Twazzo: The Stick-Up Kid
At Mr. Purple, on top Hotel Indigo, I spoke with sticker artist, Twazzo. When I reached out about an interview, I wasn’t sure of who to expect from the other side. Twazzo is one of the frequent sticker artists this side of Houston, with slaps all across the LES. I went in with no assumptions, other than the knowledge that the kid was ‘up.’ A young one, with a veteran’s ambition.
Prior to our meeting, Twazzo was nervous, suggesting somewhere else. He called the bar ahead of time, afraid he wouldn’t get in. Twazzo is under 21. I assured him it wouldn’t be an issue.
We met on Orchard. Twazzo was tall, grown past the awkwardness of mid-teens, but still rather young looking. He had freckles and polite mannerisms. A recent high school grad. After seeing Twazzo in person, I felt that his persona vibed well with his stickers. We shook hands then rode the elevator to the 14th floor. The lounge was mostly empty but for the afternoon crowd. We walked over to the floor-to-ceiling window to check out the walls below, making small-talk. After the pleasantries, we sat down for business. We got comfy on the couch, and set up the tape.
“So, first things first, how long you been at it?” I asked.
“About a year ago, I met this girl from Brooklyn. Her dad was one of the original subway graffiti artists, who painted trains.” He said.
Twazzo didn’t give names. He knew better than to say. I knew better than to ask. This mysterious friend and her graffiti dad gave Twazzo the spark that lit his own street art initiative. In the year he’s been at it, Twazzo has put up over 2,000 slaps. Not bad.
“It got me to start doing stuff on my own.” Twazzo explained.
I was impressed to learn, Twazzo is not a resident of the 5 boroughs. Rather, Twazzo lives in a blue-collar town on Long Island. Commuting from outside the big city, he’s still managed to create a corner for his name. No small feat. Especially for an artist fresh in the game.
Although his Brooklyn girl got him started on the street, Twazzo’s artistic itch started earlier. He recalled running around town with a spray can at age 10, scratching his mark. In high school, he created his signature character. Twazzo’s spazz-eyed backward cap caricature was originally a joke doodle of a friend. However, after scratching the as-yet-unnamed kid into his desk, he snapped a photo of it. This doodle became the template for future sketches.
The cap kid has no name, despite being something of a trademark for Twazzo. Earlier in his career, Twazzo experimented with a range of characters, but settled on the original doodle. With him, Twazzo felt he could get the widest range of expressions in the bug-eyes. Plus, he was also the most fun to draw.
Twazzo has experimented with wheat pastes, but “stickers are the go-to.” At the moment, he’s in a bit of a bind. Low on cash, low on slaps. Twazzo has been trying to scrap together cash; a mix of graduation money and birthday dinero for new stickers. He’s hoping to invest in a set of 5,000 for the next bombing campaign.
We talked influences. One of the most noticeable comparisons is with the Simpsons, so it was unsurprising to find out Matt Groening played a role in Twazzo’s artistic development.
“When I was a kid, I was always watching [The Simpsons].” Twazzo told me.
What one might expect less, were some of his graffiti influences. Twazzo is avid admirer of COST & REVS.
“It doesn’t show in my work, but I really like those guys.” Twazzo said.
On the young artist, Zero said, “I really enjoy seeing the character Twazzo put out around the Lower East Side area. It has that 90s Saturday morning cartoon feel.” The two are planning a future collaboration.
During our chat, Twazzo was evasive about ‘art'. He dislikes the pretentiousness that comes with the term. Twazzo has a down-to-earth demeanor, and some artists he’s met are too into the ‘fame game.’ Twazzo gets up for the thrill and the fun. For these reasons, when he sets out on a campaign, Twazzo prefers a lone-wolf mentality. He scouts out his location and sticks it, solo.
But if Twazzo’s not in it for the vanity, what brings him to the scene? Why art?
“[Art] gives you something to look at, it’s colorful, it’s an eye-pleaser… there’s so much out there, so much style. Everyone’s doing their own energy.”
Despite a habit for doodling, Twazzo never got with it from the academic side.
“It’s a funny story… I failed high school art. I can’t do art unless I wanna do it. I can’t be pushed to do it... I have to feel the need. [In art class] you have to do 24 projects for the year. I think I got 2 done. I sat in the classroom and just doodled and did nothing.” He gave a mischievous smile. “It not fun when your s'pose to do it."
Twazzo’s sticks out amongst the crowded LES field. Not simply for his numbers, but his name. The distinctive name, ‘Twazzo,’ came from a brainstorm, where he was just spitting ideas for a name with a friend. One of the early contenders was ‘Zoop.’
“I wanted something with a Z in it.” Twazzo explained.
“I get that. We all have our own letter preferences.” T.K. responded.
His friend actually came up with ‘Twaz.’ The eponymous artist made a point to give credit where credit was due. However, when he went to make an Instagram, the name was taken. So, ‘Twaz' became Twazzo. I told him I liked Twazzo better. Rolls off the tongue nicely. Twazzo chuckled. People mispronounce it all the time, he said. So to set the record straight: it’s Twah-zo, not Tway-zo.
Twazzo remembered his first sticker, on the notorious Chelsea Comme des Garçon boutique. The reason he hit it; he was too nervous to go elsewhere. It felt safe, due to the dozens of stickers adorning the wall.
Now, like a true sticker junkie, Twazzo is addicted to getting up slaps. And like many veterans of the game, he’s taken heat for it. Last November, Twazzo was arrested.
During a routine stick-up, he was in the midst of the crime; get-in, get-out. Twazzo was caught unawares when a DT tackled him from behind. The undercover cop that caught him had little leniency for young vandals. Twazzo was put through the system, but managed to escape with just a summons.
This episode gave Twazzo ‘the fear.’ Swearing off stickers, he quit the game… for a week. Withdrawal symptoms of a junkie.
Setbacks can’t hold him back, though like everyone, he faces the money problem. Twazzo is saving up for his 5,000 eggshells. And as soon as does, he’s looking to expand. Twazzo’s made a base in the LES, with a couple forays into Williamsburg. But with his next set, he’s eyeing uptown, particularly Washington Heights. Maybe even deeper into Brooklyn. The eventual goal, go All-City.
Twazzo is fresh, but he’s game. So to the sticker kings & queens of NYC, watch out. The Stick-Up Kid is coming.
Article by T.K. Mills
Photos by T.K. Mills