Taggers use this idiom to describe the act of enlarging letters and filling each one with color. Busting a bomb requires a canvas, and taggers are known for scrawling on walls, freeway bridges, and even train compartments with this vivid script. Yet tagging doesn’t necessarily mean defacing public property. This street art style was exactly what Markwins Cosmetics, a manufacturer of makeup lines, sought for its new brand’s packaging. So Markwins Sales and Marketing Administrator Patty Luna turned to her longtime friend Jessica Ruiz. Jessica, Director of Boys Republic’s Monrovia Day Treatment Program, enlisted her students’ creative help. A Boys Republic reporter discussed the art project with Raymond and Ruben, the Boys Republic students who designed the makeup packaging.
BR: Markwins Cosmetics is pitching the makeup brand to stores like Target and Ross. When they are successful, Boys Republic stickers will appear on the cosmetics packaging you designed. They will also donate 5% of their sales to Boys Republic. What an amazing accomplishment! What did you have to do to get your art printed like this?
Raymond: Thank you. Our class had an art contest. We were given a list of words to choose from, and then we sketched our words and designs on a blank sheet of paper. The makeup representatives picked which one they liked best and they ended up choosing mine and Ruben’s.
Ruben: After we won, we got to spray paint our designs on a large canvas. We got paid $100 each for the company to use our designs for the packaging. It’s great because we get to put this on our resumes and in our art portfolios.
BR: What exactly did you paint?
Ruben: I picked the word “shiny” since it stuck out to me. I used bright colors for the lettering to catch people’s attention.
Raymond: I chose “bold” and painted smaller words around the picture like “flirty”. I designed girly shapes like diamonds and hearts since they’re using the piece to sell makeup.
BR: What was it like creating the artwork?
Raymond: It was challenging! After drawing on a regular piece of paper, it was hard moving to the larger canvas. I wasn’t sure of the dimensions. I just wanted to make sure it looked the same as my original design and that it turned out well.
Ruben: It was really cool, especially when they gave us spray paint and we could bomb our lettering.
BR: You certainly did well spray painting the canvas—both designs look excellent. I recall that you were friends before you both enrolled in Monrovia Day Treatment. How is your relationship different now?
Ruben: Now it’s all about how we can help each other. We’re a lot more comfortable with each other. There’s no fronting [pretending to be strong or tough] with each other.
Raymond: Yeah, there’s no acting. We support each other with problems that come up in daily group, and I can be myself around him without doing things that are hurtful.
BR: Your creations are in the tagging style. What’s the difference between tagging (spray painting script on public property) and art?
Ruben: Tagging is like writing, but there are different styles and techniques of lettering. We can bomb, flare out tips of letters, spray paint bubble letters… there are many options.
Raymond: How you choose to draw words and phrases is based on how you want to express yourself and your feelings. But the difference between tagging and art is that tagging is vandalizing other people’s property. Tagging is putting words and phrases right out there with the wrong method.
Ruben: The difference is how and where you choose to express yourself. With tagging, you get into trouble. With art, you get to express yourself and be rewarded for it. Instead of bombing letters and designs on walls, you can do it in notebooks and still express yourself.
BR: What do you like about art?
Ruben: I really like lettering. I think writing in different styles lets me express my mood and myself. And if I’m angry or sad, bombing and playing with letters are ways to express those feelings and process them. I always feel better afterwards. I also like busting bombs in notebooks with my friends—we pass around books and bomb on each page. It’s cool to see the different words and pictures we come up with. The University of San Francisco has a program where you can study and create graffiti. I’d really like to go.
Raymond: For me, I prefer creating abstract art and sketching pictures with pen and pencil. I create pieces to explore my own feelings and thoughts and what’s influencing me. I also like writing poetry and rapping to express what I’m going through.
BR: Would you like to say anything to our readers?
Raymond: Yes. Express yourself in many different ways—whatever ways you can. If it hurts others, fix it and don’t repeat those actions. Life shouldn’t be spent on regrets.
Ruben: Yeah. Just paint your feelings out!