Wildstyle’s public sketchbook. Photo by Andrew Callaghan

At Wildstyle Wednesdays, Young Graffiti Artists Master the Craft

The weekly art-store meet-up teaches youth about Seattle graffiti history while shaping its future.

Just about every Wednesday afternoon from 4 to 7 p.m., shortly after the final school bell rings, teens gather at Art Primo, an art-supply store and gallery on Pine Street. Huddled around the drawing table, they practice their craft—sketching away at colorful graffiti pieces, networking, and sharing stylistic advice.

This weekly sketchbooking event is called Wildstyle Wednesday, aptly named after the “wildstyle,” a complex, colorful style of graffiti art which rose to popularity in New York City during the early 1980s. Its prominence is partly thanks to The Writer’s Bench in the Bronx, a subway platform turned graffiti-sketchbooking meet-up spot where artists concocted new styles, critiqued each other’s designs, and paved the way for the popularization of graffiti as we know it.

To develop your own wildstyle is to devise unique color schemes and letter structures. It takes practice and feedback to make progress, and that’s exactly why aspiring young artists, like local teen Alec Werner, frequent Wildstyle Wednesday with such ritual regularity. “I like being able to connect and bond over a hobby that me and someone else both enjoy. It’s easy to meet people here,” Werner says. “I like to see people innovating new styles. They show me doo-dads and it makes my own work better.”

The event typically attracts a diverse group of teens, from inner-city neighborhoods and deep-Eastside ’burbs like Issaquah. Some attendees are more experienced than others. The event’s torchbearer and de facto mentor, Joe Largy, has been known in Seattle’s graffiti-art scene since many Wildstyle Wednesday participants were still in diapers. “In the context of social media, this event gives these kids an environment to form actual friendships and relationships. I would venture to say, it’s probably better to be here doing art then to be drinking 40s in the park,” he laughs, “or whatever kids do these days.”

Largy likens graffiti to a sort of folk art in which cultural traditions and stylistic forms are passed from generation to generation. “If you really wanted to be a nerd about it, and get into it,” he says of Seattle’s particular graffiti style, “you could probably trace a line back from the youngest graffiti writer today to some random fool from the ’80s. And if not the ’80s, at least to the early ’90s.” In this way, Wildstyle Wednesday is a font of generational wisdom, where kids of all ages create and critique each other’s work—and of course grill Largy with questions about Seattle’s graffiti history.

“When you’re drawing with others, you might learn something from them, and they can learn something from you. It’s like working on a puzzle—we’re all putting pieces forward,” Largy says.

Art Primo, 415 E. Pine St., artprimo.com. Free. All ages. 4–7 p.m. every Wednesday.

More in Arts & Culture

Students perform their original pieces prior to watching ‘Hamilton’ on March 14, 2018. Photo by Christopher Nelson
Seattle Students Find Empowering Lessons in ‘Hamilton’

High schoolers draw parallels between modern and historic struggles after watching the Broadway hit.

Full Upstream Music Fest Lineup Revealed

The reunited Jawbreaker joins Miguel, The Flaming Lips, and a myriad of local bands.

Pacific Northwest Ballet will perform Jerome Robbins’ <em>The Concert (or, The Perils of Everybody)</em> as part of its season-opening Jerome Robbins Festival in September. Photo by Angela Sterling
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s 2018–19 Season Balances Old Favorites and Premieres

The upcoming slate also feature a Jerome Robbins Festival.

Pick List: Moisture Festival, Seattle Youth Symphony, Nirvana at MoPop

Seattle’s best entertainment events this week.

Photo by Nicola Dove/IFC Films
The Scathing Commie-dy of ‘The Death of Stalin’

Armando Iannucci’s latest film provides razor sharp pseudo-historical satire.

Illustration by Taylor Dow
Healing Crisis

A feisty Mars and tender Chiron make for a complex new Moon.

<em>Come From Away</em> kicks off 5th Avenue Theatre’s 2018–19 season. Photo by Matthew Murphy
5th Avenue Theatre Reveals Its 2018–19 Season

Find hope in performances of musical favorites like ‘Annie’ and ‘Come From Away.’

Pick List: Lorde, Jason McCue, Melissa Kagerer

Seattle’s best entertainment events this week.

Stanley Tucci and Addison Timlin get too close in Submission. Courtesy Great Point Media/Paladin
Unlearned Lessons

While Stanley Tucci shines, ‘Submission’ feels uncomfortably pre-#MeToo.

Most Read