It’s been long over due but in the past few months I have been in the right head space to take on a tribute piece for Dondi White. To those who know, Dondi has been a major influence on many style writers from the past and present. It has taken me some time and effort to sufficiently understand the formulas of “classic” style and to feel confident enough to properly pay respect to such an iconic individual. My goal was not to imitate Dondi’s style on the wall, but to build upon it with what I have learned in my 20 years of painting graffiti.
The opportunity to paint a Dondi tribute came about in Seattle on a wall with Hews, Sneke & Myth. Before i arrived I looked up and printed some Dondi pieces at a motel in Oregon. I started off trying to understand the flow and composition of his pieces with a couple of informal sketches. I felt that the first attempts seemed forced or not as good as the original. Once I felt that I memorized enough of the formula I stopped looking and did it in my own way.
Abandoning the references I continued looking for the right flow. I based the lower two D’s in the first page below on the spine of a ROLL piece. Being that the first letter is so significant and influential to the mood and tempo of the whole piece, I found it difficult to decide on which form of “D” I wanted to start off with. So in these sketches you can see that I was trying to use them all by doing double or triple optioned D’s all within a single letter.
I also began to think about which of his characters I wanted to have around the piece. At first I thought of painting the stretched hand from the Children Of The Grave Part 2 wholecar but was not satisfied with the way it looked on paper. I ended up referencing the young boy character from Children Of The Grave Part 3, the Bode lizard from the 2Many window down, and a warped version of Dondi’s silhouette characters in the stance of one of Martha Cooper’s photos of the artist.
I wasn’t sure which characters to paint so i asked this eccentric cart pusher by the name of GOBEUS which I should do. After a 10 minute ramble about the earth, stars, and the “spin the bottle club” he told me to paint them all. So I did…
Overall I am very proud of the finished product. There are some parts of the piece I wish I would of improved on. The light orange I used turned out to not be more on the muddy side and does not pop out enough against the textured brick. Although I spent so much time doing sketches for the first “D”, it is my least favorite letter in the mix. I do feel that The piece has a good structure and balance of intricate connections from letter to letter.
These days with the internet being the way that new writers learn about graffiti or use it as a source for inspiration, I feel it is important to expose the newer generations to writers like Dondi. I find it strange when I meet young fans who are obsessed with modern graffiti but never heard of Subway Art or of many of the writers from that era. They could tell you everything there is to know about Saber but when it comes to classic work from 30 years ago, they know absolutely nothing.