Name: Emerald, also known as Echo or Lady Echo. (Also paint the words EchOiL, Dulce, and Honey)
City/Country: Originally from Miami, once based in NYC, now based in Los Angeles. USA
When did you start writing? Got my first tag and learned to use spray paint in 1991/1992, but didn’t officially start writing Graffiti until the end of 1999.
What’s graffiti for you? For as unpredictable and erratic as it is, Graffiti is the most stable thing in my life. At the end of the day when friends and family die or leave me for dead, Graffiti is the only thing I have. Graffiti has allowed me to survive emotionally – it’s the one thing I have that can’t be taken from me, won’t leave when I need it, it won’t die unexpectedly, and it won’t betray me. Beyond that – Graffiti is my legacy, my tag and the work I leave behind will live longer than I do.
Influences? Style-wise I’m most influenced by classic NYC Graffiti from the golden era of the late 70’s and the 1980’s. Dondi is my favorite – cuz pieces he did before I was born still burn everything I’ve ever done. Same goes with Kase2, Chain3 and many others. As far as writers that have influenced me: Raels, NSF and Evict, TWB taught me a lot about bombing and getting over. Crude OiL from Miami influenced me a lot – he taught me tricks on how to add more style to my letters, taught me about loyalty in Graffiti and pushed me to do better throw-ups. Smash74 from Miami also influenced me a lot during a good run we had painting freights, I learned a lot simply by observing and painting next to him. Stak, TFP from NYC also influenced me as far as the way I look at Graffiti. I once asked him how he felt about watching Graffiti evolve from the 1970’s to what it is today and if it bothered him to see how Graffiti has changed in the current era – he said, “I’ve seen em come, I’ve seen em go, and I’m still here.” Basically let me know that a real Graffiti Writer doesn’t quit and doesn’t let the current state or trends of Graffiti interfere with being true to the game at any cost.
Tell us about your city, how is life and graffiti there? I’ll talk about Los Angeles cuz that’s where I’ve been for the past 4 years. LA is unlike anywhere else I’ve lived. There are mountains and hills that sprawl out to the ocean, and almost every single day is sunny with perfect temperature. People here will say “Yes” when they really mean “No” and simply ignore you when you try to follow-through on whatever they “Yes’d” you about. I think its because no one here wants to have to say anything negative to your face (even though they’ll easily talk about you to someone else when you’re not around). Men here don’t seem to have any game – they get a female’s number and send a picture of their dick within the first few chats – before even trying to hang out with her. This isn’t a statement on every person in the city, just a generalization of some experiences I’ve had here many times over that I’ve never come across in any other place I’ve lived. Many of the most talented and creative people in the world live in LA, so its not uncommon to have friends and acquaintances that are the most famous and best at whatever it is they do (actor, musician, artist, photographer, etc). It’s not uncommon to work for someone super famous or to somehow be connected to A-list talent by one degree of separation – simply by being here. I’ve said it before and will say it again: The Graffiti scene here is one of the most active I’ve ever seen – mainly because the buff is so strong. Writers are constantly out hitting every last surface whether or not they think it will run. An abandoned building or chill spot – once it gets found out and depending on the size and location – can have been hit by up to 200+ writers in the matter of a few weeks. Not many of these kids are style writers or can rock a burner, but they’re out writing and they’re getting up in as many ways as possible (scratching into glass, writing on sidewalks, writing on garbage even!) – whatever it takes to be up. It’s motivating to see that kind of energy in the streets, even if a lot of the styles don’t speak to me.
What keeps you still writing? I’ve been pursuing fine art for the past several years – and most writers who pursue art careers usually quit writing Graffiti, but I keep writing because I still have a deep love/passion and unquenchable compulsion for it. I still think Graffiti is the realest art there is. Plus, Graffiti has been a part of my life for so long that it’s what makes me who I am. I never planned to be a grown woman who hides in the bushes to wait for other grown adults to leave so I can paint on a train, but that’s what it is and that’s who I am.. Fuck it!
What first made you interested in graffiti and how did you end up on that track? Been into Graffiti since I was a kid, because my oldest brother was a writer. I was always mature for my age so he would bring me along to hang out with all of his Graffiti friends. I picked my first tag “E.C.K.” when I was 7-8 years old but didn’t pursue Graffiti for real until I was 15. The way I ended up pursuing it is kind of silly.. My best friend at the time had a guy who was trying to impress her with photos of his shitty throwup. When she showed it to me, I said “That’s wack, even I can do better than that!” So I set about to doing better and somehow never stopped…
What trends are you seeing now in the graffiti world that you don’t like? The trend I keep seeing that I don’t like = People who don’t actually write Graffiti using the terms “Graffiti” or “Graffiti Writer” when they’re promoting their mural, art show, and/or art career/clothing brand/water bottle/generic product, etc, etc. Using spray paint doesn’t make you a Graffiti Writer, neither does painting a wall. Writing your name illegally a few times (and never doing it again) doesn’t make you a Graffiti Writer. Painting letters on legal wall doesn’t make you a Graffiti Writer – yeah you can call yourself a Graffiti Artist (cuz that mural sure does look like what illegal Graffiti might look like) – but to me, being a Graffiti Writer takes a lot more than simply knowing how to paint on a wall with a spray can. That said – I do appreciate Graffiti Art murals on legal walls – I think the murals are dope (and some Graffiti Writers have made a living painting Graffiti Art – I think that’s rad!). I’m not knocking anyone who pursues Graffiti Art, murals, etc. Only protective over the term “Graffiti” and “Graffiti Writer” because I’ve risked so much to be able to call myself that, I don’t like it when people use the term so loosely.
What do you do when you’re not painting? Work, day and night. Currently blessed to be working for other extremely talented people, but hoping to be able to make a living with my own fine art work in the near future.
How would you describe your style? Bold. Playful. Tuff. The guy who makes Zipgun magazine once told me my tags look like they’re about to stab someone with a knife – best description ever.
Can you remember the first piece you did? Not really.. But I can remember the first freight train I painted. A Chessie System coal car, painted during the daytime in a yard in Miami. I had never painted trains and I didn’t know anything about yards.. I was wearing flipflops and tripped over a pile of gravel within minutes of walking into the spot. My big toe split open and was bleeding but I kept going and painted my piece while the bottom of my sandal filled with blood. I still have a scar on my toe from that day.
Future plans? Take over the world – duh!
Do you adapt your pieces and tags to the spot/surface? Yes, that’s the most fun part! Graffiti never gets boring cuz there are endless amounts of surfaces and types of spots to hit with endless tools.
What do you think about the new generation of writers in your city? May the Graffiti Godz bless them with some style <praying hands>
What are the best and worst aspects of graffiti? Best aspects of Graffiti = The thrill of the hunt + the feeling of/thirst for accomplishment that never gets satisfied. Worst aspects of Graffiti (as a woman) = Dealing with male writers who try to pretend they’re my friend so they can hit on me and then go crazy and turn on me when they get rejected. Thing is, I may do some dumb shit but I’m actually very smart and I see through the fake attempts so it doesn’t work… Nothing, NOTHING is more sad or pathetic than a grown man who bullies a woman cuz she doesn’t want to be with him.
Who do you paint for? For the real writers who have put in work before me. For the real writers who continue to put in work. For the real writers I might inspire with my work. For my friends who have died. For my friends who are alive. For the people who hate me. For the people who love me. For myself, cuz this is all I have.
What writers have inspired you? The ones who are way, wayyyy better than me ( who I have no business painting next to ) who never acted like they were too good to talk to me or paint with me – who instead of knocking me down, let me rock next to them and helped bring me up closer to their level. Some who stick out the most in my memory: Raels, Evict, TWB, Crude OiL, Smash74, Remo, BTB, Tyke, TFO, Met, TA, Web1, Kaos, Rime, Revok, Risk, Soten, Tiws, Duel, MQ, Kick, Buds, Sofles, Dvate, Brus, Musa, TFP
Can you ever feel tired of graffiti? Nope! Never run out of surfaces to write my name on – whether its on a wall, on a train, in glass, on metal or in the sand – its always fun!
What do you hope people will think and feel when they see your stuff? Honestly never thought about that before – only been concerned as to whether people can read my stuff and from how far a distance it can be read. I supposed I hope they feel inspired by it and/or amused in some way.