It is possible to paint graffiti as a public service. Still illegal maybe, but really painted in an effort to improve, or at least make a situation different in a location of your choice. Location in real estate and graffiti is everything, so if you want to be seen as improving the community, you have to work in a space that the whole community agrees is an eyesore. In New York City, the roll down gate is hated by nearly everybody. A Roll down gate looks like a dirty steel tarp hung in front of a business for the nightime hours while the owner sleeps in the suburbs. The gate is smashed with graffiti, but the owner doesn’t care, in the morning they roll up the gate and go about their business. At the end of the day the gate and all its graffiti gets pulled down into view. The neighbors hate gates, the business owner could care less about gates, the intersection of these feelings make it a perfect place to paint.
The best way to paint gates is with the most basic tool, a four inch synthetic nylon brush. A gallon of silver paint goes far, it blasts over grease and dirt, and makes the dirtiest gate shine like new coins. I wore a mask every time, silver paint is an intoxicant, but not a fun one. You’ll be ranting about Valhalla like Nux in Mad Max Fury Road after a couple hours of inhaling silver paint. I would outline with black enamel and a two inch nylon brush. Talking about tools and application is only interesting in that the tools used for painting over graffiti are the best for painting graffiti. In the heart of every buffman is a graffiti writer dying to bust out (DO IT, NOBODYS LOOKING).
The first time I painted a gate was Janurary 4, 1997, on the gate that fronted the original location of Forbidden Planet, the beloved Village Comic Book store. That went well but maybe I was lucky, I needed to know what I was doing was going to work everytime I painted, anywhere I painted. So the next time I painted a gate it was at Sixth Avenue and Watts St, an intersection that the day I painted hosted nine cops directing traffic into the Holland Tunnel and up one of the busiest avenues in Manhattan. It was a Friday afternoon, busiest traffic day of the week, and I was due at work at 6pm at Mcgovern’s, a bar around the corner on Spring Street. Between the nine police and the thought of losing my job, I was high on anxiety all afternoon.
Painting the silver is easy, and takes the majority of the time. In that time, you’d think anybody who has a vested interest in the property would pop out and ask what you’re doing painting their gate, but no. most of the property owners acted like I was picking up their trash, they sat back and enjoyed my effort. Painting the outline takes 15 minutes, Which feels like a month when it’s illegal, especially in front of half the precinct. To reduce my exposure I would paint the outline in a way that no letters were formed until the last minute, and then I would paint so the name wasnt formed until the last second. I was finishing the S when REAS walked by, and when he realized what I was doing and how, when, and why I was doing it, he knew who I was, “you’re crazy” and left the scene immediately. REAS seeing me in action actually made me relax, I knew no matter what happened, I had a witness, and it made an unbelievable story an actual fact.
I made it to work on time, but every time somebody walked in and the bell on the door would chime, I would “duck down and peep over the bar thinking it was the cops. In my mind they they finally realized what I did and they followed me to the bar to arrest me. It took a couple hours to fully believe what I was doing was too right to be wrong. Its nice work if you can get it, but you won’t be hired, you can only volunteer. START TODAY!
I worked in the gate business for two years and 75 gates. It was good work, daytime hours, and it took me all over the city. It was the first time that I painted graffiti that people thought I was performing a public service. I got nothing but good reactions whenever I painted, my favorite was while painting a gate in Times Square. I heard a woman’s voice asking me what I was doing and I said, without looking back, “I’m with Exterior Surface Painting Outreach and I’m painting this gate”. She said “thats a shame I thought you were doing something magical and mysterious”. I turned around to see her walking away, a 5 foot tall lady in a full length fur coat. She was my mirror and I never even saw her face.