Mike Quill grows from tagger crew chief to street artist

Mike Quill, Hemet street artist, shows off one of his spray paint on canvas creations now on display at the Creative Creations Arts and Crafts store in the Hemet Valley Mall, 2200 W. Florida Ave. in Hemet. Tony Ault photo
Mike Quill, Hemet street artist, shows off one of his spray paint on canvas creations now on display at the Creative Creations Arts and Crafts store in the Hemet Valley Mall, 2200 W. Florida Ave. in Hemet. Tony Ault photo

With his spray paint can still in his hand, Hemet resident Mike Quill turned from the tumultuous and sometimes dangerous life of a tagger crew chief to join a new trend called “gallery graffiti” now spreading across the Inland Empire.

Quill, now 41, recalls how he turned from “tag banging” living a life of nighttime soirees to cover walls and other structures with artistic, but still illegal, slogans and pictures, to presentations of his art in galleries and stores.

Today Quill’s spray can creations can be seen on canvas hanging on a wall in the new Creative Creations Arts and Crafts store in the Hemet Valley Mall. The colorful sprayed-on creations now show fancy letters with the initials of local cities and locales with brick backgrounds painted on canvas instead of the actual stone and mortar walls, buses and bridges that once fell victim to his crew’s spray cans.

Since his “retirement” from the tagger scene, Quill has seen specialized stores pop up in Inland Empire cities like Moreno Valley’s “GETN It in” that sells many types of colors in spray cans, canvas and frames. The new artistic art trend, more commonly known as “Street Art,” is spreading across the country with former taggers finding legitimate outlets to create, show off and even make a few dollars from their creations.

Beyond that, Quill said he has worked with a few young taggers and turned them toward legitimate spray painting pursuits, keeping them out of trouble with property owners and law enforcement.

“It is a new trend in that is spreading in the Inland Empire,” Quill said of a trend he hopes will continue to grow. He has met many other street artists who are now displaying all types of their street art, including collages made from street junk and other items.

Quill, after leaving the tagging life, found new friends including actor Samuel Monroe Jr., who acted in such films as “Menace II Society,” “Tales from the Hood,” “The Players Club” and a role in the television series “NYPD Blue.” He has a photo of one of his favorite street canvas paintings entitled “Caff” being held by Monroe.

But, what turned Quill from his life as a tagger crew chief to a street artist?

“I just saw too much violence,” Quill said, recalling how he saw his best friend murdered on the streets. After that, he moved from his former home to the area and began using his familiar spray paints to create scenes on canvas. He became known as a popular street artist in Riverside and roamed the downtown streets showing off his work during Thursday’s Riverside Arts Walk.

Soon his works were hanging in local stores and more recently at the Hemet Mall’s Creative Creations store.

Today, Quill said, “I would like to be in a good position to be a role model (to bring taggers into the legitimate Street Art trend). I hope I can do some good. There are other things you can do with a spray can other than vandalism.”

He encourages others who used to be in the tagging scene to find legitimate outlets for their art.

“Graffiti art can be very useful on canvas,” he said.

Many stores sell what they call graffiti designer spray paints with such titles as “Hard Core” and “Iron Lak” and Montana Graffiti Packs that are used on canvas.

To contact Mike Quill, visit Facebook.com/Michael.R.Quill

For a history on “Graffiti vs. Street Art,” Columbia University has explained the history on their website, www.columbia.edu.

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