I always tell kids my one regret when asked for general wisdom as an elder chap. If I could do it all over again and rewind the hands of time, I would have spent every dollar I made so I could travel the world. It’s something I never did when I was younger and even though I am getting my licks in now, I feel like this experience is going to end before it really catches on fire. This Jamaica trip will be only my 2nd time ever using my passport with the first being for Iceland. I figure let’s do a total 180 from the snowy ice caps and enjoy some must needed island weather.
This is Rasta Jerry. I didn’t pick him as much as he picked me. Jamaica is a hustle and bustle type town where tourism is a great place to exploit someone’s money. He knew I had some shingles to throw around and I knew I had no fucking clue of where to go. Because of that, I became his bankroll and he became my personal tour guide for our whole trip.
I might be a little naive but it’s hard to believe what is fact or fiction out here. Jerry told us he had a bloodline to Nanny of the Maroons which ironically was illustrated on the Jamaican $500 dollar bill. On top of that, he was a highly coveted futal player as well as a reggae singer to boot. I’ve never had someone spit bars while driving and looking in the camera before.
We stayed in Negril which was an hour away from the airport. It’s considered the tourist country side of Jamaica. Everything out here was lush greens and massive cumulus clouds.
Our first destination was in a cave near the mountain side near a small village. All along the ceiling above in those cavernous pockets, you’d hear just a ton of bats just squeaking away.
One of many natural created sculptures in the cave just from water and pressure alone. This is either a turtle of some sorts or a soda can sized erected penis. You be the judge.
Next stop was sort of a culinary experience more than anything. We chartered a small boat to a miniature island off the coast known as Booby Cay Island. Known among tourist around the world, you can literally pick fresh lobsters from the sea and have it BBQ’d right in front of you.
My man here is 3 years old. We sort of got bum rushed by his uncle at the beach. I told him I only had $4 to my name and he said he could roll a joint for me which sounded like a pretty fair trade. We went to his house and I sat facing the ocean while the kids just gazed in curiosity. Weed seemed all too comfortable for them but slanted eyes just looked flat out weird.
By this time Rasta Jerry knew I had some sort of a interest in weed even though truthfully I hardly ever touch the stuff. Early next morning, he took us to see Nicholas’s private marijuana farm to scope this young man’s operations.
This is natural sunlit grown Jamaican purple kush. It’s in its infancy still but should be ready in a couple of months.
Nicholas’s farm was sort of a starte up which was conceived a couple of seasons ago. He advised me that this wasn’t about maximizing profit but more so to have a balance of smoking his own personal product while earning a small income for his family. I personally had a hard time detaching myself from the taboos that the world has placed on marijuana. In my eyes, this was a total illegal operation that earned you months of jail time. In their eyes, all they were doing was watering plants just like you would do in any farm. It’s so interesting how smoking and even drinking is so normal here. Even with that, Jamaicans live well past a 100 years old. It just shows that good dieting on nature foods is really the key to a long and healthy life.
No haste. Words I will never forget. I was constantly reminded of that when being here. My mind is trained to always maximize your time. I had to reset that and just live slowly for once.
When in Rome. You almost have to out here. Even as I entered my resort, the person carrying my bags ask if I smoked. I had to deny 3 people before I just said…Fuck it! I am on vacation!
I’ve been bare skinned most my life if you take away the unsightly fur like components on my lower regions which sadly counter balances with my lack of hair in my upper regions. The day I decided to permanently scar my arm was the day I first met Usugrow at his solo show 7 years back. Me thinking I am some sort of creative thinker, I figured getting Usugrow’s artwork was a match made in heaven. I mean he’s Japanese, I am half Japanese, I like art, he does art, I am a male and um, he’s one too!
Two more years pass and Usugrow hosts yet another show at Upper Playground SF where I eagerly return to show him my tribute piece. As I get there I notice a friction of some sorts with a girl that looked like she just exploded from excitement, or a burrito. I ease drop out of curiosity only to find out she too was showing off her new Usugrow tattoo. And to throw shit in the fan, it was the same exact tattoo as mine! It was then when I realized one of two things. When getting a tattoo, you will never be original. Even if you found that diamond in the rough design, hide it with all your efforts because once you show it out there to the general public, someone is bound to make a duplicate of it. And two, when getting a tattoo on your forearm, get something appealing to your eye. Masturbating to a bee and a skull totally just makes your pee-pee go womp-womp.
Usugrow returned to the states yet again to show off new works at his show Inkflow as well as doing a signing on his new book and even did a little interview with me to boot.
FONGSTARR: It’s been a while since you had your last show here in San Francisco. I actually went to it and loved a piece so much that I got it tattooed on my arm. With your new show Inkflow, what kind work can we expect to see?
USUGROW: The usual ink illustrations, and calligraphy works as well. I think this is first ever to bring my calligraphy works to USA. The word “FLOW” is the word I’m always conscious of when I do calligraphy.
F: I know you do graphics as well. As you know, graphic design is different than art because there is an objective you are trying serve whether it be solving a problem or just communicating a message to your specific audience. Is your approach to design different from your illustration work?
U: Not really for me. With art or graphics, I try to keep them simple. I cut the extra useless parts out as much as possible and make it simple. I’m trying to make my message more clear by doing so.
F: I remember looking at your work in detail not knowing you actually stipple all the shading in your work. That is a long process. Can you elaborate on what specific pens you use and the average time it takes to finish a piece?
U: For ink illustrations, I use a thin architectural drawing pen. Now I spend about 3-4 weeks to finish 1 illustration.
F: You’ve seem to be a fan of streetwear and skate companies since you have done pieces for Consolidated skateboards, REAL, Van Syndicate line, Brooklyn Projects, Black Scale and even The Hundreds. If you could do some work with any company in the streetwear or skate industry, who would it be with?
U: I want to work with the company which respects its scene/culture and consumers.
F: You did some work for Evisen skateboards this year. What is your take on the modern era of skateboard graphics where everything is logo-based now?
U: Love Evisen’s graphics! Was honored to be able to do it. About recent skateboarding graphics? I think if it looks cool, all good. If there’s cool graphics, then by all means.
F: Do you skate?
U: After breaking my foot, I’m scared to get back on it. A little cruising here and there in midnight secret session. So I can’t call myself a skater, but I always do get inspiration from the splendid skaters around me.
F: You also did a collaboration print with Mike Giant earlier this year. You guys almost mirror the same specific style doing mostly black and white pieces. How did that piece come into fruition? Did he draw his stuff first and then give you the piece to finish?
U: When Mike was visiting Tokyo, he hit me up. And Mike drew first and send it to me in Japan. After years passed, I drew something and sent it to Mike. I had him wait for me for long time. But I want to do it again.
F: I went to one of Mike Giant’s seminars at Cal Arts in San Francisco and he said he stopped doing commission work to put full focus on his brand Rebel 8. Would you ever want to put full focus on your brand where you only draw for yourself and no one else?
U: That’s not me. I like working with other brands and companies because I can show many of my works and become friends with skaters, fashionistas, musicians, and art fans. When I was teenager, I found out about Pushead through Metallica’s artwork. My friend also found out about Pushead through Zorlac’s artwork. We became friends because of that, and we’ve shared music and skateboarding. I’m hoping that others can make similar kinds of connections from what I do.
F: I know you are a huge punk rock fan. What are you views on the current state of music? Do you feel like that punk rock or rock n roll in general is going the way of blues music where it’s so underexposed to the public?
U: Though I’m always looking for different kinds of music. It doesn’t matter now or then. I do see more people wearing punk style clothing but I really don’t know about society.
F: Your new book documents the last 6 years of your career. Where do you see yourself in the next 6 years?
U: In 6 years? I cannot even imagine how things will be then. I just want to be healthy and be good to my family and friends. Thanks for the interview. Say what’s up to Bobby and Ben.
See it in the flesh before it is too late.
218 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA