The setting is Lost Angeles. A young writer is purveying the streets, using unnecessary action verbs in his own every day tale. His blood burns with whiskey and a hint of pot but his brain cells fire “success” over synapses. He’s not the only one. His brand is plentiful in Downtown coffee shops and quaint North Hollywood dive bars turned “posh” by Orange County real estate developers.
To reiterate, this story is not unique. People have “been there.” They’ve experienced the hollow pursuit of fame amongst the stars on Hollywood Blvd. Their stories have infiltrated inboxes of elites in the industry. Their head shots have wound up on bulletin boards in K-Town laundromats. Their “movies” barely viewed on Vimeo. But few of these artists have taken to the streets.
That’s where WRDSMTH enters stage right. His spray paint cans blazoning like a 6-gun shooter in a spaghetti western. Inedible scripture penned onto power boxes like ink blotter. A message for those “doin’ time in Hollywood.”
His message hit me. That young wide-eyed writer wandering around Hollywierd. After matching the street art to the Instagram, I was lucky enough to speak with WRDSMTH about his art, his impact and how to stay sane being just another writer slinging syllables in the city of angels.
NAKID: Most of your themes center on writing and the process of chasing a dream in Hollywood. Would you call yourself a writer or a street artist or both?
WRDSMTH: Both. But a writer first and foremost. The entire idea for WRDSMTH came about because I needed/wanted an active hobby that would get me away from the computer for periods of time. However, I didn’t want the activity to be a distraction from writing, which is why I was initially excited about the concept for word-based street art. To my surprise WRDSMTH turned out to augment my writing and ultimately has provided an opportunity to get read on a daily basis by people all over the world — which for a writer is the ultimate dream.
NAKID: What has LA done for your art? What is the story of you coming here?
WRDSMTH: I think LA was an essential ingredient in my initial success. When I started WRDSMTHing, I went out of my way to talk to all the people “doing time in Hollywood” — all those individuals who move here to become actors, writers, musicians, dancers, painters, photographers, etc. Basically I started saying things I wish people would have said to me when I first arrived — words of encouragement, advice, and a little bit of humor about the pretty frustrating roller coaster ride that is LA/Hollywood. However, I quickly realized it wasn’t just doing time in Hollywood, it was doing time anywhere because people everywhere have similar dreams and aspire just as hard as all those in LA. I moved here from Chicago. I was working in advertising and just up and quit my job one day because I realized I was’t happy. I wasn’t doing the type of writing I wanted to be doing and I wasn’t chasing my dream — so one day I started heading in the left direction, which turned out to be the right direction.
NAKID: You use the symbol of the iconic typewriter. How did you come up with this symbol and what does it mean to you?
WRDSMTH: When I thought about doing street art, I knew I needed it to be word-based for it to work for me. One day I thought of the name Wordsmith and then Wordsmith in LA, which immediately caused me to visualize a typewriter. At first I thought I would just do stickers — white ones with a black typewriter and the words floating above the image. However, when I thought about the typewriter being be a stencil/spraypainted image with a wheatpasted page above it, I knew I needed to make the idea a reality. I obviously settled on the name WRDSMTH and then just ran with the entire concept. Over time, people started commenting that the typewriter image is iconic and that’s a massive compliment. I love that that image causes people to react and want to see what the page above it says.
NAKID: Who is your audience? How do you come up with the quotes you use?
WRDSMTH: My audience is very diverse and continues to grow daily. It seems my audience is 50/50 male/female and I’m often surprised how the romantic WRDs are popular with all. And they seem to be enjoyed just as much, if not more, than the motivational and funny ones I come up with. As far as the WRDs, I’m a writer, so I am constantly creating and coming up with ways to express myself. I am inspired by so many things throughout the day — people, places, and things I see, conversations I have, music, tv, movies, etc. In other words, I never seem to be at a loss for WRDs.
NAKID: Has anyone ever told you a story of how your words inspired you? What was your favorite feedback?
WRDSMTH: If I told you how often I get messages and emails about how my WRDs resonate and affect people, you might not believe me. But I love that I do receive them. They provide ongoing fuel for the kinda-sorta crazy action of hitting the streets at all hours to temporarily tattoo walls with paint and paper. One of the most memorable messages (email) came from someone who said they had recently gone through some personal loss and tough times. The person said they stumbled upon my work and it helped them through the tough times. The person commissioned a piece — the WRD that says, “Make your mark on this city and don’t be afraid to color outside the lines.” When we met, the person broke down when they saw the piece I made and they told me about the recent loss of a family member and about the creative dreams the person was actively pursuing. When we parted, I said, “I hope to see your stuff out there one day.” The person turned to me, looked me in the eye, and said, “Oh, you will. Trust me, you will.” The words were said with so much conviction, I could do nothing but believe the person’s words. This was the first time I realized how much my WRDs can affect and were affecting people. I’ll never forget that and I’ll never forget that person.
NAKID: I saw you’ve posted your art other places besides LA. What other cities have you done your art in? What is your favorite place you’ve posted art?
WRDSMTH: I have a incurable case of wanderlust and since I started WRDSMTHing, my travels have enjoyed the added dimension of putting up art wherever I land. I love exploring and tattooing new cities and have gotten up in New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, London, and Paris. Besides LA, my favorite place to get up in has been London — but that’s probably just because that is a favorite destination of mine.
NAKID: Do you have a mission behind posting your inspiring words?
WRDSMTH: Well, when I started the whole endeavor, I was doing it for me and it energized and reinvigorated me and my writing right off the bat. Plus, I have so much fun with the entire process. Over time, as my WRDs began resonating with people and my following began to grown, I think my mission has simply become to inspire others, to make them think, to entertain, and to occasionally make people smile and maybe laugh — at life, love, the world, and at themselves.
NAKID: What is the biggest obstacle in creating your art? Do you mainly do paste-ups or stencils? Have you ever had a run-in with the cops?
WRDSMTH: The legality of what we do as street artists is always an issue. WRDSMTH is combination of spray painting and wheat pasting, and while both are frowned upon by the cops, bringing out that can of paint is always a bigger issue because it’s a felony. Years ago the city saw spray painting as a gateway to gangs, so they made the action a felony. I haven’t had any run-ins with police (some close calls), but if I ever did, I hope it’s apparent I’m trying to put positive messages out there and add some inspiration to a city (and cities) that needs/wants it.
NAKID: We posted an article a while back asking the question — “is street art still relevant?” Where do you stand on this side of the debate being an artist yourself? How do you intend to stand out? Does it even fucking matter if you stand out if you’re doing what you love and making people happy?
WRDSMTH: Personally, I think it’s a great time for street art and a great time for street art in LA. Thinking that there’s “too many people out there doing it and therefore it’s not relevant any more” is the wrong way to look at anything that you’re passionate about. I started WRDSMTHing for me and I’d still be doing it no matter how many fans/followers I had — that’s how much I love it and how much satisfaction I derive from it. Do what you love and hope it resonates with others. That’s a motto of mine. And I’d never be intimidated that “too many people are doing it.” I look at that as a challenge.
NAKID: This is more for myself because I’m a struggling writer who has been greatly impacted by your work. What would you say to the fresh eyed, new to LA artists who want to make a splash in this town?
WRDSMTH: If you’re somewhere right now contemplating chasing your dream versus playing it safe, here’s some advice I often give (no matter where you are living). When you’re old(er) and you’re sitting on your porch enjoying a glass or two of lemonade, there is no way in h. e. double hockey sticks that you’re going to look back and think, I shouldn’t have chased my dreams when I was young(er). Follow your calling. Trust your talent. Chase your dream. Believe in yourself. Period.