atlanta Forum Network).

B-Town, Paint Louis and Beyond

The week has flown by. I drove over the Canadian/USA border at Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls almost a week ago. Got to see the falls from the bridge, and I didn’t need to stop to catch any other view. The border guard didn’t flinch at the big bike box in the back. If he had looked, he would’ve found a partial bike made from used parts. The back tire of the bike Martin Heath made for me began to squeak again. It started up after I pushed the coaster break. Martin said the back tire was shot and that I’d have to find another one in San Francisco.

Martin gave me a pass to see the opening of the Short Film Festival up on Bloor St. Then I went to CineCycle, helped pack the bike, and watched some amazing 1960s Serioscope jukebox music reels. They were dated, but extremely interesting to watch. I said final goodbyes to Janet and then Martin and I pushed the bike to my China Town flat on a dolly. Toronto was fun! Can’t wait to post the stencils from there when I get a chance.
Continue reading “B-Town, Paint Louis and Beyond”