When many people think of “Robots Will Kill” they think of your iconic robot character, but there seems to be much more to it than that. Can you tell us about the collective? What brought it together? What unifies the artists, and is there a specific ethos or idea that represents the collective?
Around 2000 I was going by a different tag and trying to do more with my canvas work. At that time there was this weird art scene that really wasn’t street art and wasn’t really graff but was almost like a sub genre of contemporary art. So I started to trying and speak to galleries in NYC but they wouldn’t even take the time to check out my slides. They would all say things like “how old are you? Oh come back when you’re older.” And id just say what does age have to do with art. Just take a look at the work. Since then I havnt approached a gallery. It really jaded me. So I spoke to my friend Kevin who knew about websites and we started talking about launching one for me so I had a space to show my work. As we talked about it I would tell him about the galleries and how they acted so we came up with the idea of making a website that showed artists that were over looked. Stuff like graff, sticker artists and this new cool thing called street art. So RobotsWillKill.com became a place for artists to show their work to people all over the world. We would say “you wouldn’t give us a space, so we built one”. It launched in early 2001. When websites were the thing we would get at least 500 graff/art submissions And thousands of unique visitors a day.
I designed everything for the site so the robot became the logo. And when anyone thought of RWK they thought of my work. The way it became a “collective/crew” is a whole other story. But as far as artists associated with RWK it’s myself, Kev, Veng, REGA, Mike die, jos-L, over under, ECB, Flying Fortress, Peeta and JesseRobot. A lot of us have worked together on pieces or walls. Once people started thinking of it as a crew I wanted it to be a closer knit crew. Not one with a ton of members. More like members that I knew personally.
Who is your robot character? Does it have a name? or is it like an army your making?
He does have a name but I don’t use it too much. It’s P.O. B.O.Y. Which stands for Prosthetic Organic Bot Of Youth.
We see a ton of “Robots Will Kill” stickers, as an artist clearly capable of painting giant walls or filling gallery spaces, why make so many stickers?
Stickers have always been a favorite thing for me. Even as kid in the grocery store when they’d have the sticker vending machine. But I’ve painted walls for years and have been showing my work for over 20years. With that said stickers will always bring me back to fun times.
Are you a street artists or a graffiti artist? Or both? Is there a difference?
When I was a kid I’d copy cartoons and comics then around 11 I found graffiti. My brother and his friends were older and doing graff so naturally I wanted in. So I’ll always associate more with graff. The term street art has worn thin with me. Mainly cause it’s such a broad net now. Usually when people ask me this type of question I joke and say I’m and artist that does work outdoors and indoors.
You have successfully navigated from street art to doing art for larger corporations and back to art in the streets. What advice can you give the aspiring artist who might not be used to dealing with the business side of being an artist.
Know your worth. Don’t let companies nickel and dime you and entice you with “exposure”. When your light bill is due ask the light company if you can pay them in exposure. See how long your light stay on for.
With that said there are of course good projects to be involved in that might not pay a lot or at all. Just know what they are getting out of it and if your getting the same thing. Wether it is exposure or emotional connection.
It doesn’t seem like enough street artists consider monetizing their talents, besides making a little extra money, what are the benefits of selling prints, canvas works, and other products?
I actually think it’s the opposite lately. I think a lot of people get involved in street art cause it’s an “easy in”. Like they can make a name quick and then jump to other art scenes. Most artists I knew would have to break their neck to get in a gallery. Nowadays it seems like there’s a new show every weekend. Shows for one night etc. it’s the same with walls. In the 90’s getting a Wall was a mission. Now these artists are thrown a wall or even whole buildings.
How do you think your formal art education has helped with your street art?
Mediums and interaction with other artists. Those are two of the biggest things I took for school.
How do you think street art helped your formal education?
There’s things I definitely learned that I’m grateful for. Wether it was materials or technical stuff. See when I went to school there was not YouTube or internet that people could learn everything from. Also another thing that was great with school was meeting other artists and the feeling of competition and collaboration.
While Letters are almost holy to some graffiti artists, your art is more character driven. We know you utilized letters in the very beginning, what caused you to move away from letter based graffiti?
I love letters. I’ll stare at letters for hours. From throwies to straight letter to burners etc. For me characters is where I started with comics and cartoons. So it was a natural feeling. Characters also had a few meanings and advantages. Meaning in the sense that each person could look at it and see something different. Advantages in the sense that characters are more accepted by people. Especially in the 90’s. People would see pieces and say “what does that even say” but if they saw a character doing something they could understand it quicker. That then would lead them into looking at the letters and accept it more.
Who were your first influences?
Gary Larsen, Jim Davis, the Disney artists, Derek Riggs, a lot of old marvel stuff and dark horse. Graff is a whole list of artists.
Does music play a role in your art? Whats in your headphones these days?
Absolutely. Right now I’m hooked on shuffle. Over the years I’ve added so much to my music library that I forget. So it’s great to hit shuffle and hear sick of it all then tom waits then wu tang then a Disney soundtrack then Combust then redman then jimmy buffet then rancid then Hawaiian music etc. Music helps with ideas and feelings. I know how certain songs make you feel so it helps me what to get a veiwer to have a feeling from my paintings.
What’s your favorite brand of spray paint to paint with?
Montana gold and Montana black.
What kind of nozzles, or “tips” do you tend to use?
The Montana green caps level 1 and NY fat. Those 2 are always in my bag.
What are your favorite colors or are there colors you find yourself using often?
Depends on the medium. If it’s spray paint Montana gold Iron Curtain and Gravel. Those are the main colors of the robot.
Brush paint I use a lot of light blues and light greens.... oh and red.
Do you have a favorite marker?
I have a few. Krink. Artline. Pilot filled with Molotov “moltotov cocktail ink”.
Those all have a great rich black and last long. So they are great for stickers and outlining. And can get them to drip when wanted.
Do you prefer painting alone or collaborations with others?
Both. We’d always paint spots with a few people so it always felt like a collaboration. So when I started doing more and more stickers I reached out to other sticker guys and said wanna collab? And they had no clue what I meant. So I’d have to explain and then a few years later it seemed like collabs became the biggest thing in the sticker scene.
With such a huge diversity of projects, do you have a favorite surface to put your art on and why?
Not really. Walls are always a great feeling but so can canvas because where it ends up can be the most unlikely of places. Same thing with stickers though.
You are a very active artist, but all that art takes a ton of energy, what motivates you to keep creating day after day?
Interviews like this, hearing someone say that looks great as I’m painting a wall. Getting emails or comments saying things like “I saw your sticker when I was 13 and it inspired me”, the fact that I need to get the artwork out of my head. There’s a lot really. But when it comes down to it I feel all artists of all mediums want some kind of acceptance. Could be from others or even self acceptance.
Also the fact One day I won’t be able to. My dad always said “I’ll be dead a long time”. That’s become my mantra.
What kind of project gets you most excited (i.e. murals, canvas series, gallery opening, collaborations, painting a whole car ) ?
All of the above. I get amped painting a wall or designing a collab sticker with Nite Owl. It all kinda has the same feeling for me. And I think that’s one reason I keep doing it.
What is a trick you've picked up over the years that helps out your process?
Doing it for yourself. Oh and using bucket paint for certain things. It’s cheaper and you can water it down so it lasts longer.
You’ve painted with a lot of talented people, are there any artists in particular you enjoy painting with and why?
I don’t want to exclude anyone cause it’s been an honor to paint with them all. But painting with Veng, REGA, Jos-L, Nite Owl, Flying Fortress, Peeta, ECB, Kev, Mike Die, JesseR, Nite Owl, K-Nor, edge, Vers, is always a blast.
Is there anything, inside or outside the graffiti world, that you find really inspires your "style" or how you make your art?
Poeple. Friends, family. The interactions with people. The lack of interactions with people. I commute two hours to work and two hours home. So I see a lot of people and it’s crazy to think they all have a story. That’s part of what I try to bring out in my artwork.
What sage like wisdom might you have for beginning artists?
Do it for you. Don’t follow the trends. They’ll fade away. Don’t worry about likes. If you’re doing “street art” pay attention to graff. Your wheat paste doesn’t have to go over a throw up. That throwie has the right to run and shouldn’t be just a “cool backdrop” for your piece. If you’re spending money on eggshell stickers then spend the money on good markers. No one wants to see a blank sticker in a few months cause your cheap ink faded.
Learn as much as you can. It’ll come in handy. Oh and learn about materials. Too many people having work fall apart in a few years. Cracking, fading, peeling etc.
If someone wants to follow you or learn more about you, where should they look?
ChrisRWK (Robots Will Kill)
P.O. Box 90373
Staten Island, NY
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