Where did the name "Phobia" come from?
The name PHOBIA was given to me by the homie HUGE in 1993. Huge knew I was planning on making an identity change and was open to suggestions. On a cold and dreary evening he came across a television program about people's fears and jotted down the name PHOBIA. He already knew I was not a big fan of germs and elevators so he had most likely felt that this name would resonate with me. When he told me the name I knew that this was the perfect alias. Before I became PHOBIA, I wrote a few different names. I started out as HASTE and then transitioned into IAM, however, both of those names were both short lived.
Have you studied Art in any way?
I have a Bachelor's Degree in art from San Diego State. I also have an Associate degree in Architecture. Maybe my style comes from drawing buildings in Architecture classes? I have fond memories of drawing 3-D blocks a lot a child.
Have you traveled much for Graffiti? If so where have you been and where is your favorite place to spraycation?
I have done some traveling and had the opportunity to paint with some amazing folks. I try to get up to Canada (Spraycation Paradise) when I can to paint with my NR crew members. When I am in Canada there is nothing but love and fun. Huge shout out to every NR crew member in Canada and Worldwide! I used to frequent Denver Colorado and San Francisco quite often. In Denver I would paint with RTD guys. Huge shout out to CHASE and JHER! While I was in the Bay Area it was always night missions with my boys from WOW and BA. San Francisco was the Adult Disneyland for Graff Writers back in the day. Huge shout out to ATOM, BYPED, BLIS and APEX!
Are you a part of any art collectives, crews, or teams? How did these crews come about?
I am a part of a crew that goes by NR. The original meaning is NO REMORSE. This crew started in 1993 when members of 4 other separate crews walked away from their crews to start a new one. I was part of a group called AEK. The AEK crew started in a positive direction for me when I first got in it, however, as trouble mounted with a rival group called SEK and criminal activity outside the scope of graffiti began to engulf my life, I knew it was time to be a part of something much bigger and better for me. NR has been more like a family to me over the past 25 years. The crew is now worldwide with members in the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe.
What’s your favorite brand of spray paint to paint with and why?
I don't really have a favorite brand. As long as the tips work on a can, I am good to go. It was so much easier in the 90's when we just had "Phantom", "Fat Cap" and "Softball" tips for Krylons and Rustos. Nowadays I tend to burn through precious painting time checking the 10 different tips in my pocket on 5 different paint brands to make sure they link up and work together. Don't get me wrong though, I love the colors of paint available for the picking.
What are your favorite colors or are there colors you find yourself using often?
My style tends to command various tones so it is hard to really say that there are 3 favorites. I always enjoy using Black, White and Red. I use graffiti as an outlet and tend to paint themes that explore a more sinister part of my thoughts.
What kind of nozzles do you tend to use?
I definitely prefer level one caps. They are the best for clean lines that I know of. The other caps out there are just too darn confusing.
Favorite surface to put your paint on and why?
I really like cinder block walls. Writers reading this might be "booing" me for this answer and wish that I had said metal trains. I like cinder blocks because it is a natural grid pattern. I am picky about the balance of my layouts and how my letters line up.
How important is the “outline” in your process?
The initial outline is everything. A final piece is only as good as the sketch from which it was built from. You can not hide ugly letters with fancy colors. I used to freestyle a lot of my sketches on walls but nowadays I like to show up with some type of idea (but not always) of what I am doing so I don't waste time and paint. No matter what writers believe, even if you have a black and white paper sketch with you, most of "piecing" is still going to involve freestyling. Graffiti is expression and the process just varies from person to person but we are all achieving the same form of enlightenment. Illegal or legal, it's all for the mental state of who is involved in that moment. Don't get me wrong, night stuff is much more fun.
If someone asked you why you write graffiti, what would your answer be?
I might go as far to answer this question by saying that graffiti has been an obsession of mine since I first encountered it. I can only explain why I write as that it is because I am a Graffiti Writer. I guess I could compare it to why a Baseball Player plays baseball. It is what they do and this is what I do. My fascination has always been with the rush it involves and well as the creative side of me that comes out. The book Subway Art said that graffiti is all about the fame and when I first started as a tagger maybe that was true, however, over the years I have built lasting friendships, explored places where nobody but writers would go, painted things that have made me proud, and just had a blast being a writer. Writers are privileged to be a part of an amazing subculture. A quote I have always loved is "you have to live for something or you die for nothing". If you are on this earth just to take up space then you might not be living up to your potential and you will likely not be remembered. Graff Writers leave their mark ON society.
What motivates you to keep painting letters?
Motivation is eternal. Graffiti is what I enjoy. Some people like playing golf or going for long walks in the woods after dark, I like to paint letters. I do of course get additional motivation from my inner circle of highly talented friends. Being a part of a talented crew like NR pushes me to be my best.
What kind of project gets you most excited (i.e. Legal walls, crew productions, wholecars, freight bombing)
I get excited to paint. Growing up in San Diego was awesome because we had tons of day spots under bridges where we could do full on crew productions. Painting with my friends has always been my favorite experience. Night spots are always a big rush and have to be a part of every writer's career. Painting trains has always been a huge plus when I had a chance to get a freight in. Nowadays my pieces tend to be painted on legal spots. I have done the dirt in the past and really have nothing to prove but don't get me wrong, night painting was always the most fun.
In an age of social media, with cameras everywhere, and police using technology to crack down on graffiti artists, how do you feel about the importance of protecting your personal identity?
Don't risk your freedom. Be smart about your social media posts and know that you are being monitored by authority figures.
Where do you think an artist should be able to paint in terms of street art or graffiti? What spaces are “off limits” to you?
Graffiti is meant to be painted where the public can see it or where other writers can view it, like in yards. What I do not think is cool is writing on someone's house or car. I understand that many street artists feel that every surface is up for grabs, however, some spots are just not acceptable and lame.
Can you speak on the importance of letters and can control in an era of hipster graff and street art?
I can't really speak much on other people's styles. Of course lettering is always the biggest part of graffiti but how you go about achieving your finished work is up to you. I am sure there are plenty of people that think I am not very good and need to change my approach. I just paint what I want to paint and choose to not judge other writers.
What do you think of instagram / tiktok (social media in general) and what impact has it had on you as a graffiti artist?
I like instagram. There was something pretty cool about Graffiti magazines in the 90's though. Heading to the store, picking up the newest magazine and flipping through the pages was an experience that only us older guys remember. Instagram is so user friendly and you can see so much graff that it almost gets addictive. Of course you get those lame humans who choose to hide behind aliases and project unpositive insight on Instagram. In regards to tiktok, that one is not my jam.
Do you have any of your art for sale?
No, however, I am for hire if anyone needs some Graphic Design assistance. Simply DM me on my IG (@phobianr).
In interviews people always ask the artist ”Do you have any advice for the beginner?” Beyond the obvious response like “practice more” - What sage like wisdom can you offer the neophyte regarding the culture, codes and ethics, safety tips, tools and techniques, ect?
Being a Graffiti Writer should not be taken lightly. Graffiti is not a game and comes with risks. Vandalizing your neighborhood so your friends can admire you will not get you anywhere. In order to be involved in this culture you must understand that respect is very important. Many other people have paved a path for you to follow and taking their advice is okay but taking their style is not.
If someone wants to follow you or learn more about you, where should they look?
Instagram - @phobianr
My crew lost a member and a true friend named Shane. He will always be missed and remembered. Shane was a true style master and a great human being. You are always in the thoughts of your NR Family. RIP KING KURE!
To all of the Writers out there that read this, Stay safe out there, practice respect, have fun and smile once in a while.
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