Welcome to SPOTLIGHT where we shine some light on artists who consistently bring fire to surfaces of all kinds.
Today we feature TUKE ONE.
Hey Tuke, how did you get into graffiti?
When I graduated high school in the early 90s I came to Denver to go to art school, up until that point I had lived in relatively small towns. Being alone in a city, as a teen with a somewhat rebellious nature I met up with a classmate that was a graffiti writer, Rasta68, who opened my eyes to a whole new world. I grew up drawing and painting because both my parents are artists but this was something completely different. It gave me a purpose.
What is the graffiti scene like where you are?
Denver has a pretty amazing graffiti scene in my eyes, for a few different reasons. I’ve watched it evolve from ‘early days’ when graff was only found in the train yards, industrial districts, and the occasional and rare legal wall, to where it is now. Today’s environment is very different. There is an annual event Crush Walls that is put on by a good friend of mine Dread (@_dreadgod_), in conjunction with RiNo Art District, which is in its 10th year. The event is spread over a week, and takes over an entire neighborhood of Denver.
The event was started as a graffiti jam, which took place in one alley and has now grown to its current size of over 80 installations and including 100+ artists. The event is no longer limited to just graffiti – as is the case with many such events, there is a street art component, however, the entire event wouldn’t exist without graffiti and Dread has been vigilant about maintaining those roots.
Outside of this event, there are numerous parts of town with public art and murals. While again this isn’t limited to graffiti, I know that it wouldn’t exist without it. As far as just the graffiti scene, there is a large population of writers and several active crews here ranging from just bombers all the way to only strictly legal wall guys, with pretty much everything in between. Though one unique aspect of Denver is that, while the city is growing rapidly and has been for quite some time, the graffiti and art scene, in general, is fairly close-knit. I feel fortunate to know a large portion of those people and have had a part in shaping the scene here.
How do you like to describe your style?
That’s a tough one and I’m not entirely sure how to respond, and I suppose it takes a bit of history to explain it. I was fortunate to have seen styles on both coasts of America as well as meeting European writers early on when developing my style. I’ve been painting since the early 90s, I feel there are definitely elements of older, traditional American styles to my work with a great deal of influence from my incredibly talented crewmates in DF – people like Emit, East, and Scribe (all graffiti heavyweights in my eyes).
I’ve always appreciated Euro and Australian styles as well and have been influenced from those schools too. I’d say it’s hard not to be with people like Daim, Dvate, or Love Letters Crew contributing and elevating the scene for so long. I’d like to think that my work is a bit of a blend of many things yet still maintaining my own style and sense of craftsmanship. My other crew, Creatures, is a good example of similar-minded people, in my opinion. We’ve all got more new school influences but have our own unique twist on things. People like Paser (@silenced_weapon) or really all of MFK crew are creating amazing new styles and techniques with colorways that are mind-blowing. Jher (@jher451), Vogey (@v_tron), and Vodka (@ren_jeffys) have been consistently killing it for years.
What do you enjoy about graffiti?
The thing I enjoy most, hands down, is spending time with good friends painting. I’ve had so many great experiences and met so many positive people as a result of it. It’s always kept me growing and evolving as an artist, painting next to such talented guys.
How often do you get out to paint?
I paint murals and do more commercial oriented work for a living, so I’m constantly painting or drawing something, usually 4-6 days a week. As far as strictly graffiti I try to get it in at least once a week but this number varies depending on a couple factors. Weather plays a part as well as how many other projects I have going on and what those projects may be. I do my best to promote myself as a graffiti writer and sometimes get lucky doing jobs that revolve around that style.
Who do you like to paint with?
Firstly my DF crewmates and most frequently with Emit (@emit_df), we’ve known each other since the early 90s and been painting together ever since. I’d say he’s the greatest contributor to my work ethic and general outlook about graffiti. He’s been consistently murdering it since I first met him and has done nearly every technique flawlessly. I also enjoy painting with any of Creatures Crew. Outside of them: Jher, Dread, Zehb, have been great fun to work with. Really anyone who is committed to producing good work.
Who are some of your influences?
As mentioned above definitely DF crewmates: Emit, East, Sub, Scribe, Jive, Ewok, Jick, Rapes (RIP), When, and Ouija. I’m also a huge fan of ATT crew. RTD are close friends, Jher, Chase, Shoop and Fasade. 3A is another great crew, I’ve always admired Ges and Kem5, both have a tireless work ethic and have contributed greatly to the scene. CBS is another big influence, one of the first crews I really noticed in California when I was young. Craola and Mear especially. Love Letters crew: Does, Dater, Nash, and Puak. Mode2, Bacon, Daim, Hesh, Dvate, El Mac, Asmoe, Siek, Phet, Motick really the list goes on and on. I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of people here and for that my apologies.
What keeps you motivated?
Mainly seeing all the amazing work being done all over the world, and painting next to people who are so talented.
Do you have any graffiti stories?
I have many but I’ll limit it to one for now. There was a point where I was bombing pretty hard and consistently when I was younger, by today’s standards it may not be much but at that point, it wasn’t as saturated and I stood out. The police started paying attention and coinciding with this time period, created the graffiti task force for the city.
There were a couple occasions of having narrow escapes with police but this particular night I was out getting up with friend and fellow crewmate Jest. We ended up having a few too many 40s and being a bit sloppy. We got picked up for tagging across the side of a bank, naturally, there were security monitoring the building, a detail overlooked in our drunken state.
For some stupid reason, I said I was a minor and gave a fake name. Again, not the smartest move. We were taken down to the station, left to sit in a holding cell. Sitting, sweating it out trying to figure how we’re going to get out of this?! A bit later an officer came and said there was someone that wanted to talk to us. The chief investigator for the task force proceeded to tell us he knew exactly who we were, I was skeptical at first until he proceeded to drive us around the city pointing out our work, both pieces as well as bombing. His message was clear yet stern, he appreciated what we were doing, saw the creative and constructive side of it but if we didn’t chill the fuck out he would be forced to come down hard on us.
He then drove us back to my side of town and let us go. I think we must have stood there stunned wondering what had just happened in those early morning hours for several moments before heading on our merry way. This event led me to change my first name 2Quick to an alias, my current name Tuke, at my good friend Jher’s suggestion by shortening to the first and last syllables. Being that nearly every name has been taken at this point I’ve stuck it out for years, even though I occasionally grow weary of the letter combo.
Is there anyone you’d like to give a shout out?
I may have covered this in the above questions but a huge thanks to my crews DF and Creatures. especially Emit and Vogey for years of support and inspiration. My entire Denver family for continuing to support and help me grow. The rest are too many to mention. All the writers out there continuing to put in work and help the scene grow. My wonderful girlfriend Tymla for constant encouragement. And most of all my parents for putting up with me for all these years. Thank you Ironlak for giving me a chance to drone on about myself.
Follow @tukeone on Instagram