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December 6, 2010
Martha Cooper has just passed along the tragic news that SURE – one of New York’s most prolific and talented contemporary graffiti writers has been killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan. I’d met him but can’t say I knew him. He and his running partner FAUST were at the launch party for Name Tagging, which features an interview with these two masterful letterers (see below). SURE was so jazzed to be in the book, and at the time he knew he was heading out for Afghanistan. He even mentioned the idea of putting together some sort of graffiti book based on his time over there.
Writing this now reminds me how distant too many of us in the media and creative arts remain from the fact that this country continues to fight two wars. There are so many brave men and women who volunteer to go to these dangerous places and put their lives on the line for us and we take them for granted. Born and bred in Brooklyn, SURE loved New York City. Part of him will forever be part of the city as the remnants of his calligraphic mastery attest.
SURE & FAUST Interview from Name Tagging:
You two have blanketed New York City with stickers. Wherever you see FAUST, you see SURE. How did you team up?
FAUST: In 2001 when I was in high school I started noticing SURE tags in Soho, Lower East Side, Upper East Side and places where most writers weren’t going. They were original and consistent but not a NY style. I thought he was from out of town but friends said he was a high school kid from Queens. We met up around Astor Place and 8th and Broadway and started writing together.
After I graduated from high school in 2002, I didn’t catch tags in college. I kept my hands clean because the cops were chasing me. We didn’t start catching tags together again until SURE joined the Marines. Our partnership solidified then.
Your handstyles are so distinctive that some writers actually think you’re the same person. Did you develop them together?
SURE: We’re both big fans of TWIST. I first saw a TWIST tag around 2000. I don’t think anybody uses a chisel tip better than he does. The ideas that he uses have influenced us. We feel that he has great technique in his letters and the way he combines them. His letters are all individually very strong and he uses the letters that precede and follow to fill each one’s negative space. His middle letters are regimented, real solid and go up and down so well. He kicks out the “R” which complements the loop of the “T” and has a lot of form. He has ridiculously good flow.
You can see that a lot of people in San Francisco have been influenced by him – the spacing of the letters and how they interact. His letters are definitely East Coast letters but he added his touch and made it cleaner. We like the whole clean-cut look.
Which brand of name badge do you prefer?
SURE: C-Lines are the absolute best. They stick better than Maco and the C-Line surface is smooth so the marker lasts longer. Maco has a rougher surface which erodes the tip and it’s harder to get a clean line.
Where do you get them?
SURE: I order them on line. 1,500 come in a box. I can tag a pack in 35 minutes. I like taking my time.
Are there any advantages to using name badges over postal stickers?
SURE: They’re easier to carry because they fit in your pocket. I always keep them in the plastic boxes. The color border forces you to look at it because it’s a little frame – the letters stand out. There’s a lot of stuff going on on postal labels I don’t look at the tag as much if it’s on a postal label but on a name badge it’s got that border so it just pops out. Small ones are easier to use in oversaturated spots
FAUST: Hello My Name Is is witty where the others aren’t.
What kind of markers do you prefer?
SURE: We only use chisel tips. Pilots are a little thinner than Sharpie and more permanent. No marker has sharper lines than a Pilot.
How do you decide where to place your stickers?
FAUST: You can put 2 or 3 small ones in one spot and you just outdid the bigger one. I like having my stickers on the outside of the box so they won’t be blocked. I love it when I see a spot where no one took the best real estate on the box. Then it looks like I’m the first.
SURE: I put some thought into color choice. I don’t like mixing colors. I like to put a certain color on a certain street – that’s my way of knowing that I was already there. I use red ones Manhattan, green ones Brooklyn, blue anywhere.
What are some of your name variations?
FAUST: FAUSTO, FAUSTER, OFAUST, THE FAUSTER CHILD, FAUSTISM, FAUSTROCK.
SURE: SURER, SUREY, SEREISM, SURESTER, EL SURE, SUREIST, SURESY, SUREOC.
What’s the advantage of writing together?
FAUST: I like to have a second set of eyes. I recognize that every instant you could get caught and go to jail so I never catch tags without a reliable lookout.
I trust SURE to have a good set of eyes. We’re good partners so over the years our styles have developed to the point where we both feel comfortable writing each other’s names. Over time we have developed two of the best handstyles in New York City.