Interview with Houston-based graffiti artist ACK! about his street art, his proposal graffiti video going viral and more!


>> You’ve got this recurring character throughout your work, the slobbering dude with the sheepdog bangs. He’s evolved a bit over the years, in the shape of his head for instance, but he’s definitely that dude. Who is he? What’s he all about?

Ack!: Before this character existed, I did really simple ghosts with a similar drooling mouth because they were really quick and easy to do. As I started meeting other painters and doing bigger walls, I needed a more substantial character. I wanted it to have a similar feel, but larger and flexible — something I could do almost anything with. I eventually developed the character I paint today, with a circular head, one ear, bangs, no eyes and that drooling mouth. The head is the main thing, and I just work around that in order to make it “fit” the wall or theme or whatever. He doesn’t necessarily have a name, but people call him “Ack!” or they’ll say, “That’s an Ack! character,” and I’m fine with that. He just hangs out and has bad posture most of the time because he’s lazy — I’ve also had people say that it’s ME, but that was never my intention. This was never meant as a self-portrait, and I don’t think it looks like me at all — plus I don’t drool and I’d like to think that I’m not particularly lazy. People ask why he’s drooling, and I don’t really have an answer. It just is what it is — I’d rather people look at what I do and come to their own conclusions.


>> You did a wall for a Vimeo clip called Graffiti Proposal — a really cute marriage-proposal stunt, shot by Alex “PR!MO” Luster (read our interview of Alex Luster). Tell us about that!

Ack!: Ha ha! It wasn’t meant to be a stunt, it was just a genuine thing. The idea of the video didn’t even come along until almost the day of the actual proposal. A little over a year ago, my friend Shannon was going to propose to his girlfriend Jessica and he pitched this idea to me — he wanted me to paint a wall with my character more-or-less “proposing,” and then he would somehow get his girlfriend to come to the wall so he could propose for real. We worked together on building the initial plan and added little details along the way, like having their kids paint, and having Jessica check the yes/no box. Alex, director of the Stick ‘Em Up documentary, got involved. He shot the whole process, from me painting to the actual proposal, and edited it down to a nice little short video. The whole thing was done in just one day! It was going to just be for Shannon and Jessica, but Alex had the idea of putting it on Vimeo, “just to see what happens.” I guess it kinda blew up and got a lot of hits — tons of blogs picked it up, and eventually the front page of MSN. We were pretty surprised — we didn’t really know what to expect.



>>Aside from the wall for Graffiti Proposal, do you have a particular piece that you’d say you’re proudest of?

Ack!: It’s hard for me to pick a favourite. I tend to dislike my older stuff in favour of the new, which I guess is the way most people feel about their own work. I’d have to say the two-storey apartment wall. That wall took WAY too long to finish, but I’m very happy with the end result. I don’t go back to my old walls very often, but I’ll cruise by that one from time to time…



>>What’s your zine, Idiot Moron $weepstake$, all about?

Ack!: At first, Idiot Moron $weepstake$ was just going to be a collection of whatever new drawings, photos and so on I wanted people to see at the time. The name doesn’t mean anything, I just wanted something NOT serious, and I wanted it to be pocket-sized. Starting with the second issue, I began “curating” the zine rather than just showcasing my own work, so there would be maybe 10 artists in there from all over the world. I originally wanted to put out two issues every year, but it became more of a once-a-year thing. I have content for #3 and #4, but I’ll probably close the coffin after that and do something else. I had a bunch of stickers made with the original logo awhile back. I mostly put them on people’s cars that take up two parking spots, etc.



>>Who are your favourite Houston locals, graf-wise?

Ack!: That’s a really tough question to answer — this gets political. There are a bunch of people in Houston who I’m a fan of — some I’m good friends with, some maybe not. These guys know who they are. I’d rather name nobody and let them all have the credit than name four or five and have people feel left out. Sorry if that’s lame, but that’s the way I’ve gotta play it.


>> Similarly, what hometown music are you digging these days?

Ack!: Ha ha, music from Houston… See, THIS I can answer because I’m not so much involved in the Houston music scene and I’ve got no one to get upset at me, ha! Maybe it sounds typical but too bad — Bun B, Trae and Z-Ro are on the top of the list. Muhammad Ali, Listen Listen, Pink Playground… I’m pretty open to whatever, I just don’t care for country music (the Texas curse!).