In graffiti, staying original is a requirement for respect amongst its practitioners. Besides the undocumented "interactions" with police, problems with rivals, and staying active; being able to constantly re-invent yourself is something most writers live for. The title of Style Master has strict criteria; nonetheless new kings always emerge with innovative concepts and techniques to add to the palette of graffiti.
RIME has always been one of those writers who pushed the limits. With letterforms ranging from his various bubbly (round) throw-ups, to intricate sharp wildstyles, RIME always finds ways to shape his moniker into something different.
Wes Wong met with RIME to see what goes through his head when creating letters.
RIME: I was in sixth grade when I met a graffiti writer from Brooklyn who went to my school. He was already into painting and showed my friends and me some of his old handstyles. We were impressed and started to learn how to do different kinds of tags.
Wes Wong: How would you describe the general look of graff?
Graffiti tends to layer upon itself, each letter spills on to the next letter. The difference between graffiti and any type of traditional font is that most fonts and other forms of writing have good marginal space between one letter to the next, making them clean and easier to decipher. Graffiti is one flowing entity, one word, pressed together to get one form.
Would you say that there is standardization to letterspacing in graffiti?
I think that with each writer it's different. I went through a period where I did not want to overlap my letters. But I wanted my letters to have no negative space between them. For instance my "I" and "M" had no gaps between them. I wanted to press my letters up next to the edge, kind of like puzzle pieces.
There are other people who like to overlap their first letter, making it reach in and extend, overlapping their following letters. I guess with each person it's different. That's one of the things I liked about graffiti, there are so many different ways you can make it.
RIME Boxcar (2003) — Click to enlarge.
When you first started, was your drive to have a good style or to get fame?
I've always been an artist so I was attracted to the more artistic ways of creating graffiti. I was into comic book characters before I found graffiti. Once I had access to Subway Art and other books related to graffiti, I would try to imitate pieces, but I got into graffiti more as a bomber. I was doing tags and throw-ups, just started getting into block letters. I didn't get into piecing until the second or third year. The people that I was hanging around with were more into bombing.
RIME in Poland (2003)
How did you make the transition to piecing?
Most of the stuff that inspired me was a variation of different styled tags and throw-ups. I saw pieces in sketchbooks, but there wasn't any stuff in my neighborhood. I would see actual work in Manhattan, on my way to school.
I did my first piece in January of 1993 at night behind a supermarket. I was amazed at how much easier piecing was then doing throw-ups or tags. I realized then that when you made a mistake while executing a piece, it was very easy to clean and build up your work in layers. With tags and throw-ups, the act of painting is instantanious which forces you to get things right on that first stroke. If you fuck up then it is what it is, you just have to accept it and try again somewhere else.
Detail of PYSA & RIME billboard
How would you describe your style?
I've always been searching for a style, ever since I dedicated myself more to piecing and throw-ups. I've been known to change my throw up every couple of months because I get tired of them. I have a difficult time doing the same thing over and over again.
Getting into piecing, I was always interested in all different areas of style. I've appreciated a bubbly style just the same as I would be into a more hardedge-technical-angular-geometric type style. I was always dipping in and out of different areas of style, sometimes mixing them together and creating something new with it. Some of my pieces tend to be rounded, bubbly and soft. Kinda dorky looking. Whereas the other ones I do are a little more sleek and aerodynamic. A lot of times it depends on where I'm painting, what brand of paint I'm using, and the situation of the wall or train I'm painting on. Also, If the writers I'm painting with don't really paint bubbly style, I will paint something not as bubbly. I've always tried to be flexible with style.
Sometimes I'll just start drawing something, which won't be anything particular, and try to turn those into letters.
"Jersey Joe" – Cincinnati, OH (2004)
Do you freestyle most of your pieces?
For the past few years I have been doing a lot of freestyling.
What role do magazines play on the overall graffiti scene?
For me, viewing magazines was the main way of keeping tabs on the worldwide graffiti scene before the internet was really out and about. The first graffiti mag I had was an UnderCover in '95. The styles were highly advanced to me. I was not on the level of making graff that looked like that. I had experience doing pieces but when I saw UnderCover, I felt that I would never be able to duplicate or surpass the styles they published. I felt like these guys were doing
some real serious shit.
Later on, Scribble and OnTheGo, acted as a platform to display progressive styles. Scribble magazine caught criticism because they were some what biased to the type of styles they put in there. Although you can complain on their taste, they did print a lot of the progressive styles. They would also do things like show seven pieces from the same production, but break them down into individual photos of each piece.
I think people were really studying the styles coming from these magazines from '97–'01. They acted as a way for writers to keep tabs on what was being done.
It also gave way for smaller towns to see new work.
Definitely. What they did was change regional styles into something more global. For instance, there could be someone from Arkansas that will be painting in a style that is a bite off a Revok style. Revok is more known to have an LA, West Coast type of look. Now, you have a lot of writers from random places doing all these styles because they saw it in a magazine or on the internet. You have people who are not from Philly attempting to do Philly Handstyles
What do you think of the internet and graffiti?
I think that magazines are kind of dated in comparison to the internet today. Instead of waiting 3 months for the new stuff to come out, writers can just go on the computer and see something that was done the same day. You can check out a piece that was just done in another city in another country. I think that the internet has changed graffiti way more than magazines have. Graffiti right now is fresh, and I don't mean fresh like in hip-hop. As soon as it is produced and in the public's eye, it ends up on the internet. I've had a lot of my pieces come up on the internet within 24 hours of them being done.
Monku, a Los Angeles photographer, captured this
RIME piece days after it was painted. (2006)
What is your view of the current climate of graffiti style?
To me there are pieces out there that are lifeless. You can find these types of pieces being done by writers that are trying to imitate others rather then searching within themselves for something that fits their personality or artistic ability. I mean everybody takes references. I take references from a lot of different people. But a lot of times when I see pieces, they look empty like there is no soul in what they are doing. You can tell by the treatment. The letters are real empty and their piece is more about the design than the letter itself.
I like pieces that are timeless. They also have that ability to show me new things that I've never thought of before. I like pieces that make me think, ones that I can get an idea about the person behind the style. I don't really like clinical graffiti without soul.
"The 7th Letter" by RIME and CEAZE (2005)
What are you up to now?
Lately, I've come to the point where I was tired of doing my name and the same brand of graffiti. A lot of my friends felt the same way. I wanted to try something different so I started the Exchange. This project got me to sketch again and gave me different sets of letters to work with.
Still don't have enough paint in your system?
Check out more of Rime's work on his site.
Font magazine is a free FontShop publication of typography and design. Issue 005: Legibility explores the topics of graffiti and the alphabet.