The Infamous Archives: Color Theory

Kem5 3A: Pleasantly Sickening

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“I’ve learned from others to force myself to use colors that I would not normally choose and to go beyond my comfort zone,” says Kem 3A.

Photography by All Chrome
For me a great piece is comprised of a solid set of letters and a memorable color scheme. When I first started writing in the early- to mid-1990s I quickly realized the visual impact that color makes on a piece. Crazed color schemes always stuck out in my mind, and though I understood little of theory, I understood how certain colors complemented each other very well.
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Totem: Purple-Light District

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Mr. Totem (TATS Cru, 3A, TGE, BurnUnit) and his color schemes take you on a tour of a world you never knew existed.

Colors… Well, look at it this way: I’m from Atlanta. From the very beginning of my career, we haven’t had the same things that the bigger cities have had – like interesting paint colors. We had old paint, yeah, but it was very rare, so the majority of my work was done with the classics: Rustoleum and Krylon.

Initially, I was a simple letter aficionado, with characters. It was like that in 1990 – Twist was doing his little characters in black and white and that was what we thought was fun then. So mainly it was black and white, red and white, etc. Also, I had to watch out which colors I painted with in my neighborhood for gang reasons.
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Jurne YME TGE: Full Circle

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As he pushed the envelope with his letters, Jurne YME TGE realized that his thoughts on color were evolving, too.

I’ve never considered myself a “color scheme” guy. I’m actually red-green colorblind, which means that colors might look right to me, but I don’t know how they appear to other people. I’m sure that affects my color usage, but it’s difficult to know exactly how.

In recent years, my thinking about color use has changed a lot. A few years ago I probably would have told you that color choices weren’t important as long as the letter styles were on point. It’s odd to realize now that I once made a distinction between colors and letters, and thought of color as a separate aspect of graffiti, and not really a part of the “style” department.
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