Soap Not Spray Can: Reverse Graffiti Art.

Paul Curtis aka Moose is no regular graffiti artist. In fact, he's the reverse-graffiti artist. He created his street art by *cleaning* the dirt and grime off of surfaces!

Authorities are baffled: is selective cleaning a crime?

The tools are simple: A shoe brush, water and elbow grease, he says.

British authorities aren't sure what to make of the artist who is creating graffiti by cleaning the grime of urban life. The Leeds City Council has been considering what to do with Moose. "I'm waiting for the kind of Monty Python court case where exhibit A is a pot of cleaning fluid and exhibit B is a pair of my old socks," he jokes.

http://symbollix.com/main.html | NPR Interview


Paul Curtis aka Moose is no regular graffiti artist. Actually, he's no artist at all. He works for an advertising agency. In other words, this isn't about art, it's about using whatever public space we have left to surround us with more commercial logos. I'd rather stay with the dirt, thanks.
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Paul Curtis does do his own graffiti as well as the logos. The commercial aspect does sort of stink, but artists have to eat somehow.
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He does no damage. If building owners don't like it, there is no problem removing the "graffiti". Selective cleaning and restoration...I have to applaud it. I wonder how long it will take for this brilliant idea to catch on.
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That is a really cool way to do public art, but it does suck that they're whoring out their skills to pollute public spaces with logos for Xbox and the Big Brother television show. They should have stuck with stuff like that "thank you for not breeding" message (also in their gallery). Though that probably doesn't put food on their family like Microsoft and the TV people can.
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I don't care how admirably inventive the method is, when you're spamming big brother shite onto municipal walls, you can f**k right off. As if voices and subjects like that don't have a hundred other channels of medium. Leave public space for public art and public concerns, not tosser-TV.
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Niiice. This story reminds me of another I read years ago when someone went around town polishing the genitalia of bronze horse statues. Needless to say, officials were baffled. Unfortunately, I can't seem to Google the story for the life of me.
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I can do the same thing to your cars - you probably wouldn't be happy. This man has vandalized the naturally environment worn finish of these buildings. Calling it dirt is B.S. Give me some old socks, some bleach, and your favorite Sedan for 30 minutes - then tell me you like it.
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It reminds me of one of our local artist, here in Montreal. He went to court, but finally he got a PERMIT to paint the bike paths!
"Roadworth, a street artist who faces 51 counts of mischief for his original stenciling of our ugly roads, has received a permit to practice his art on bike paths. All I can say is wow, the guy is even better when he's not looking over his shoulder every other second." http://montreal.metblogs.com/archives/2005/08/roadworth_is_ba.phtml

A few examples of his art:
http://flickr.com/search/?q=Roadworth
http://www.woostercollective.com/2005/08/the_return_of_roadworth.html
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Someone has been doing this in Los Angeles for months.. the four tunnels traveling north on the 110 in downtown are covered in "1UP" cleanings. You can see the handprint in the writing.. no tools necessary. Clever, maybe.. but in the end it's just a large scale "Wash Me".
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I think this is brilliant. Commercial sha-mercial - it's the idea that counts. Put up political slogans and see how fast your town gets cleaned by the authorities. And you can't get arrested for it!
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Losers. You haters are a bunch of losers. This is an original idea and that's all that matters. In this age devoid of original ideas, where most everybody copies what they see on TeeVee, this is something contrasty, this is being alive.

This is social commentary. Our walls are dirty, we are dirty, he's writing "WASH ME" on the hood of a dirty car using his finger, only this refers to humanity in its current incarnation.
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I love it. The commercial side does suck a little, would have prefered to see it Banksy stylee.

The trouble is, altough he is just cleaning of dirt, he is putting up a message on a space. And it probably is easy to clean off by cleaning the surrounding area, but that job has to be done by someone, most likely a council worker. So to "clean" off the art, they would most likely have to shut one side of the road down, have a crew of people, safety measures etc etc etc, just like you see on motorways. Not cheap. They could of course leave it to fade away, but big companies are usuing prime areas to advertise their product for free, lets see some of the millions paid to the council to fix our roads, give us better schools and hospitals.
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who cares if he's spamming logos? seriously, if you get that upset about a big brother promo you'd probably have a seizure if you watched any TV. or read a news paper. or a billboard. or talked to anybody. Rather than slamming him for making a living, why not take note of a great idea and apply it.

painting an already beautiful building would be a shame, cleaning a dirty one would be a favour.
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Not all grime is "dirt". When this artist cleans dirt (e.g. soot from vehicle exhausts) I don't see any crime. But if he's removing lichen or patina then it's vandalism.

Welcome fellow readers from:
http://www.boingboing.net/2006/09/13/reverse_graffiti_con.html
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I have often wondered about the issues of a similar but different idea of projecting shadows on a building.

If I put a light in front of my house (a porch light, a walkway light, a street light, etc.) some of that light will inevitably shine on nearby building surfaces. That happens in just about every lighting situation and practically no one objects.

But what if I place a mask of some sort between the light and the building so that the mask casts a shadow and that shadow spells something, perhaps something commercial or humorous or obscene, but something that the building owner doesn't appreciate?

All I'm doing is REMOVING some of the light that was falling on the building just as the artist in the present discussion is REMOVING some of the dirt.

Would the building owner have any grounds to prevent me from casting such a shadow?
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It is a brilliant idea; however, technically it's still vandalism. Vandals deface something that is not their own. An offended owner still must spend money and energy to rectify the offense, whether that be removing paint molecules on the disturbed area or removing dirt molecules on the undisturbed area.

By default, the owner of a dirty wall is saying, "I like it the way it is". A "soap artist" uses the false premise that cleanliness is a virtue in order to steal real estate to promote his message.
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I wonder if any of you realize the difference to the property owner.

If he used paint, the property owner has to clean the portion of the wall the "artist" painted to remove the message.

In this case, the property owner has to clean the entire freakin' wall...not just a small spot of it.

Yeah, it's "art" (because crapping on a pie tin and putting a bow on it is art too)...but it's not very considerate of the property owner who is left with the option of a much larger cleaning bill or having to put up with someone else's opinion expressed on their property.
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If only there was a way to make this kind of graffiti terrorism impossible. But actually cleaning your own building? That's just insane!
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This actually ended up as rather lovely album art for a rather lovely single by a rather lovely Leeds band which is all rather lovely: http://www.fourdayhombre.co.uk/release/dontGoGently_public.asp

here the song here:
www.myspace.co.uk/fourdayhombre
www.purevolume.com/fourdayhombre
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de·face
To mar or spoil the appearance or surface of; disfigure.

By definition, Paul Curtis, aka Moose, is a vandal.

It is not art, it is vandalism.

This is not something I would be proud to do. How about you?
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If the guy doesn't have permission to selectively clean a building, then it would be vandalism, maybe even trespassing.

Graffiti is graffiti, no matter what the medium.

The damage to a wall surface could potentially be worse than paint. Old weathered bricks, for example, are protected by their "patina" (for lack of the exact word), and can degrade and crumble once this outer layer is removed.

Bronzed statues build up a lovely patina - imagine somebody cleaning circles on the breasts of the Statue of Liberty - no harm done? After all, it was only cleaning. (people do rub the breast on a statue of Juliet in Verona, and St Peter's toe in the Vatican - both surfaces are quite shiny where rubbed)
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I have to agree with the purists, from the evidence (see http://symbollix.com/main.html ) for this reverse graffitti it is definetely not art nor is it created by artists.

It is clearly for marketing purposes; and as Bill Hicks puts it so eloquently, 'they can all suck a tail pipe.'

You can't be an artist of much integrity and make a living out it, if you can then you are making entertainment, not art. The masses and the affluent don't support art or creativity of much consequence or depth.

It is not hard to understand, money is not interchangeable for inspiration or personal creativity. It is worse than buying affection, or selling hate. In art's case one destroys the essence of the other.
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I agree with the other comments that it's still very clearly vandalism, because to remove the mark, the owner would have to scrub an entire surface at great expense. Just because dirt is being removed to create the work doesn't prevent it being vandalism. With regards the commercial adverts, I'd much rather see an old, worn street than a bloody advert shaved into one of the few remaining spaces they can't normally use to hawk us products. It's not even a new idea.
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LOL.. quite interesting.. I love love to see how this court case plays out...

"but sir i was just cleaning. I'm sorry i missed a few spots here and there... "

ROFL...
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You can’t be an artist of much integrity and make a living out it, if you can then you are making entertainment, not art.

If an artist makes money, he is not an artist. Is it really that hard to amember?

Geez. I'm glad my view of art isn't as pretentious and depressing as yours!
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You can’t be an artist of much integrity and make a living out it, if you can then you are making entertainment, not art. The masses and the affluent don’t support art or creativity of much consequence or depth.

Spoken with the bitter panache of one who has tried and failed.

"The world doesn't understand me" is no longer an acceptable excuse for self-sabotage.
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Not to say it wasn't an original idea; but it is very similar to this project (three years old now)

http://apracticeforeverydaylife.com/greyblanket.html
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Wow, he's a tool!

Obviously even the people who say here that they don't think advertising this way is wrong would all dislike it if it became a widespread corporate advertising practice, or if someone decided to advertise a company they disliked on the side of their own building, or on the road in front of your home. Sure, you can just wash it off. Just like if I wrote in soap on your car windshield. But should you have to?

As a graffiti technique, it's awesome and commendable, if not legal. But once this technique is being applied (indirectly funded the most wealthy individual on earth) to plaster Xbox logos on sidewalks, it's clearly vandalism that should be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible. Both the "artist" and the agencies who hired him should be forced to pay for the the washing-off of the surrounding areas to completely erase these logos from the public spaces they were placed in, just like the real graffiti artists who get caught sometimes are forced to pay to remove their paint. It's only fair.
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is it vandalism or art or bad advertising? depends on how you feel about graffiti to begin with. this is still graffiti, but it’s an innovative method to graffiti. there are other new methods out there, too –

some graffiti artists are using acid etching tools to permanently mark the subway windows in nyc — is this closer to vandalism than soap graffiti?

what about agit-prop graffiti? there’s still a marketing message behind that.

other artists are using SMS and a projector — not permanent, are we close to art now?

but what about when Jack Liberties beamed the batsignal onto a building to promote the batman movie? — is that art? is that some schmuck spoiling spaces for a buck?

i prefer to judge the artwork based on it’s own merit - not on how the artist was paid for it. remember, most public art (aside from graffiti) is still paid for one way or another. whether it’s a trust or a corporation or an individual or even a city council, the artwork is still paid for; and, in those situations, there is usually an application process — and, even, a little “design by committee”. look at the debacle with the world trade center to see how that stuff goes. at the end, for me, it’s how well the artwork is executed that determines the value — not how the artist received their money. after all, even the sistine chapel was a corporate sponsored promotional package
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"September 15th, 2006 at 5:28 pm

Not to say it wasn’t an original idea; but it is very similar to this project (three years old now)

http://apracticeforeverydaylife.com/greyblanket.html "

the examples on moose's site date back to 2000
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from Willy Wonka & the chocolate factory:
Grandpa Joe: "The man's a genius he'll sell a million cadybars!"

There are probably a few(add exaggerated number here) discussing this guy.
Mission accomplished.
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the soap thing this guy is doing is a natural extension of "wash me" on a dirty car or truck. He just changed tools and added scale.. In 1987 I stenciled a relatively clean building. returning to that town in 2004 the dirt buildup from the air had brought out the original stencil as a ghost artifact. similar to cleaning around the dirt, they over zealously blasted off the paint from the cement the cement surrounding the paint got eaten away incrementally more than the painted area. the difference was visually apparent only years later when the deeper crevices held the dirt buildup more than the raised surfaces of the original painted area. this was a situation where cleaning an already clean wall disturbed the eventual buildup on the wall. a sort of time based thing.. infinitely more interesting..but not something with controled parameters. .. maybe it could be called "the art of post-graff removal decay?"
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#1. Advertising sucks. I'd rather not see it pop up anywhere new to assault me.

#2. I do appreciate the creative use of grime, whether it's art or not in your book doesn't matter to me. Finding a new use for dirt is an art to me.

#3. Cleaning a wall is not hard. Most decent mantinence companys have a power washer, if not, they can be rented for the afternoon.

#4. I'm sorry that some people can't appreciate graffiti the way I do.
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I can do the same thing to your cars - you probably wouldn’t be happy. This man has vandalized the naturally environment worn finish of these buildings. Calling it dirt is B.S. Give me some old socks, some bleach, and your favorite Sedan for 30 minutes - then tell me you like it

Here here Steve W!! You said it perfectly!
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Advertising is acceptable where it is used reasonably to fund something that benefits the viewer of the advertisment. TV advertising, for example, helps pay for TV shows that people enjoy.

Somebody placing logos in public spaces (by whatever means) does nothing to benefit anyone (except the advertiser). If they helped pay for maintianance or public services, then it would be acceptable, but where they do not, it is simply vandalism.
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Not only is it vandalism, it is clearly taking real finite resources away (aka stealing) from the municipality that has to clean it up (or "finish cleaning it up", as I'm sure some ass would point out).

Commercial advertising in should *always* cost the advertiser significantly. (Look at the one medium where it doesn't, email, and you can see why). City busses, trains, etc charge competitive rates for people to put ads on their sides. Meanwhile, this clown's public advertising actually *costs* the public agencies money, instead of funding them!

Has this guy been prosecuted yet?!
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And "Go Gently" are SUCH dirty words!

It's amazing how people get their panties in a bunch here over such a trivial matter. But since material items today are the core of our very existence...
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I think this is acctualy a pretty good idea. I also think he might get charged innocent in a court case cause hes not hurting anything and they could just sandblast the cleanings if they didnt want them there
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Unfortunately, Moose was given an ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) by Leeds City Council for his artisitc efforts.
These orders, now de rigeur under the New Labour government, enable the judiciary to restrict the behaviour and activities of individuals with the threat that if broken, a full conviction may be issued.
Some of his more popular pieces, ie. the "Go Gentley" slogan and the "Big Brother Eye" were both situated next to the massive Quarry house building in Leeds (which incidently is the regional headquarters of the Department of Social Secuirty) and the famous st James University hospital.
Just goes to show that our rightous government is taking such care of its surroundings that it prosecutes the man who was simplycleaning, thus highlighting the filth and degredation the people of Leeds are privy to.
Still, the pieces are mostly still visible, looks as if the council couldn't even be arsed to remove them.
All the better for us!
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Still Graffiti, Still defacing a wall, Should be punished, Shouldnt be that dirty to start with, Not his job or right to mess with council property as he doesnt own it. Tricky case but basically he is defacing an area thats not his to deface.

Get a permit and do it under regulations, like a percentage of money goes to the council/whoever who have to agree to it first, then clean it off after a set period of time and use the rest to fund other clean-up operations... THEN its legal and beneficial to everyone.
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Hi, yes, I'm here to apply for a permit to wash away dirt from public property. I'd like to do it specifically with the intention of spreading kind messages and improving weary citizens quality of life.

It wont affect the property or harm anyone in anyway. It's environmentally friendly too.

What? There is no such permit? And you say if I do this I should be prosecuted???

I should what? Get a nice white collar job like the rest of you?

But.... you don't look happy.
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He does great work, but I tell my kids only write on paper or products made for writing. He should put his works on walls that give him advance authorization.
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Now that is truly an urban and hip hop ideal. To take the grime of Urbanity, and create a new art out of it. Officials should be baffled, and should look again at their cities and think, "my god, look what we have done".
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actually he does kinda own part of the property. if its council property, local or otherwise it still taxpayers money in the long run.
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And “Go Gently” are SUCH dirty words!

It’s amazing how people get their panties in a bunch here over such a trivial matter. But since material items today are the core of our very existence…


at least we're up to items today. we live in a world that bases the value of life on a gold standard.
thats right. food, shelter, water if you cant get it, give me the equivalent of a big shiny rock and ill give you some.

until you become fully self sufficient, quit whining about "materialism" like its a new thing.
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ok so i see a big gray PUBLIC (as in taxpayers property) cement wall and i paint a replic of the mona lisa there
would you still call me a low life bastard vandal
or an thousand euros/dollar sallary artist ?

if i see a roten group of people what better way to tell them they're wrong and stupid than to paint something in a wall they will all see regularly or until they are forced to spend some efort cleaning it without being hanged or burned or killed or whatever by their natural anger at me.

if i call you stupid you get mad at me,face it its mathematical so i rather do it anonimously to a big crowd.

that is how graffiti is born.
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Sorry if this has already been posted, I havn't read all the comments but check out Alexandre Orion. He's a graffiti artist from Brazil. He did a piece called Ossario where he cleaned skulls onto a tunnel wall.

http://www.ossario.net/ossario/videop.html
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Reverse graffiti is inmy opinion a great idea and I would like to challenge the purest world of graffiti or street art to meet the commercial world of advertising in the middle to form a whole new form of media. Some of the best communications I have seen have not been done by the advertising industry but by street artist. Why can't the often poor and under funded but highly creative world of street art earn from the over funded and often barley creative world of advertising/marketing?
If I were to go back and clean the message off of the surface (we only do this on the ground as we are also trying to meet the concerns of an over exposed public) would it then be better as the biggest concerns seems to be cleanup at this point. If we donate a portion of the proceeds we make from such a commercial project (which we do) to a local community organization would that help prove we are sincere and involved on a local level? What can we as a company who sees this form of communication as perhaps the only truly sustainable form (we only use pure water no chemicals) of media do to satisfy the public and those with valid concerns about "big bad advertising beating us to death with yet more messages? The amount of discussion only proves that this is an effective form of advertising. When was the last time you saw a discussion about a billboard?
I would welcome any constructive dialog on this subject. It's about a new form of media that communicates on a local level in the spirit of street art. Good/ Bad? Thoughts?

jim@greengraffiti.nl

www.greengraffiti.nl (based in Amsterdam)
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How about some much needed 9/11 truth graffiti???

On September 11, 2001 four off-course & out-of-contact airliners flew all over the Eastern U.S. for hours without being intercepted, challenged, pursued, nor even continuously observed by our trillion-dollar intelligence/defense systems! One such airliner allegedly slammed through the Pentagon long after the first jet had crashed into the World Trade Center. The Bush regime told us Osama bin-Forgotten (hiding in an Afghani cave) & his 19 lackeys with box-cutters accomplished all this in defeating us. Case closed--or is it???

Many believe that Bush/Cheney allowed 9/11 to occur on purpose!!!
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will you all stop bitching about laws and whether or not this is technically vandalism, what the sentence would be for a crime like this, how many toothbrushes it would take to restore the building to its original state; Think about the big picture! This type of medium allows for people to really look at the damage that they inflict on their planet in a really creative way. forget about moose and his comercial agenda, this is a great IDEA that should be utilized to send a really positive message. So what, the city will have to clean a wall, how horrible. im doing this shit all up and down my street, the right way.
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I go for I walk ever thing i SEE IN CITY MAKES ME MAD
SO i USED BRAKE AND SMASH STUFF WHEN DRUNK OR REELY STONED THEN i SIAD KANE TAKE IT EASY AND i STARTET PAINTING TAG AND REAL GRAFT ART i THINK ENY THING LIZZ-GIT IS NOT GRAFT-FEET-E BUT WHAT EVER WHO OWNS THE WORLD THE BIRDS AND THE BEES THE YOU AND ME NOT THE THEM PUT ME IN JAIL OR SENT ME FREE COUSE i PAINT ENY THING THAT BRE-LONGS 2 ME AND YOU FORGET ABOUT THEM
PS STOP PUTTING SO MUCH FANCES UP iM WALKING HERE
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it is really soap is not spray and not given satisfication.

but its design and small are good for other product.
http://www.dirtystreetadvertising.com
info@dirtystreetadvertising.com
0800 4118 752
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"fighting online is like running in the special olympics... even if you win you are still retarded"
-unknown
sorry if this offends you...

fighting online about something as ridiculous as this is pointless, but i must say this is a very intriguing form of "art" and it may be a change for the better...
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If you need to eat, steal. Don't sell your soul to a corporation.

And least of all, your art. God. I'd sooner rob a grocery store blind than advertise for them.
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Support of the Lou Zhu, Lou Zhu worked hard
Signature--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nothing is impossible for a willing heart.
ugg classic cardy
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Oh well, at least I think it's the creativity that counts! I think this idea is awesome...

Some people are just jealous that they didn't think of this before Moose that's all. /shrugs.

Great job!
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More artists need to stop being afraid to make money. It doesn't make his work any less respectable. Imagine if all ads looked like this.
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People who say artists can't make money are clearly ignorant fucktards. Artistry is a career and has been one for centuries.

Also, people who whine because they have to look at words on a wall should be forced to live in the landfill that their immense amounts of daily refuse gets piled into.

OH NO THE LETTERS ARE ASSAULTING MY SENSES.
FFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKK
And here I am, commenting on the interwebs where you can see it. Assaulting your senses, ahoy! I wonder how long til I get arrested?
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I hope that there is a plague soon that wipes all human kind from the face of the planet. Then nature can "vandalize" what man has made.

Jesus people...everyone who is arguing whether this is vandalism, trespassing, art...hell....let's call it URBAN TERRORISM! Chill out a bit.....it's just a guy with an idea. Isn't that what this entire society is based on? People with ideas.

Now where's that plague.
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RBAN TERRORISM! Chill out a bit.....it's just a guy with an idea. Isn't that what this entire society is based on? People with ideas.
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