How & Nosm
1. How did you guys initially get interested in art and what led you to the street art style?
We started when we were very young, watching our mother draw. We would sit down with her and she would have us draw different images that she would come up with. Eventually, we started drawing by ourselves, copying photos and refining our skills by drawing almost daily. We developed an interest in art in general.
We were later introduced to tagging through skateboarding. A close friend showed us graffiti pieces from Spray Can Art and Subway Art. Soon after, we painted our first pieces illegally and from that point on, we were on a mission, going out at night and painting as much as possible while practicing graffiti lettering during the day.
2. When did you decide to limit yourselves to using only black, red and white and do you find that it does limit you at all?
It started about 4 years ago in Rio and the main reason we used a limited color palette was because paint was extremely expensive and that limited us from painting as much as we wanted to. By using white bucket paint, we already saved a lot of money. From then on it was just a matter of time before we went all over the city and covered hundreds of walls, as you’ll see in our recent book titled How&Nosm, The Brazil Diaries. Using these primary colors doesn't limit us. Our work is so detailed that it would look much more crowded if we used a lot of colors. The amount of color and the complexity of the imagery balance each other out the way we want it. It also distinguishes our work from the masses.
3. What do you want your pieces to convey?
People tend to stare at our work for a long time and they eventually ask what it means or what are we trying to say. We prefer to hear from the viewer first what it is they see before we explain anything. It's kind of like a quiz or an IQ test. Truthfully, we like to keep people in the dark and refrain from explaining too much. It’s better to let the viewer’s mind run wild!
4. What is the process like working together?
Working together creatively is a natural thing since we’ve been doing it from the very beginning of our career. We usually approach each project the same. We look at the size of the project and time we have for it and decide how detailed our work will be accordingly. Sometime we use a drawing by How and other times a drawing by Nosm. Nevertheless, we both sketch it out and add our patterns to the drawings on the wall together so it looks like one person did it. Depending on the availability of ladders and lifts, one of us might be working high up on the top half of a character while the other is working on the bottom half of the same character. We kind of know each other’s next move and work systematically. Usually, it all happens without any arguing, but if that does occur, it never lasts long because it interferes with our work and we BOTH know that.
5. What are some influences for you?
As we mentioned, SprayCan Art and Subway Art were a huge influence on our style in the early years of our graffiti career. Also, pioneers like Crash, Daze and Seen were writers we always looked up to. Nowadays we also consider them good friends and mentors. Over the years, European graffiti kings like Daim and Loomit influenced us with their work ethic and their passion for large murals.
6. What differences do you notice painting from country to country?
Growing up in Europe taught us a lot about all the different cultures and traveling within many countries gave us an close look into each countries graffiti movement. You have to understand that all this happened before the wave of graffiti magazines and the use of the internet so traveling was our way of educating ourselves. We got to meet a lot of people and got to exchange our experiences and skills of painting.
Moving to New York and working with the Tats Cru until a few years back taught us a lot how to do business with corporate America and such.
7. How are spots chosen for your pieces?
In most countries, we pick spots for our pieces by their sizes, visibility and areas that have high volume of foot and car traffic. You have to remember that securing a spot with permission is much harder in the US and Europe than it is in South America. That plays a big factor in which wall we ultimately paint since it isn’t up to us. In South America, laws are different now and public spaces are basically accessible to everybody, meaning you can paint on almost everything and it is tolerated by law enforcement.
8. Do you have your pieces planned out in advance or is any of it done freestyle?
Large-scale murals are usually planned out except for on-the-spot adjustments, like when there are windows or other unforeseen obstacles. Most of the time, we have drawings and we adjust them to whatever wall size we have to paint, but we often change or add other imagery. Everything is done freehand, which means there are no projectors, posters nor wheat paste. We use small stencils to create different patterns on the clothing of our characters, but that's about it.
9. How do you explain what you do to people who might not grasp the concept of graffiti and/or street art culture?
What is the concept of street art and graffiti? Why should it be different than any other art form? We don't really know what street art is. Before us, there were many murals being painted outdoors and nobody called it street art. The main idea is to express yourself and to have fun with it. ‘Fame’ or ‘getting famous’ used to be one goal in the early years, but now it has become just an after effect of what we do. I would tell people to just look at our work, get lost in our world and try to interpret it for themselves. Use your mind and don't waste it by having us explain our work to you!
10. Doing this for quite a long time, how do you feel you've progressed or how has your style changed, if at all?
It’s always about evolving and trying to find new ways to express ourselves. For many years we were on the search for a style that we could call our own. If you look at our graffiti stylized murals from the past, you’d be able to the difference between our style and others, but it was never something we could say we invented or pioneered. NYC graffiti history will always be the original, but today, we can say without hesitation, that we have a so-called signature style. Now it is only about refining and experimenting with our work.