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WRDSMTH: Aspiring to Inspire – Every Day

February 12, 2016
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“Happy in London, UK” by WRDSMTH. Photo by @D7606. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH.

We continue our series on individuals making a difference in the world, with the skills they possess.  As a Valentine’s Day special, we feature LA based street artist WRDSMTH.

Each day, WRDSMTH touches hearts around the world with a new WRD – spray painted images of a vintage typewriter, topped with his messages of motivation, love and humour.  WRDSMTH mixes a sense of nostalgia with pop culture in his art and for a world lost in the complexity of the “extreme present,” his WRDs evoke a simpler time – perhaps imagined – when we were all a little kinder to ourselves and one another, and when love was a committment for life.

Every piece, in its own way, feels like a love letter, sent out to the world, from the artist.

"Hate Love" by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

“Hate Love” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

WRDSMTH calls his WRDs “indelible messages” which he “tattoos on walls” in cities around the world. WRDs can be found in Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego, West Palm Beach, London, Paris, Edinburgh, and Melbourne. His art is best experienced in its public context where its position in the surrounding environment adds another layer of meaning. However, for those unable to see it in situ, clever use of social media enables worldwide followers to participate in the daily experience, with photographs of his work appearing on his Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts.

Hoping to achieve a modest following of 500-1,000 followers, WRDSMTH currently has over 75,000 followers on Instagram and the number continues to grow, daily.

"Instagram" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Instagram” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

We emailed WRDSMTH in LA, to ask him a little more about his work and his motivations for being a force for positive messaging in the world.

 

TTDOG: In a recent article you were quoted as saying: The aim of art is “to inspire, entertain, or woo other individuals” Are you trying to woo us, Mr. WRDSMTH? As my father would say: What are your intentions for us?

WRDSMTH: No and yes. I recently used the word woo mainly to refer to the romantic WRDs I put up all over the world, as opposed to the motivational ones which inspire and the funny ones which I hope entertain. However, yes, I am trying woo people with my words. My intention is to affect. Period.

"Shine" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Shine” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

I hope my work makes people ponder, smile, and maybe laugh. The notion that people turn a corner and see a piece of mine or are driving by one and my WRDs affect them in a positive manner, makes me happy and, in turn, adds fuel to the creative fire. If a percentage of those people notice the name attached to my pieces and at some juncture look me up, fall into the rabbit hole that is the my body of work, and possibly become followers/fans, then my wooing was successful.

 

TTDOG: Why do you think positive WRDs from an anonymous stranger are so important to people and why is that craving so universal?

WRDSMTH: When I began WRDSMTHing, I just felt that this city (L.A.) and the world needed some positivity. I think it’s easy in this day and age to feel negative toward current events, politics, and even most of what’s deemed entertainment these days. I shy away from those heavily debated topics and instead choose to focus on the individual – the person that happens upon my WRDs – and, again, I aim to affect them in a positive manner.

"struggle pays" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Struggle Pays” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

And even though my messages reach a wide audience, I think people find the words compelling because of that one-on-one experience. I often am told people feel like my WRDs are speaking directly to them, which is a huge compliment, in my book. And the mystery of who is putting all these WRDs all over the world definitely works in my favor, which is a big reason why I retain my anonymity.

"two believe" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Two Believe” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

Born in Ohio, WRDSMTH moved to Chicago, where he crafted words into slogans designed to sell dreams through consumption. Realising that time waits for no one, he risked all to chase his own dream of being a writer and moved to Los Angeles. Following a very successful run, in 2013, he again turned his craft to selling a dream, with his WRDs. This time, it was the most cherished but often abandoned dream – fulfillment.

"Dream Bigge(r)" by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH

“Dream Bigge(r)” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

Despite his startlingly rapid rise as an international street Artist, WRDSMTH remains dedicated to his first passion: writing. He writes, every day. For solitary people of letters, his WRDs offer not only a dose of motivation but a sense of community.

"Create Every Day" by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesty of the artist.

“Create Every Day” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesty of the artist.

 

TTDOG: One of your most famous WRDs says: “Aspire to Inspire Others and the Universe Will Take Note.” In what way do you feel the universe has taken note – for yourself as well as for those who have been inspired by you?

WRDSMTH: ‘Aspire’ has definitely become a mantra for WRDSMTH, but that’s because those words are so in line with what I aim to do and aimed to do from the get-go. I began this endeavor speaking to all the creative individuals doing time in Hollywood. However, I quickly realized it wasn’t just about those doing time here, but those doing time everywhere. Everyone has a dream – whether it be a creative one, a productive one or a romantic one.

"Aspire To Inspire" by WRDSMTH. Photo by Playboy. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH

“Aspire To Inspire” by WRDSMTH. Photo by Playboy. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH

We all aim to inspire others and if that intent is truly altruistic, I firmly believe the universe will take note. And hopefully good karma ensues. My success has been unexpected. I actually started WRDSMTHing for me because I needed an active hobby. The fact that my WRDs are resonating with so many is thrilling on a daily basis, which is why ‘Aspire’ is a mantra. The messages I get from fans and followers are amazing and are always welcome. I love hearing how I have inspired and motivated others. I also love hearing how my romantic WRDs have helped bring people together.

In a city and in an era where ‘authenticity’ is simply an attribute for branding, the nostalgic warmth and sometimes gut wrenching honesty of his art hints at the character of the man behind the WRDs.

 

TTDOG: Is the open hearted, playful, and vulnerable quality of your WRDs an extension of your professional writing, or is the anonymous WRDSMTH an alter ego that doesn’t get space for expression in your other writing? Why put yourself at risk, in a renegade medium? What impact does the medium and your anonymity have on what you communicate?

WRDSMTH: Both. I think the most compelling stories in any medium are open-hearted, amusing, and vulnerable. At least my favorite novels, movies, TV shows, and music have those characteristics. My professional work includes novels and screenplays and I follow that path, along with a strong belief that “less is more” in all my writing. WRDSMTH is such a merger of worlds for me. I used to work as a copywriter in advertising, so I think I understand how to be effective and affect with as few words as possible. However, WRDSMTH is not like advertising in that I have the creative freedom to say what I want with no agenda or boundaries. That is refreshing and addictive. As far as the risk in a renegade medium . . . isn’t that a vital ingredient in most success stories?

"trump" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Trump” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

While affirmation is a great drug, I was not seeking it when I started WRDSMTHing and I always say I’d still be doing what I do even if I only had 500 followers. I will always say what I want to say and will always express myself in a myriad of personal and vulnerable ways because that’s what writers do. Hemingway once said “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” I love that. Another mantra of mine that I penned is, “Do it for yourself and hope that what you do resonates with others.” I guess where Hemingway and WRDSMTH intersect is where my WRDs are born. The medium of street art seems to add a level of cool to my words.

"f ck out of u" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“f ck out of u” Original artwork by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

The action of putting pieces up at all hours of the night while dancing a line of legality romanticizes the words to a great degree. There’s a difference between potentially reading “You got this. You know you do.” on a motivational poster or “You are amazing. You deserve amazing.” in a greeting card, versus seeing those words on a wall on the corner of Sunset and LaBrea. And the action of taking a picture of those pieces and Instagramming them or sending them to a loved one is more meaningful in this day and age of texting and social media. However, while I am aware of all this, it doesn’t change or alter what I put out there. My WRDs come from my life and my experiences, not from the expectation or hope that they will be Instagrammed or forwarded.

Specific laws, enforcement and penalties for street art vary from city to city and from country to country. In some cases, artwork is specifically commissioned or ‘permissioned.’  WRDSMTH’s installation at SYNDCTD creative agency in LA, and in Lululemon’s shop windows are recent examples of such work. Without such permissions, the question of legality is always a concern for artists painting in public spaces.

"Tell Stories" - photo courtesy of WRDSMTH

“Tell Stories” by WRDSMTH, on the wall of the SYNDCTD offices in LA. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH.

While second guessing what the law would consider ‘acceptable placement’ for his street art, WRDSMTH has stated that he never paints on private property in order to have his WRDs seen. Sensing what he terms a renaissance occurring in street art in Los Angeles, he points to promising changes on the horizon. Some city council members have begun to work with street artists to attempt to provision public spaces for art, as part of urban rejuvenation and beautification.

"Face The Facts" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Face The Facts” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

Not to detract from the LA cool of WRDSMTH, the street artist, his midwestern kindness goes beyond messages of love, humour and inspiration.  A proponent of the Pay it Forward philosophy, WRDSMTH gives of his time and notes that most of his sales have some component of charitable giving attached to them.  In 2015, he gave time and artwork to several causes including after school programs for LA children, local youth centres, the city’s homeless and for breast cancer research.

 

TTDOG: You help and inspire many people. Who has helped and inspired you, along the way? Who helps you these days, and what inspires you to stay positive and keep going, even on those days when things look bleak?

WRDSMTH: I am inspired by a lot of things: Friends. Family. Love. Music. Sunsets. Sunrises. Wanderlust. A really great burger. Cookies and mint chocolate chip ice cream. Honesty. Laughter. Great conversation. Really good wine. Art in all its forms.

"Wanderlust" by WRDSMTH. Photo by Dean Sunshine, provided courtesy of WRDSMTH

“Wanderlust” by WRDSMTH. Photo by Dean Sunshine. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH.

Someone once said, “Life is a struggle. But every now and then, we stumble upon something magical and it just makes everything all right.” My list includes things I often stumble upon – and they just make everything all right for me. Maybe for some, my art is something stumbled upon. At least I hope it is. And I stay positive by immersing myself in the things I love, by surrounding myself with people who challenge me, and by finding the good hidden in all the bleak on this big blue marble we are spinning on.

 

TTDOG: Many people want to make the world a better place but feel that they alone can’t make a difference or that they don’t have the skills, talent or opportunity. What would you say to them?

WRDSMTH: Find a way. There’s always a way.

"give take DTLA" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Give Take DTLA” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

 

TTDOG: What do you wish people would ask you about yourself or your work, but never do?

WRDSMTH: I like when people ask me my name instead of calling me Word or Mister Smith. I enjoy when fans inquire about my other writing. I like when they ask about my muse(s). I love when they ask if they can buy me a drink. I’d like more single girls to ask if I am single. I also wish people would ask me what my favorite palindrome is. The answer: racecar.

Heads up, ladies: WRDSMTH is single!

As is our practice at TTDOG, there is one final question for the artist:

TTDOG:
For what are you most grateful and where do you find your greatest joy?
"joy of life" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Joy of Life in New Orleans, LA” by WRDSMTH. Photo by Scott Allen Perry. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

WRDSMTH: 
I am most grateful for my life – the amazing and baffling opportunity to spend some decades living and making a mark in the world. And my greatest joy is knowing that my work, words, and WRDs are reaching and affecting people all over the world.

WRDSMTH’s original artworks  have been sold at Julien’s Auctions, Art Share-LA, In Heroes We Trust, Q Art Gallery, The Gabba Gallery, Stone Malone Gallery, and LabArt. He currently has prints, photos and wearable art for sale at Paper and Fabric.

To learn more about WRDSMTH and be inspired by his daily artwork, follow him at:
WRDSMTH on Instagram
WRDSMTH on Facebook
WRDSMTH on Tumblr
WRDSMTH on Twitter
Email WRDSMTH at: WRDSMTHinLA@gmail.com
Ten Thousand Days

Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 392 – 398)

September 20, 2015
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Photo: Jordan McQueen

On Thursday of this week we passed a milestone of another full month of gratitude!

This week my life is reflecting the inadequacies of relationships lived long distance and over text messaging.  Sometimes, it is the best we have but nothing replaces the real world.  Also, this week my overwhelming thought was: “Could I get through one week without unnecessary drama, emotional upheaval and seriously bad news?”  We all go through phases in our lives that are difficult and I’m sure that in the middle of them, we do think – could I just have a respite, please?

I am grateful that I can get a flight back to Canada next weekend. I need to go back for business but also it will be important to see family. I have not seen them since May and things change with people’s health and I really want to spend some time with them.  I don’t want to say more on that except that I am present enough to know that it is important I fly home.

I haven’t had a lot of time with my family over the past 20 years because I left Canada around 1994. But, I make as much time as I can to see them – certainly several weeks a year. It is difficult on me to travel with such a big time difference but I will just deal with the jet lag when I return and I’ll be fine by November, I hope.

It is when things happen to the people we love that we really lose tolerance for all the unnecessary drama in our lives.

 

Unnecessary drama is sometimes our own fault because of what we tolerate and we will continue to have it till we stop tolerating the behaviour that goes along with it.  I am grateful for a hard lesson I learned in boundaries and compassion.

This week, I gave a second chance to the person who stood me up last week.  I wasn’t sure I should, but I do believe in second chances.

We made arrangements again to meet for something that would help his business.  There was very little in it for me.  The day before we were meant to meet, he made a very poor joke.  He joked that I had too much interest in him.  (?!?)   I felt his behaviour and his comment were arrogant and insulting.  I let him know that  his joke was not appreciated.

As WRDSMTH so eloquently put it (photo courtesy of @nixxnak)

    As you may have already predicted, the next morning when we were supposed to meet, he cancelled again for a reason that made no sense.                        I got angry.  This person wasted my time and wasted my energy and thereby did not respect me.  That’s not okay.  He took advantage of my compassionate nature and treated me as if I was less important than he is.           But, as I sit with it, I see that the latter thought and my anger is simply ego.  I know who I am, and I know we are not separate or better or worse.  We just sometimes think that we are.  And, I see that compassion is complex.  I engaged with this person out of personal reasons.  I had compassion for what seemed to be emotional suffering around disconnectedness.  That suffering is long standing and would not have disappeared, nor would he have learned better social skills in the few weeks I had known him. If I really wanted to help alleviate the suffering of a person who was disconnected from others, I had to accept that his current repertoire of skills was lacking.  If I am to help him, I need to accept him as he is, set boundaries to protect my energy, offer alternative ways of relating, and not punish him around the ways he fends off connection.             I see now, that I really had bit off more than I had intended to chew, but I would do more harm than good by wading in and reinforcing old patterns for him and for me. The drama was not just because of bad behaviour on his part, but because of my response to it. As I sit with it, I see that  I can still set and keep a boundary, have compassion and do what I can to help alleviate both of our suffering, with clear communication.   I am grateful for the life lesson and although it took too long to learn it,  I am grateful nonetheless, because I am becoming more nuanced in my approach to people who all live in shades of gray and who lead complicated lives with challenges that most of us cannot understand.  I am grateful that I am learning my lessons more quickly and am being offered deeper ways of relating than I once would have.                      Joy this week came in spending time with Pn.  We had a few drinks to send him off as he returns to his home in another country.  I spent a few minutes of the evening speaking only to him.  It was a nice few moments and I really wish we had had more of them.  I like him so much as a person and I am really interested in knowing more about his art.                I love finding his pieces in the street and watching them evolve.  The pieces he has done in London are quite different from the pieces he has done in his home country (according to his instagram account) and I would love to see his work in his home country as well.  He is such a gentle, kind, thoughtful and genuinely good person.  He is filled with light.  I don’t think anyone could meet him and not like him.      Everything about him is an enigma but it really doesn’t matter, because he brings to the moment something that is so pure.    I have only known him a little while and in a few encounters but I will miss him. I am grateful to have met him and for every moment I had with him.  And, I am grateful for yet another difficult lesson in letting go.  I’m not there yet and I’m sure that I will be spending time with his art for a long time to come.  I think he’d be okay with that.                 And that brings me to Oneness.  As you know, there is a special Oneness I have with that thing greater than myself which I get through looking at art.  I engage with each artist’s work differently.  Much like Alo has, Plin’s work has encouraged me to slow down and really look deeply.  Intellectually, I continue to discover more depth in his work, the more I look.  I can see beautiful paintings on the streets and appreciate and admire the styles.  But I never feel invited to engage with them in the same way as I do with Plin’s characters.  I was thinking about why is it I only touch his art?  I’ve tried it with another artist and it just felt wrong.  I felt that I was doing something wrong and that the artist would not like me touching their painting.  But with Plin, there is a feeling of purity – not in the prim sense but in the sense of being stripped away of pretense and of being distilled to the essence. Perhaps there is a rawness to it, but his characters invite me in to their world.  Whether they look fierce, or funny, or even a little sad, they talk to me before I can even talk to them, and when I see them, we are on an adventure together.  I feel compelled to stop and share a bond with them through touch.        

 

With Alo, I talk to his paintings.  They often have tears and so I ask them why they’re crying and I try to ‘listen’ to the art to ‘hear’ an answer.  I take time with Alo’s paintings.  I once touched one to see if it was a painting or a paste up and I felt wrong for doing it.  I love Alo.  I’m not sure he’d mind but it didn’t feel right so I won’t do it again. With his work, I listen….I have not yet been able to hear a response, but some things take time.

 

  Even with Fanakapan, whose work is so whimsical and often evokes happy childhood images, I engage differently.  With Fanakapan, I hear music or rhymes.  I see his work and I come away with a broad smile and singing aloud, but I never consider touching a piece.          

 

I may soon become known as the crazy lady of Brick Lane who sings to and talks to and touches art.  I don’t care.  Engaging with art connects me to the artist and to the collective unconsciousness that each of them has channelled.  Being in that collective unconsciousness gives me energy and I am grateful I have found a portal to it through engaging with art.

 

If you are unhappy, go and look at art.

 

Well, I guess that leaves service for this week…..I didn’t do anything earth shattering this week….because I have wanted to demonstrate how small things add up.  I offered an interview to a couple of lesser known artists (not street artists) whose works I admire and one took up the offer…stay tuned.  And, as a friend was marking a milestone, I gathered some people around him. The group was small on short notice, but I think it was exactly who was meant to be there.  I think he was touched by knowing that people care. We all just want to be loved, in the end, and it is important to show our love every way we can.  To me, if we act always from love, that is the greatest service we can do for one another.

 

So, it just remains for me to ask you:

 

For what are you grateful, today?