EVERETT — Two graffiti artists spray-painted the menacing face of a samurai Friday morning on the top corner of a wall on Rucker Avenue and Wall Street. In the opposite corner, two others began work on a dragon.
In just a few days, the team of artists will transform the plain gray wall into a 90-by-20-foot masterpiece: the warrior swinging a sword at the dragon with the artists’ signatures, called tags, in between.
The artwork is one of 30 going up in Everett as part of a four-day event, “Going All City NW.” About 150 graffiti artists from the United States and Mexico are painting murals through Sunday. They will brighten bland buildings, forgotten alleys and grungy carports. Walk downtown this weekend and you will likely hear the distinctive shake of a spray paint can.
The gathering is the “biggest event of this kind in Washington state history,” said event coordinator Brianna Mattes. Her husband, Hyper, is the event’s main organizer and creator of Everett’s graffiti murals.
Hyper’s Graffaholeks Crew, known as GAK, is hosting the event in collaboration with the Downtown Everett Association, the city of Everett and the Schack Art Center.
On Friday, artists Faust and Spawk explained how they prefer to improvise their art. In graffiti culture, many go by their artist names for anonymity.
“We don’t really come up with ideas or sit down or talk and come up with sketches,” Spawk said. “We talk to each other when we get to the wall.”
The two are responsible for the samurai portion of the Rucker mural. They started at 7:30 a.m. after flying in the day before. By 10 a.m., they had shed jackets as temperatures warmed. The mild August day was nothing for the Arizonans used to painting in triple-digit heat.
Both 38, Faust and Spawk have been graffiti artists for more than 25 years. They are with a GAK crew out of Arizona. The crew’s chapters organize “Paint Jams” like the one in Everett all over the country.
“We use these events to hang out with each other and do what we love,” Spawk said.
Last year, the two helped Hyper paint the “Rise Everett” mural that depicts a phoenix rising on the Screen Printing Northwest building at Colby Avenue and 26th Street.
“It’s got killer walls,” Faust said of Everett. “It’s a cool place.”
Meanwhile, Tacoma graffiti artists Hurae and Savvy, ages 28 and 25, looked forward to contributing to the Japanese-inspired Rucker mural.
“These guys are OG,” Savvy said of the two veteran artists on their team.
The best friends explained how most artists get their start: illegal graffiti. Hurae said he has been arrested several times.
Only after building up a portfolio did they get commissions for sanctioned public art, the two artists said. Both have day jobs, but said graffiti is more than a side hustle.
“It’s kind of an addiction,” Hurae said.
Mattes said a main goal of the event is to reduce the stigma around street art.
“It’s not just a dirty tag on a wall; it can be a beautiful mural,” she said. Having a mural on a wall decreases the chance of it being tagged in the future, she added.
“Cities see a downtick in crime and garbage and an uptick in community morale and business when they can turn their cities into art districts,” she said.
About a dozen blocks north, Los Angeles graffiti artist Hans beautified an alley behind a gas station on Broadway. He painted a mural with a Dragon Ball Z theme, with pops of turquoise and pink.
“We’re doing something for the kids to enjoy,” he said.
The artist’s favorite part of events like this one is when passersby stop to watch. Everyone has seen graffiti, he said, but few know the creators.
“I love the response the community gives,” he said.
See artists in action
Live painting continues on Saturday and Sunday. To see an interactive map of painting locations, visit map.proxi.co/r/MuralsOfEverett.
Forty children will participate in Youth Paint Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 2702 Rucker Ave., across from the Everett Public Library. The activity is full, but the public is encouraged to watch.
A “burner battle” paint off competition will take place from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Apex Art Cultural Center, formerly Club Broadway, at 1611 Everett Ave. An after-party is set for 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. Saturday at the same location.