By Keldine Hull
If you live in Los Angeles, then you’re no stranger to the street art that has become a staple of what makes this city so unique. With the city as his canvas, WRDSMTH’s words of inspiration perfectly capture the essence of Los Angeles. They speak to the dreamer in all of us and have become as synonymous with the beauty of LA as the palm trees and beaches. From Runyon Canyon to the streets of Hollywood, WRDSMTH’s words appear in the most unlikely of places with the most positive messages of hope. With a vastly growing fan base all over the world, WRDSMTH will be hosting his first solo art show smartly titled, “I’d Like To Have a WRD With You.” And luckily for us, LA Pulse was able to have a few words with the wordsmith himself.
What inspired you to get involved in street art?
I’m a writer first and foremost. I love to write in a lot of different mediums that include screenplays, short stories, short films. I’m a published author. I used to work in advertising. In 2013 I had a really good year creatively. I was working on several different projects. But I had a realization towards the end of the year that I was spending way too much time in front of the computer. And even though I was doing what I love, I knew I needed something that got me out of the chair for mental and physical health. I’ve always loved street art. I’ve always been inspired by it. As a kid, I used to see scrawlings on the wall where I grew up, and I’ll never forget those scrawlings where “Tony Hawk is God.” And I remember thinking, who wrote that? When did they write that? Why did they write that? I was just fascinated with it. And when I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, I was blown away by the street art. I always found it very inspiring, and I thought superheroes did it.
At first I was like, “Maybe I’ll try to do some street art.” I had seen some word- based street art. I was like, “Maybe people will read if I put stuff up on the wall.” If I was doing word- based street art, I’d still be writing. That would satisfy my love and desire to write. I kind of started toiling with that idea even though I still thought superheroes did this.
At first I thought I’d put up little stickers or something of that nature. But when I started pondering ideas, I immediately saw an image of a typewriter. To me that's just like a classic, indelible image and it harkens back to the writers of old, the people that were pecking away on typewriters writing novels, people like Hemingway. When I thought of the image of the typewriter, I saw a page coming out of it, and I also kind came across the word wordsmith. Wordsmith was taken on social media, so I removed the vowels from it. And the moment I removed the vowels, there was this domino effect. I thought it looked really cool. There’s basically two mediums in the world of street art, and that’s painting and pasting. My idea combined both of them in a very simple manner. I had to Google if anybody had done it before. And the moment I saw that nobody had done it, I just was like, “I have to put this out there. I have to do this.” And in that excitement, I also forgot all about my fear that superheroes did it and that I couldn’t do it or I wasn’t that type of artist. When I get excited about something, I just throw myself into it.
It was late 2013. I started creating those messages, and I packed up a backpack one night. I went a few blocks from my house, and I put up my first piece. And the adrenaline rush, the feeling, the satisfaction was just off the charts, and I was absolutely hooked. I don’t wanna use the cliché that the rest is history, but I was just all in. I needed to get away from the computer, and I was doing that. I came back charged and energized.
The amazing thing about this whole thing is even though I started doing this for me, it started resonating with people, and now I’m doing this full time. I’m getting read on a daily basis all over the world and for any writer, that’s living the dream. It’s just been an amazing ride.
What was that message you wrote the very first night you went out and put up your first piece?
I ventured a couple blocks away from my house, and I put on a utility box, “There’s nothing sadder in the world than a pawnshop in Hollywood.” And I actually put it across the street from a pawnshop. That WRD right there is actually one of my favorites because it was my first. It doesn’t sound very positive, but it actually is. All it was to me was a creative way of saying don’t give up on your dreams. I really look fondly back on that. I think my style has kind of changed where it’s blatantly positive. But I find a lot of positivity in that first WRD that I put up.
I love that all your pieces are centered on going after your dreams. My favorite message you wrote was, “Do something every day to remind the city why the hell you’re here.” How do you come up with such positive messages?
I quit my advertising job. I was good at it. I was getting paid a lot of money, but I had that realization that I wasn’t doing the creative writing that I wanted to be doing. All my friends thought I was crazy. And my family. I packed my car and said I was moving to Los Angeles. Even when I was struggling, Los Angeles was good to me. I felt so much happier even when I was struggling. I knew I made the right move. The words come from so many different things. I’m just creatively looking for ways to say don’t give up your dreams, everything’s gonna be alright. Everything is rooted in something in my life. It needs to resonate with me, whether it’s romantic or inspirational, before I put it out there on a wall to the world. Sometimes I’m like, “Hmm I wonder if people are gonna get this. I wonder if they’re going to embrace it.” And some of those are the most popular words I’ve ever done. I’m just always so shocked at that because they are personal thoughts. But those thoughts are universal. Everybody’s thinking the same thing, and that’s amazing and very comforting at the same time.
Comforting is the perfect way to describe a lot of your WRDs.
We’re all in this together. We’ve been talking about Los Angeles versus the world. I thought I was speaking just to Los Angeles with these things, but people all over the world feel the same way. And it’s insane in a very good way. All walks of life, all ages, people are all in this together. And everybody’s looking for positivity. There’s so much negativity in the world. From the get go I was like, I wanna be positive. I wanna kinda go against the grain, especially here in Los Angeles, and say positive things to people. It’s so easy for people to say it’s too hard or it’s impossible. Who wants to hear that? It is possible. It’s possible on many levels. There wouldn’t be success stories if things weren’t possible. You don’t know what’s gonna happen, but while you’re here chasing your dreams, you better fucking chase your dreams. Go at it a hundred and ten percent. When you’re older and sitting on your porch, nobody’s gonna say, “God, I shouldn’t have moved to Los Angeles to chase my dreams.” If you don’t chase your dreams or you don’t give it a hundred percent, you’re gonna be sitting on your porch going, “Damn I should’ve tried harder.” If you give it a go, there’s no way that you’re ever gonna look back and regret that time. You’re chasing your dreams. It is a uniting thing.
Los Angeles is a city built by people who chased after their dreams.
I think this city has such an energy. I think it’s such a creative capitol of the world. I love being here and there’s some people that are tired of it or jaded. I tell those people get out cause this city can kill you. If you’re not enjoying the struggle, something’s wrong because you should be enjoying the struggle. I hear actors talk about their frustrations not getting cast, and I go to them and say, “But you’re getting in the room! You’re getting in the room to act in front of people. That should be thrilling. If it’s not thrilling, something’s wrong.” There’s people that never make that move or never get in that room. You have to enjoy the struggle or anything will eat you up.
Being that your artwork has become a staple in Los Angeles, is there much need for anonymity anymore?
That’s a fantastic question. No. But also yeah. When I first began, I think like any street artist, you’re afraid of getting caught. You are dancing this line of legality and also using a paint can. In Los Angeles, they made it a crime a long time ago because they looked at it as a gateway to gangs. The anonymity I embraced cause I just didn’t want people to know that I was doing it. But over time, and especially when the city started hiring me to do projects and corporations wanted me to do pieces on walls, I started caring less about the anonymity. I feel that I’m beautifying; I’m putting positive messages out there. If I still am doing renegade pieces and a cop rolls up on me, I’ll let him do his job. I’m not gonna run away. I’m gonna tell him I’m trying to do something positive, I’m trying to put messages out there. I’m also technically not doing it on private property. I’m not gonna do somebody’s fence in front of their house. I’ll do dilapidated buildings or abandoned buildings or walls that are just kinda there, or utility boxes. I’ve had cops roll up on me, and they still ran my name and saw if I had any warrants or priors, and I don’t. And the first time that happened, I remember I was really nervous. But the cops a couple minutes in said, “Hey, don’t be nervous. We actually like what you’re doing.” They still had to do their job, which was fine, and I respect that. They just told me to be careful out there. But I’ll continue doing what I do.
This is something that I believe in so much, and I’m trying to do something inspiring, and that’s what’s behind it. I know the words are affecting people. I get messages on a daily basis. I’ve gotten messages from people like, “I’m with my significant other because of your words. We shared them in the beginning, and you’re part of the courtship. We got engaged in front of them.” Messages like that. And also messages that are like, “I was having a grave time and kind of leaned on your words and got through it.”
I will risk the legality. I know that I could be doing a piece somewhere in any city and the cops could arrest me and put me in jail. But I forget that. I get a large of percentage of opportunity to put words up on buildings that are sanctioned, and that’s amazing. A lot of artists don’t get that opportunity, so I’m very thankful for that. But that doesn’t mean I’m gonna stop doing renegade pieces. That’s what a street artist does, giving art to the people. I don't care what happens in my career, I will always do that. I will always wanna put pieces for people to turn the corner and see them and stumble on them and hopefully smile. And it changes your moment or your day, or you share it with somebody, and it affects them and has this butterfly effect.
Your art is recognizable throughout the world, especially right here in Los Angeles. Did you ever expect to attain this level of popularity?
I absolutely, positively did not expect this to happen. I am blown away on a daily basis. Like I said, I wanted to say things to people in Los Angeles that I wished they would’ve said to me when I first came. I hoped that people would stumble across it. I never expected to make a dime. I never expected to have this kind of following. And that’s just thrilling. Everything that I put out there comes from something in me, and it’s amazing that it’s resonating with so many people just all over the world. It’s just crazy. And I love that. It fuels the creative fire.
I moved here like so many other people to kind of make a splash. People move here to become actors, to become writers, to become directors, dancers, singers. And this city…it’s so hard to make your mark. So much of Los Angeles knows my work and knows my name, and that is amazing to me. I actually kinda took a step back and said, “I can’t believe this happened in a city that is so easy to just disappear in and not get noticed.” A filmmaker said it best when he said talent plus perseverance equals luck. And I think that’s the secret to Hollywood; it’s the secret to WRDSMTH. I just kept writing and doing what I love, and it’s amazing that this endeavor is what is making my mark, not only in Los Angeles, but all over the world.
Your first solo show begins on November 4th through November 12th. What do you have in store?
I’ve been thinking about a solo show for many years. I did not want to do my first solo show in the gallery setting. I wanted to be free of that and do some really fun stuff. Anybody buying a ticket, walking through that door will be, I think, wildly entertained. I’m a storyteller. With all my pieces, I’m telling stories that will add depth to those WRDs in those pieces on the wall. The show is about saying thank you to the people that have followed me, have supported me, and continue to share my words. I wanna go out of my way to meet people, to shake their hands, to give them hugs, to say thank you. And it’s thrilling that they wanna meet me.
I did thirty brand new original pieces, and those will be the bulk of the show. All of them will be for sale and all of them have a title card. But on those title cards I decided to tell stories. There’s some fiction stories that relate to the art. And then there’s a lot of nonfiction stories, just anecdotes about WRDSMTHing over the last three years. I tell stories with my art I think, but I wanted to add depth to those words.
I’m always frustrated that a lot of the time the people that my words are affecting the most are the people that can’t afford my art. And that’s hard because I would love to give pieces to everybody, but I also have to pay the bills. So what I did with this Greatest Hits Wall is I’ve created one hundred 11X14 canvases that are priced to sell, priced much lower.
I always look for ways to pay it forward, to pay it back. What I’m doing with the Greatest Hits Wall is if you choose to buy one of those 11X14 canvases, that’s when you’ll be able to pull it off the wall. Nine out of those will be one hundred percent free. Nine people will walk away with a free WRDSMTH piece of art. For one of the thirty pieces, if somebody agrees to buy it, one hundred percent of the proceeds will go to a charity. So there will be ten pay it forwards at my show, and that’s very important to me. That was part of the vision over the years. I want people to get excited. But regardless I really want to entertain people, and I think you will be entertained if you walk through the door on any night.
Follow @wrdsmth on Instagram and purchase tickets for his first solo show, 'I'd Like To Have A WRD With you' here.