Jesse Duncan, Known As KID CALVIN, Schools Us On Graffiti

Kid Calvin @ Monday of the Minds

Rapper, MC, Producer, Artist, Writer, Lover of Calvin and Hobbes.

Jesse Duncan, also known as Khed/Kid Calvin or J.Dunkz, has been an artist for roughly 25 years, and was born in San Diego, and raised mainly in New York, Texas, and Maine (among other states). Recently, Jesse volunteered his time and created an epic mural in Flask’s downstairs bathroom, promoting messages of love and respect.

When did you first discover your love for art?

It was around 1987, at the young age of 6 or 7, when I started getting into skateboarding and it’s culture through the local teens from the housing complex I lived in at the time. They showed me how to draw and cut elaborate designs and logos on the griptape of skateboards. I was hooked with expressing myself through art ever since then. As I got older, I started getting into Calvin and Hobbes. I would cut comic strips out of newspapers and put them all over my walls. I eventually took to re-drawing all of those strips. Through the music I listened to growing up and all the skateboarding magazines I was reading daily, I started noticing graffiti. I got hooked on drawing letters, playing around and studying colors, as well as the freedom to think outside the box a bit and get funky.

Can you give us a brief history of graffiti culture?

Graffiti in some shape or form has been around for a long time (like ‘kilroy was here‘ and cave paintings), but it wasn’t until the early ’60s, that graffiti culture started taking shape. There was early Chicano gang graffiti on the west coast taking shape with their own letterforms. Around ’65, a guy writing ‘cornbread’ in Philly (Darryl McCray,) would walk the city bus routes spraypainting and writing his name on everything. Eventually, this would spread into NYC and surrounding areas. Primitive tags turned into more elaborate ones, then quick 2 colors ‘throw-ups’ or ‘stamps.’ Eventually evolving into more and more intricate pieces with 3-d’s and abstract designs, characters, backgrounds, and murals.

“In 1984, Mayor Wilson Goode founded the Anti-Graffiti Network and recruited McCray to help him stop the inner-city youth from tagging. The Anti-Graffiti Network eventually turned into The Mural Arts Program, the largest public art program in the United States.”

Has the culture changed in recent times?

It definitely has given the rise of social media. Before that, it was kind of a passed down trade in a sense, such as the unwritten rules, tools, tricks, tips, and stories about graffiti. Older, more experienced writers would pass down knowledge to the younger kids. There are still folks out there paying homage to the unwritten rules of graffiti, though. It’s also much easier to see what’s getting painted online these days, instead of having to go out and look for spots and hope you find graffiti-like it used to be. Now a lot of folks are missing out on exploring the city they live in. Many younger writers are in it for the quick fame these days without thinking about longevity. There are still folks out there paying homage to the unwritten rules of graffiti and doing things the proper way.

“Crack Is Wack” by Keith Haring at Harlem River Drive and E. 128th St. Keith Haring moved to New York from Pittsburgh in 1978. Eight years later, he created his “Crack Is Wack” piece on two sides of a handball court that sits beside the Harlem River Drive at E. 128th St. He created the piece during a time when HIV/AIDS and the crack epidemic were hitting the city hard. (Haring himself tragically died of AIDS in 1990 at age 31.)

How does someone earn the title of “Graffiti Artist?”

Writers is the preferred term, but, anybody who has a graff name and focuses on letterform, and then proceeds to put up their name continually, would be considered a writer. Writers and street artists are two completely different things.

What are your thoughts about tagging?

Tagging is gravely misunderstood from the viewpoint of outsiders. It’s the foundation of graffiti. Without it, there wouldn’t be the elaborate pieces and murals you see today. With graffiti, there are rules about where it’s appropriate to tag. Mom and pop shops/venues, schools, churches, houses, civilian cars are all off-limits. Tagging is deeply rooted in typography and handwriting. It’s based very much on understanding letter structure and form. Styles can be very different regionally too, and there’s a lot of rich history behind the evolution of certain handstyles. There’s a wonderful book called “Flip The script: a guidebook for aspiring vandals & typographers” I highly suggest if anyone is interested in learning more about it.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Bill Waterson, Learn, Rich, Jurne, Kerse, Mecro, Taste, Twist, Mone, Mes, Aves, Spek, trixter, daks, baser, aves, mes, cezanne, klimit, keith haring, jackson pollock, daks, soe, the solo artist, turdl, vane, write, neil geiman, jack kirby, bode, dondi, salvadore dali. The list could go on and on forever, there’s so many.

If you could share space for a mural with anyone, who would it be with, and what location?

Anyone of my close homies. I love painting with good friends and having fun vibing. I’ve always wanted to paint in Australia, Vancouver, Canada, and the pacific northwest. I love to paint in hidden spots away from the beaten path, preferably near water.

What’s one of the most significant challenges you face as an artist?

Between balancing work, being a dad, making music, and producing art, it’s really hard to find time for everything.

What are you most proud of?

The birth of my twins 10 years ago. Those little nuggets are my life.

β€’ Shop Aqua Velvet Audio Merchandise:
Purchases will help support Jesse and his family.

What’s ahead for you in 2020 and beyond?

I’m trying to further my Aqua Velvet Audio brand by releasing more music, more art, more murals, collaborating, doing more shows, more community outreach, and possibly starting a clothing line. Other than that, raising my kids and working on myself every day.

Your favorite lyric?

This is the hardest thing for me, haha. I loved so much different music over the years, so many genres, moods, and feelings, it’s hard to pick a favorite.

Favorite Color?

Sea Foam Green

A word you think is funny?


Tell us a secret?

“Loose lips sink ships”

If you enjoyed reading this blog please consider making a small ($1 – $5) donation to help us through this crazy time & Commission Jesse for future projects at Flask.

To Connect with Jesse/Kid Calvin

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β€’ Check our Jesse’s monthly mix, DRIP MIX, under his producer name J.DUNKZ. 20 Minute Mixes Release Every Month!

β€’ Follow Kid Calvin On Bandcamp