Thursday, May 29, 2008


I drove by a long string of box cars recently. I’ve always liked trains and especially box cars. I always enjoyed reading the company and railroad names on the box cars and wonder just how many miles there wheels have rolled on our continent.

I had a hard time reading the line names on the box cars I was seeing because just about every inch of every freight car was tagged with graffiti. Some cars had letters ten feet tall and four cars in succession.

OK, I can understand the ego boost of having ones tag rolling like billboard across the country, but what I don’t understand is how much it must cost to tag each box car. I’m sure we’ve all purchased a can of spray paint to paint a set of metal out door chairs. When properly painted you might finish a chair and a half with one can of spray paint. These people are painting nearly entire box cars. Can you imagine how many cans of spray paint it takes to cover an entire box car which is nearly the size of a small home? We are talking about a multi hundred dollar investment in ones ego. How can common people invest that sort of money in something they may never see again while risking arrest? For works of this magnitude they need to come with ladders and cases of paint.

It’s just amazing to me.


Blogger Beth said...

Art for the sake of art?
Still, it doesn't make sense - all that time, money and ego.

6:47 AM  
Blogger Bpaul said...

I don't know, makes sense to me in light of people's personalities.

It's art for one, to be sure -- someone being creative. That holds its own inherent motivation. How many artists do we know that produce work only to the detriment of their own pocket books. Most perhaps?

And yet, it's highly personalized, and within a certain subculture very public. These folks know each other -- even if we squares don't. I was walking with a friend of The Wife's a fear years ago, and she pointed out a tag in N.W. Portland, and said "Oh, 'excess' is in town. Cool, he's been on the east coast or something for a few years. I wonder where he's staying."

So it's a combination of art and ego, like you said. That's like twice the motivation to my mind.

Dogs pee on fire hydrants, teens spraypaint boxcars -- makes sense to me.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Jaggy said...

I am astounded at the level of talent some graffiti artists show, and I wonder how well that talent could be spent in other less obnoxious ways. Long gone are the days of all-black box-cars rolling along the track. There is something to be said for public graffiti spaces where tagging is legal. Those places are evolving art exhibits!

I've only been tagging once, and it was on The Rock outside my high school. Police and school officials welcomed the spray paint there only. The Rock has so much paint on it that the sharp edges are smoothed over. I wonder how many years and colors of paint have accumulated there...

6:54 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

I've never tagged anything probably due to poor penmanship and the fact that spray paint costs so damn much. Though I do write messages on the frame side of walls when I build things that are to be found by whom even eventually remodels my houses.

5:30 AM  
Blogger Bpaul said...

As someone who has done an inordinate amount of remodel work in his time -- those notes do get found, keep it up.

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You assume they are actually paying for the paint instead of stealing it.

1:26 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Considering that there isn't much in the way of income from graffiti, it makes sense that one would have to fund or procure for the art somehow. Still that's a lot of paint to buy or rob.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Abby said...

Most the people who even do this kind of artwork these days are old punkers and street kids! The thought that they are PAYING for spray paint is well.... thoughtless!! Check out art mags like JUXTAPOZ! They most always have articles on taggers! It's not about egos, it's about art! These taggers have created a whole new culture and way of life!

2:43 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Abby, Pretty cool. There are a lot of sites out there as well that are interesting on this subject.

8:39 PM  

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