While most writers pen words to paper, this ink slinger pastes words to walls. Known for his encouraging edicts and love notes, like: “Do something everyday to remind this city why the hell you’re here,” and “The only lie I’ve ever told you is I liked you when I already knew I loved you,” LA-based street artist WRDSMTH
is a modern day, spray can-wielding Robert Frost.
What began as a mind-clearing ‘craft project’ has turned into an international phenomenon. WRDSMTH’s signature artwork—a poignant message flowing from a vintage typewriter or typewriter-fonted message—can be spotted in London, Paris, New Orleans and more. Luckily, LA is still home to a majority of WRDSMTH’s creations—mostly on electrical boxes in Hollywood and DTLA.
“The boxes provide a blank canvas with high visibility on many street corners. Traffic in LA is insane, so it’s fun to think that my work might put a smile onto the faces of those stuck in traffic,” says the writer-turned-artist.
His WRDs span beyond the streets as well. WRDSMTH’s meters inspired Julia Price’s song I Miss The F ck Out Of U
and made their way onto fashion accessories like passport holders and purses
. If you’re in need of some inspiration at home while you brush your teeth or do a sun salutation, limited edition prints are also available at Paper and Fabric
The incognito street artist...
Like Banksy and other street artists, WRDSMTH remains anonymous, but that doesn’t mean he stays in hiding. So, where exactly does this man of mystery hang out in LA?
We stealthily stalked him for the day to find out:
I am an early riser. I get up at 6 a.m. every day. Years ago I found I am most creative at this hour and do my best writing before most in LA even turn over and hit the snooze button. When I began WRDSMTHing, I started waking up and hour or so earlier and hitting the streets to paint and paste. The city is obviously very quiet at that hour and a lot can be accomplished before the sun rises on the day. At that hour, amidst the quiet and the dark, I often feel like a crimefighter, which is why I, along with a bunch of artist friends, have come to call the action of putting up street art “fighting crime.”
Alfred's 'but first, coffee' motto aligns with this crack o' dawn-rising creative.
I love coffee. Coffee-flavored coffee. Black. It’s an inescapable part of my morning routine and my current favorite places to get my fix are: Groundwork Coffee Co, Mojo, and Alfred Coffee. For breakfast, I enjoy Blu Jam Cafe, BLD, and Swingers. I am a big fan of a really good egg sandwich and those places offer some very tasty ones.
I enjoy getting lost in the art at LACMA and The Broad. The Arts District in DTLA—the streets around ArtShareLA and the alleys around Urth Caffé—is still a great place to spot some inspiring street art and murals, but nothing beats stumbling upon the works of Morley, Teachr, Random Act, Starfightera, Colette Miller, or Hijack as you’re walking or driving around North Hollywood and Hollywood.
More coffee and a smoked salmon sandwich at FoodLab keeps the inspiration flowing.
I’m a big fan of lunch and enjoy everything from In-N-Out (Double-Double, no onions) to FoodLab (Smoked Salmon Sandwich) to Sack (Cold Fried Chicken Sandwich) to Joan’s on Third (Meatloaf Sandwich).
Shop / Farmer’s Market
I love the Melrose Trading Post on Saturdays and Sundays for everything from cool clothes to off-the-wall furniture and knick-knacks. I love to hunt for good books at Book Soup and good records at Amoeba. Farmers Markets are also great and on almost any day of the week there’s one to be explored in LA. Personal favorites include the one on Melrose Place on Sundays and the one in Plummer Park to start the week on Mondays.
I love to clear my head with a hike/workout in Runyon Canyon. And sometimes I like to pretend I’m not in LA amid the seclusion of Bronson Canyon.
I spy ... WRDSMTH's 'Aspire to Inspire' in Runyon Canyon.
My mantra: “If Happy Hour starts at five and you’re not arriving right at five, you’re denying yourself a little happiness.” A few favorite happy hour locations include Village Idiot, Harlowe, The Pikey and The Well.
I’m obsessed with the perfect Burger—Father's Office in Santa Monica, Plan Check, and Stout are my fallbacks. I think I could eat sushi every single day: Sushi Fumi, KazuNori in DTLA, and Sushi King in Santa Monica. [Note: I have yet to experience Sugarfish, but it is high on my to-do list.] I also love places that offer an all-around A+ dining experience: Laurel Hardware, Wolf, a.o.c., Salt’s Cure, and The Tasting Kitchen.
Obviously, this street artist had his V8 today.
All-veggie Beefsteak opening soon.
Art is next to Wolf by chef Marcel V.
I often like to escape with movies at The ArcLight. I enjoy baseball games at Dodger Stadium in the summer. And concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, Greek Theatre, the Troubadour, or really almost any music venue in LA is always a great way to spend a night.
Want to know more about the logophile? We did too.
Where are you from?
WRDSMTH: From the Midwest, I was living in Chicago and working in advertising before realized I was not happy and was not doing the type of writing I dreamed about. So I quit my job one day and started moving in the left direction, which turned out to be the right direction for me. Landed in Los Angeles and have been here ever since.
When did you start the WRDSMTH-ing?
WS: In November 2013, I started it as a whim. One day I just got the crazy notion to pack a backpack with spraypaint and a stencil and I headed a few blocks from my place to put up my first piece. I felt I needed an active hobby to get me away from the computer for stretches of time. Before WRDSMTH, I was writing. I enjoy writing in many different mediums. I am a published author, I’ve written TV and movie scripts, and have worked in documentary TV. WRDSMTH is just another medium to write in—albeit a pretty kick-ass and fun one.
Do you own a typewriter, if so, which one(s)?
WS: I own a few and aim to collect more. I currently have a Corona and a Royal. Had a few others, but made them into WRDSMTH pieces and they were bought by collectors.
What creative, alive or dead, would you like to meet?
WS: Grabbing a pint or two with John Lennon would be pretty cool.
How do you create your artwork?
WS: I utilize stencils to paint the image of the typewriter and then I wheatpaste the page with my WRDs above it. I have started doing all paint or all paste versions, but 90 percent of my work is a combination of stencil and wheatpaste.
You also use a lot of found materials. Where’s your favorite spot for sourcing reclaimed materials?
WS: Silverado Salvage & Design in DTLA.
Do you have some kind of elaborate map system that tracks your art?
WS: Not at all. I have a good memory and recall most of the pieces I put up, but there is no system in place to track other than the tagging of locations on Instagram and Tumblr
Do you look for new locations all the time or do you have a few go-to spots?
WS: Both. I am always looking for places to put my art—here in LA and in any city I travel to. But I also have favorite spots I like to own and I return to put up new pieces if/ when I get buffed. I also sometimes change out the WRDs if they have been riding a long time or if the page has gotten weathered or damaged.
Spot this WRD next to FoodLab.
Have you ever gotten in trouble by the police?
WS: One time I got stopped by cops. But then they saw that my work was positive and let me finish. And then I do a lot of ‘legal’ street art that’s been commissioned by a city or business.
Is there a particular neighborhood that’s most receptive to your work?
WS: I reside in Hollywood, so a lot of my work is in and around that area. Between Los Angeles residents and tourists, my work in Hollywood is constantly seen and I love that. That is the goal: to get read often and by many. Outside of Los Angeles, I love Covent Garden and Brick Lane in London. I love New Orleans and Philadelphia and West Palm Beach. All three of those cities have embraced my WRDs and I love travelling there.
Your messages are super uplifting … How do you keep that mojo up?
WS: I am just a positive person. I believe in karma and wholeheartedly embrace the WRDSMTH mantra, “Aspire to inspire others and the universe will take note.”
A love note near Matrix Theatre on Melrose Ave.
Most would deem you a romantic by your poignant love notes. What’s your idea of the perfect romantic date in LA?
WS: Dinner and drinks. I could list a thousand fun and romantic places to venture with someone special, but nothing beats getting to know someone via an intoxicating conversation amid a delicious meal and a couple of memorable glasses of wine.
One piece of advice on how to write killer love notes?
WS: Less is more.
What’s your love letter to LA?
WS: Dear Los Angeles, I love you. I hate you. I love you. I hate you. I love you.
Ouch. Not sure we’d want to be on the receiving end of that.
WS: While some might not consider that a love letter to LA, it actually is. The love-hate relationship most residents have with the city is part of the LA experience. Sure, it’s a rollercoaster ride on a daily basis, but if you’re chasing your dream, there’s not a more exciting city to do it in.
One thing most people would be surprised to know about you?
WS: I enjoy playing fantasy baseball and fantasy football—have for years and I am quite competitive and quite good.
WS: I get approached a lot by musicians about collaborating. The problem is they often simply ask me if I’d plaster their lyrics around town. Being a writer, that’s not what I do. I often suggest to them that a compelling collaboration to me would be if my WRDs inspired them to create/ write a song. When my friend Julia Price—who is a fan-fckng-tastic singer-songwriter—surprised me by suggesting the latter even before I mentioned it, it was too perfect. She then went off and wrote an indelible song that we polished (the words) together. She recorded it and we shot a video together. It was a great all-around experience.
What are you working on now?
WS: I continually aim to surprise people. That might be with size, location, or the medium of my work. I aim to get my WRDs to the widest audience possible, while being creative with 'the where’ and ‘the how'. I'm currently working on a method that might get me on walls in areas that most artists would not dream of hitting. If it works, it'll be a feather in my cap.
Juggling is all part of the creative process.
WRDSMTH's Hollywood studio.
Advice for those that want to try street art?
WS: For anyone aiming to do street art, I say “go for it.” Do it for yourself and hope what you do resonates with others. If it does, enjoy the ride. And be careful out there. The streets are scary and tough and you have to be aware that you are dancing a line of legality if you do go this route. I am not a role model … although some do think I am a role model.
Inspired by WRDSMTH’s diversion-turned-career, Lanee Lee is now embroidering Rumi quotes on onesies. Expect her enlightened PJ line to launch... probably never. For more ways she tries to overcome writer’s block in a more Hemingway or Fitzgerald fashion, follow her on Instagram @laneelee.