T.DEE has been actively expressing himself through his art for over 20 years. A former graffiti artist, he published a magazine called "UNDER COVER" from 1992 - 1996 with the intention of exposing graffiti as the vibrant, creative art form he felt it to be. For the past decade T.DEE has devoted his talents to fines arts, photography & a variety of other mediums.
E.T. When did you first get involved in graffiti?
Tdee Well, when I was a kid it was hard not to notice all the graffiti around my town. Being that I already enjoyed drawing I naturally enjoyed seeing all the fancy signatures & drawings that would pop up. Once I realized graffiti for what it was, I started drawing graffiti the same way someone would an album cover or a comic book they liked. This was roughly around the early 80's.
E.T. How did you come up with your name and what does it mean?
Tdee It was just through a process of drawing different letters in the graffiti style & seeing what looked good. One day I was sitting around watching TV & drawing just about any word that came across the tube. The word "3D" came across & that just happened to look the best out of what I was doing that day. I liked the "far out" kinda implications too of it being multi dimensional so it kinda stuck. After a while it morphed into T.DEE. Oddly enough, design wise it's not the greatest combination of letters to work with, but it's become who I am.
E.T.Is there a particular style you prefer over others?
Tdee Not really. I'm a fan of a wide variety of stuff.
E.T. Who influenced you as a graffiti artist?
Tdee Graffiti wise there were some great bombers in my town in the early to mid 80's. I remember names like P3, NEVER, CEA, ARC-SUG, & LOVE 67. Man, I used to love seeing that stuff! As I learned about the scene through the movie Style Wars, the book Subway Art & later on Spraycan Art, all those names featured there had a profound impact on me as well. Names like SEEN, DUSTER, DONDI, SKEME, LEE, PHASE 2,... I mean, you can see where I'm going with this. All those classic names from that completely golden age of NY graff.
As I became aware of writers from around the country & around the world, names that come to mind include MODE 2, DARE, HESH, DAIM, PART 2, the HEX & SLICK battle in LA, FX & TATS crews from The Bronx... there's tons more, but that's a really good cross section of who I am as a graffiti writer.
E.T. How has graffiti changed throughout the years?
Tdee Well, styles certainly have changed. I think the introduction of graffiti specific paints have increased the level of control people have with a can, as well as allowing access to a virtual rainbow of colors to choose from. This has taken the creativity level to incredible new heights. I guess the fact of it being so much more widespread than it ever was exposes the culture to that many more influential & inspirational talents as well. It exposes them to that much more crap too, but you take the negative with the positive.
E.T. Who are you influenced by today?
Tdee Honestly I think much of what influences me lately is derived from my own struggles. Looking at other artists work too much tends to frustrate me to be honest with you. It's like, you can only stare at the sun for so long before it blinds you. My crew certainly does a lot lately in shaping the things I do. They're the only artists whose work I see on such a regular basis, so it would be hard to say I didn't have them in mind when moving forward with my own work.
E.T. What goes through your mind when you're posting up?
Tdee I guess it all depends on the situation. I mean there are tons of ways to "post up" and each one comes with it's own unique stresses and thought patterns. I guess the simple answer to that would be that I really have self promotion & preservation in mind in fairly equal parts.
E.T. Are you still painting walls?
Tdee Not nearly as much as in years past but I still get to a wall once in a while.
E.T. What keeps Tdee going?
Tdee That's a good question. I think no matter what situation I find my life in I'll always fall back on my artistic nature, because quite frankly I always have up until now. I can't see any reason why that process would change given the choice. I've often told people that my paintings are a way for me to counter balance or vent all the bullshit I take in every day. Much of what I do has a fairly dark edge to it, and so I wonder what my life would be like if that darkness hadn't gotten out. Money would certainly be a welcomed aspect to my work, but for now it simply keeps me alive in other ways.
E.T. I know you're doing canvas now, but how has the transition from graffiti to canvas been?
Tdee I'd have to say it's been a bit of a rocky road for me because I tend to see the two as being completely different. I mean, think of the physical movements of your body alone when painting a wall that's 15 feet long by 7 feet tall. It's so much different from the dynamics of sitting in a room painting a canvas. For me I've also never adapted well to the concept of painting graffiti on canvas the way I might do a blackbook or something. To me the size is too confining and it just doesn't have the same effect as the piece that's 15 X 7. I mostly tend to stay away from that. Much of the stuff I do on canvas has very little to do with graffiti. I think this is why I say the transition has been rocky for me. It's as though by some choice I can't remember making, I refuse to draw from my graffiti past when approaching a canvas and sometimes it causes me to wonder if I'm not always starting all over again. I think it's good though because as an artist it keeps me searching for the next thing and really kinda illustrates how fully I commit to change within my work.
E.T. If you could go back in time, would you do things differently?
Tdee Certainly not. I think the only way to learn in life is to accept what's past & use it to plan ahead.
E.T. How do you feel you fit into the art world today?
Tdee God, I wish I knew! All I can say is that for me it's taken me a long time to realize the importance of what I do. Through my graffiti days & even back during those days as a little kid drawing, I really only did these things as enjoyable past times. I don't think I ever truly looked at it as being artistically "important". I was a graffiti writer. Fine arts were always something very bourgeois to me. I recognized I was pretty good, but because it was something that came natural for me I don't think it ever registered.
I'm often told the things I do are a great source of inspiration for many people, so after a while I started seeing the value in it. Now I feel as if I have something of an obligation to offer that inspiration to however many people I can. For now I can only hope to continue contributing to the world something of beauty, imagination, and the deeper nature of myself.
E.T. What can we expect from Tdee in the future?
Tdee Well, what I would hope to expect from myself is to take all these things I've just spoken about and use it as I said to plan ahead. It doesn't help to understand your past if you don't use it to shape your future. I have a lot of great things I hope to contribute artistically. I feel like everyday for me is another opportunity to present the best of who I can be and hopefully that makes all our lives that much better because of it.
To see more of Tdee's work go to www.pbase.com/t_boogie