all photos courtesy of FLUKE
By Abbie Norml
I suggested we start at the beginning, by asking when and how Fluke got into graffiti art.
“I got into graffiti because I grew up in the South West, where a lot of the artists, lived at the time. Guys like Kaseko, Res, and Seaz; they were my heroes and my influences. I was very young, like 9 or 10, so I didn’t quite understand what they were doing at the time but I knew that I liked it and was inspired by it.”
“We pushed him hard from an early age because we all knew that he had the potential to be very good”, admits Sterling. When time came to choose an artistic path, after high school, Fluke did not go the same route as his peers. “When I was graduating high school, the trend was to go to college for animation or graphic design. A lot of graffiti heads were doing that at the time, I guess that’s what our parents or teachers would have wanted for us. But I decided that wasn’t for me. Instead I flipped burgers and served poutines for 6 years. I tried to become a regular person with a day job.”
That didn’t work out so well.
Eventually Fluke found himself “almost homeless” in Vancouver. “I spent a lot of time just bumming around in Suri BC.”, Fluke explains. “Then stumbled upon a local graff shop in Vancouver where I got info on a nearby safe wall. And in the process of doing that, all my love for the art form came back. It was like my situation didn’t matter for an hour, all I cared about was my piece, and it’s a skill that doesn’t fade that easily, once you have it, it always comes back no matter how long you’ve been on break for.”
Origins and Foundations
“There is one word that keeps coming up again and again, in graffiti and in hip hop…” explains Fluke “…and that’s foundation. Everything that you are and everything that you do as an artist stem from your foundation. If you stray too far from your foundation, you are going to fall off, every time.” he points out. “TA crew was my foundation. K6A and JKR is who I am now, I’m the newbie in those crews,” he admits humbly. The well known hip hop and graff collective that is K6A recently welcomed Fluke into the crew. It’s not just about graffiti though, “It’s about doing you ” explains Fluke “One thing that was really great when I was growing up, which isn’t really around the same way anymore is mentorship in graffiti muses Fluke, referring likely to the relationships he benefited from at a young age. It’s very true that graffiti tends to be an every-man-for-him-self obstacle course these days. Most graff heads and their world views are a bit skewed. In the circle of writers I bump heads with, I have yet to meet one that doesn’t have a box of issues berried underneath the surface. In my opinion, you don’t start doing graffiti when you’re a kid because you come from the best neighbourhood with the most stable home or family situation. So it’s no wonder to me that some writers may look to each other for a sense of community and belonging. It’s even less of a surprise that the rules of what seems to be a fairly free anarco-subculture are actually governed by a strict code of ethics and aesthetics.”
“Most of it is pretty common sense, like, don’t go over someone who’s been painting ten years longer than you.” Fluke shrugs.
On His A’Game
After years of struggling to establish himself as a key player both of the graffiti and commercial art scene, Fluke has opened his own paint shop and studio space in a old CN train building (how fitting!) near Frontenac Metro the (A’Shop). “The great thing about that place is that, when I go to the shop in the morning, and when I see my Team there scheming and painting, it feels like coming home to family, it doesn’t feel like going to work.”
A’Shop (À la shop…ashop.ca) is run by it’s team of artists. Combined, they bring over twenty-five years of credit of both the street and professional variety to the table and their two thousand square feet of studio space cultivates a talented team willing to paint just about anything from murals, live painting and canvases to furniture, custom pieces and bodies (usually of the female persuasion).
They have done what most artists strive to do, dream to do, made their lifestyle their business. Their nine to five is built around family and community much like the culture that nurtured them.
“But the guys at your studio, the ones you paint with, are all guys, right?” I ask, “Yup.” he says. Now, what would happen if a girl came in and asked to paint with you, or to learn from you, would you treat her any differently? Would you flirt with her? Would you welcome her in or turn her away? That’s what I really want to know.
The Double Whammy – Girls in Graffiti
“I love the art of gallantry. Whether you’re a “graff girl” or the 65 year old lady who tries to sell me a Cosco membership on the weekend, it’s expected that I will flirt with you. But I think we are really talking about two different things here”, says Fluke. “The girl part is separate from the graffiti part. Now don’t get me wrong, if a hot girl can also burn a wall, that’s a double whammy right there. That’s YES and YES y’ know?”
That is easily one of the most rational and intelligent responses I have ever heard to such a question. I know within minutes of meeting an artist, what they are all about, what their background might be and if they know what they’re talking about. If a girl paints and does it well that’s great. There is nothing in the books that says girls can’t paint. It’s like any male dominant subculture. Take skateboarding for example. If a girl is good at it, even if she got into it via a boyfriend, then hell good for her fuck.
“It’s not by coming up with four letters that sound like a word, shaping them to someone else’s style, painting a legal wall and flossing your Dawson sketchbook that your now a writer. You got dues to pay and then you keep paying them. I have traveled over-seas with my art, worked with industry giants, owned a business and gained respect because of a sick work ethic .With all that, I still believe that I am nowhere near ready to have a solo show or capable of saying the word “Artist”. The process is long and you pay dues the whole way.”, says Fluke. Street artists “are being regurgitated onto the seen every hour with a free ticket to coolness and a new four letter word with an arrow is born every time a Cope2 video is played. But barely any dues are paid. I don’t understand it.
One of Those Rare People
“I would like to eventually be one of those rare people who get remembered” Fluke assures me. “Even in old age when I won’t be able to paint the same way that I do now, I would still like to be involved with graffiti in some capacity.” I add, “As Sterling Downey is for example.” “Exactly.”, Fluke confirms. “Look, if some kid named ‘WHO CARES” stops tagging, well that only effects them. If an ill writer puts up a piece then that’s great but at the end of the day, it isn’t really a big deal to anyone except to the artist. But if Omen, Sake, Zek or anyone on that level were to leave the scene they would be missed. If Under Pressure or Can You Rock ceased to exist I think the community would be disappointed.