LSD Magazine interviews CanTwo

Issue Four – Unauthorised Heroes – April 18th 2010

Can 2 has been styling the wild across the four corners of the world for over two decades now. With a style that comes fat, furious and bursting with an edgy joy and charisma, his pieces fuse the old, the new and the hip hop tradition into an dazzling explosion of art, life irreverent humour and the street.. Legend to many and inspiration to many more, he took a moment out from his globetrotting to have a word with LSD….

Can you give us a bit of background on yourself

My Name is CanTwo and I live in Germany. At the tender age of 7 I had a driving need to artistically improve the desk at my school as well as my school books with my own comic style illustrations, but I did my first piece in 1983. Before I got into Graffiti I was into B-Boying. I saw some Music Videos on TV where kids were spinning on their heads and backs so I started dancing too. Graffiti was mostly shown in the backgrounds of the videos. One night a day before Christmas in 1983 me and two friends went out and I did my first Graffiti saying “Windmill”. I got the cans from the garage of my father and it was silver with anthracite outlines. The other two guys were just on the lookout. 
That was the only outdoor action so far but as soon as ZEBSTER showed me his first sketch I started sketching too. We had like a little battle going on, who’s gonna do the dopest sketch and who got the best colors and the best fine liner for the white highlights ect…and in 1986 I got my first airbrush so that gave the sketches another quality. Also in 1986 I got the opportunity through my art teacher to do a big wall at my school. Since that time I only wanted to paint on walls.

What does graffiti culture mean to you?

I’ve been doing Graff for more than the half of my Life and I’m still going strong, this fact should answer the question. Graff is my Life.

cantwo-05What happened to you in the late 80’s and how did you bounce back

In the late 80’s/early 90’s I almost stopped because there was nobody I could really paint with. I concentrated a lot on B-Boying again. It all changed when I moved 1992 to Hamburg for my Illustration Studies with my Old School Partner JASE aka Sonny. And I met so many new
writers plus there were quite a few hall of fames so I had my “comeback”.

How has the scene developed in Germany over the time you’ve been painting?

It has developed a lot. A lot of good talents pop up in every city and it is hard nowadays to follow the complete scene. Generally you can say it’s getting better, but sometimes it got strange turnarounds style-wise. That’s when kids follow a strange or wrong trend.  
The Graff community in Germany has grown a lot and there’s so much going on everywhere. 
It makes it very hard for an individualist to stick out of the crowd. You have to do a lot on a high level continuously for years to get recognized.

How did you hit your style and how have you refined it?

I call my Style a Semi-Wildstyle. It is wild but still readable and that’s very important to me. I want people to realize and comprehend what swing I gave the letters. It is about fame, it is about to be known, so I want the people to see my letters, to feel my style and to know my name. I don’t want them to guess my name. To me it makes absolutely no sense to camouflage the letters and to do a mad wildstyle with unreadable letters (and mostly on top of an unreadable tag). 
I always tried to orientate my style at the bronx-style from the mid  80’s and at the same time I think this was the apex of style…and that’s the reason  why I do it…and it was a great honor for me to hear from people in the Bronx that they like my style and that they got remembered of the old  times when they see my stuff…

cantwo-04How do you feel about galleries?

I like galleries, I have no problem when writers show their Art and try to sell it. Canvas is not my field of interest. I did quite some canvas but the most of them werte commissioned jobs. From time to time I consider to concentrate more on canvas, but I often think: I rather prefer painting a wall instead of sitting in my garage and painting on a piece of drapery. Anyway, who knows, maybe one day, it will change when days become shorter and colder.

What does color bring to a piece and how do you structure yours?

First of all I have to say that I used to choose my colors differently back in the days compared to today.
On the one hand, you couldn’t choose between that many colors and on the other hand there was the question of money or rather the ability to get hold of the cans. When Sparvar finally hit the market the range of colors increased at least. Thanks to some commission graff jobs I also got some more cans back in the days. Most people might don’t know about it, but I developed 20 new colors during my time at the Art Agency Oxygen in Frankfurt. Many of these colors are still a part of the Molotow color range, such as kiwi, violet, apple etc. 
I am sponsored by Montana Cans since 2000 and the new Montana Black Line that they had brought out this year are the best colors I have ever painted with. And in April 2010 the new Montana Gold Line will hit the streets and they will probably the best paint ever produced. Color wise and technically. I always try to paint with some new color combinations…but even when you have about 300 different colors…sooner or later you come back to the same colors. That’s why I sometimes prefer that somebody picks colors for me, so I have no choice but to work with them.

How important is having an empowering tag that suggests that anyone seeing your pieces Can 2

A tag is like a trademark. It should be like a stamp. It should be readable and always stay the same. A tag is a logo.

cantwo-02Tell us about Stick Up Kids

Well, I formed the Crew STICK UP KIDS in 1993. I had that name in mind since I first heard the Song “Stick Up Kid” from “The B-Boys” in 1986 but I never thought of naming a crew after this song. For me it was more important to get good friends in that crew, regardless of their fame or skills. I just wanted to have a crew of good friends that I can hang with, paint with and have fun with. Now we got a website where every member can upload his own stuff. To see all members check

Has the increasing commercialization of Graff corrupted the art or brought it to a new acceptance?

You always have to remember that the Media brought the whole movement in the early 80’s from New York to the world. You can consider that already a commercialization. But all in all I don’t see any negativity in it. Graff is still alive, legal and illegal and it seems to be unstoppable, no matter how many negative or positive reports you see in the news.

Where do you take your imagery from?

From the very beginning I was influenced by several unknown artists and pieces (just rare stuff that seeks through the media). But as soon as I have seen Style Wars it was SEEN’s style who influenced me the most. But also DONDI, DERO and DUSTER had quite some influence.
Nowadays I’m more influenced by parts of pieces from different writers. I still rock my style but I’m always looking for new ways to interpret it.

cantwo-09How has the cross cultural painting been going in places like China?

The scene in the Asian countries is still very young. In Korea you’re considered old school if you started in 1999! In China the scene is even younger. In Seoul live around 12 million people, 20 of them are active artists and maybe 50 are writers. I guess that shows the dimensions we are talking about. With regard to the b-boying, it’s completely different. Nevertheless I think that thanks to events like the ‘Wall Lords Graffiti Competition’ the scene will grow up quickly.

How do you abstract your lettering?

First of all it’s the Style that is most important. Each single letter has to communicate with the neighbor letter or some other letters in the piece. I do connections, arrows, bit and pieces to connect them. The whole style got to have swing. It has to catch your eye. It should not be too wild, still readable. If it’s not readable it makes no sense in my eyes. You want to become famous with your name…but if you camouflage your name, nobody will be able to give you props. 
Secondary there will be the colors; you have to come up with some dope color combinations. Sometimes less is more when it comes to coloring the piece. 
After that comes the background, not that important but still part of a good wall. It gives the whole piece its frame. Last but not least, a funky character could probably enhance the overall look.
To break it down into a simple formular: A good piece has to have fresh style, dope colors, mad background, funky characters….it’s as simple as that 😉

What is the creative difference between canvas and mural?

The biggest difference is the size. I still try to treat the canvas like a wall (so you can guess I love big canvases). People know me for my style and my characters so that’s what I am painting on most of the canvases. I have to stay true to myself. Sometimes I go back to the color sketches and do some sketches with markers on it. I always try to convert my style onto the canvas but because of the size I can only make one letter or a part of a letter or just a character.

cantwo-08What has collaboration brought to your art?

I met so many cool people through my traveling and still until today I think that traveling and meeting people is one of the keys to success in Graffiti. People get to know you, people talk about you and people hang with you.
Some of the best experiences I had in the last years were in New Zealand. I had the most fun painting there. It’s just the whole vibe and the people there which motivate you to paint and to be creative. 
But also painting in New York was an adrenalin rush to me. I felt the energy of the city and it is no wonder that Graffiti originated from there.
Traveling with the Montana Team is always a highlight too. It’s like going on a trip with your best friends and do the thing you love most. 
I have traveled so many countries worldwide, and I met a lot of nice and cool people everywhere who share the same passion and I have learned also so much on those travels, I won’t miss that part of my life and I’m still jetting through the globe.

When you started out, did you imagine earning a living from your art and travelling the world to paint?

No, and it was never my intention when I started 26 years ago. I was just fascinated by the energy of B-Boying and the power of the Electro Funk Music that came with it as well as the creativity of Graffiti. And I still get my thrills when I hear Planet Rock in a club and I can hardly stop my feet from moving to the circle and do some windmills ;)
My invitations to Graff Jams have taken me all over the world, Europe, USA, South America, Australasia…..but besides all the traveling and invitations I also have never ever imagined working with Adidas and create my own shoe or work with other big companies such as Coca-Cola, Marks & Spencer, Mini USA, MTV, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Puma, Toys ’R’ Us, and much more.
But still it’s not easy to manage traveling, painting, family, work…. I think every freelancer can talk hours about that and the ups and downs regarding work. One of my side jobs is also design and illustration of flyers and posters for different labels and clients. Nevertheless, the fact is; since the birth of my son I do less traveling and painting and this is also good for me

cantwo-06Current and future projects?

I’m still working on my CAN2-Book which will be hopefully launched next year. I have also put a book together that’ll be coming out around March 2010, it is a re-make of the JEPSY On The Run Blackbook from 1997 with more background information and new flix, old and new.
Besides that I have already a few interesting invitations for 2010 to Manila, LA, Sao Paulo,…and another big project is coming up which I cannot talk about yet…but when it’s done it’ll be mind blowing in every aspect.
In Summer 2010 I am planning our first big Stick Up Kids gathering. I hope that all members can make it to Germany. And for sure you can expect more pieces, more characters and more productions with friends all over the world!

Can Two Website

Issue Four – Unauthorised Heroes – April 18th 2010