Extra! Extra! Stick Artist Becomes Graffiti Artist!

In the first instalment of The Naked Beginner series, I told you about my life as a handicapped stick artist and how three strange people helped me overcome my handicap. Today I'll tell you about a non-existent guy who initiated me into the art of grafitti.

Tommy Latrella, the hero of my forthcoming time-travel novel, Backtracked, is a 16-year-old who rides the subways in New York City and defaces its wall and corridors, its cars, its benches. I thought I would do some research. I bought myself a marker and a big cheap notebook, and I tried to channel Latrella’s style of subway art. As I set out in my explorations, I splashed a few lines boldly drawn across a page, their rhythm more important than their shape. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t draw—I was just doing character research, right?

Sitting at one of my favorite Parisian cafés and working on my signature—I mean, on the signature of the NYC graffiti artist called Thomas Anthony Latrella, aka Ghost—I started drawing other things with my big fat marker. A cup of coffee. Someone’s face in a few round strokes, the drawing not even recognizably human. A sketch of my own hand.


The smell of marker ink was delicious. The feeling of my hand defacing a blank page, exhilarating. And the visual result, on page after page, surprisingly adept (at least to my easily fooled eyes!).

It was the beginning of the end of my days as a stick artist.

After the Ghost initiated me into the visual arts, someone else decided I needed to go further—someone who may or may not exist, and if he or she does exist, he or she may or may not be... myself. I'll do my best to explain it in the next installment of The Naked Beginner.