It was a beautiful Sunday morning in the Bronx. My cans were set up, the space was clear, but who was I going to paint into a portrait? I put the Bronx, graffiti and legend together and came up with the writer and pioneer, STAY HIGH 149. With the help of Facebook, I had a picture of him as a younger man to work from.
The owners of the property had no idea what I was painting, even as I laid down the linear portion of my portrait. Once it was know who was coming to life, I could overhear the local residents, who themselves were writers back in the day, sharing stories about STAY HIGH and other old school writers.
I began outlining over the piece that was already there. Going up and down the ladder and stepping back to view my progress from time to time. I went in raw, without buffing the wall, no sketch on paper..just the image on a cell phone screen as a reference. As the shapes built up into a form, I began the process of adding multiple colors to my flesh tones. Then came the final phase of ‘the ism’ with the introduction of the quintessential black contours enveloping the fill-ins and finally framing the piece with the background design.
Wanting to make the connection between my subject and the graffiti movement, I made the shoulder from a piece of the previous graffiti art. Finally to conclude my homage to this old-school legend, I signed the piece with STAY HIGH 149’s iconic signature style next to mine.
STAY HIGH 149 (born Wayne Roberts) was called a ‘superstar’ of the graffiti world in the late 1970’s. His trademark stick figure, crouched with a joint as if “ready to jump up and take off”, came from the 1960’s British television program “The Saint”. It is widely considered to be the most famous graffiti tag in the world.
–photo credit to the stayhigh149.com site