Richmond Art Center Richmond Art Center

“These classes will open up students’ understanding and perspective on what street art is.”

Interview with artist Luis Pinto

Luis Pinto is an interdisciplinary artist who received his Master of Fine Arts degree from California College of the Arts in 2015. His work ranges from digital art to fine art working in mediums such as sound, film, digital media, performance, painting, sculpture, and works on paper. Pinto, who has worked as a freelance graphic designer for the past 14 years, has also been creating murals in the Bay Area since 2012. 

Luis Pinto spoke with Ilene Conde, Richmond Art Center’s Studio Education Manager, on April 2, 2021

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Can we start by you telling us a little bit about yourself and how you got into street art?

My name is Luis Pinto, I was born in Lima, Peru, and emigrated to the united states when I was 5. I got into street art in my teenage years, 13 to be exact. Before this time I was really into drawing cartoons, comics, and monsters. Street art really helped me develop my understanding of geometry, balance, color, and shape in relation to drawing and creating compositions.

It’s been a big, challenging year. How has COVID impacted your art making?

Since the COVID pandemic, my art practice had moved into creating more digital works (illustrations) and focusing more on my graphic design career. During this time I think I only created 5-6 analog works in the form of painting.

This Spring Session you are teaching a series of Street Art classes for Richmond Art Center. Can you tell us a little bit about these classes and what students can learn in them.

Students taking the Street Art courses 101 and 102 will get a general understanding of how to turn two-dimensional one-line text into more complex letterforms that you may see in sign painting, logos, and other decorative letter styles. They will also gain a basic understanding of color, shape, composition, and form. These courses are for those who’d like to take their understanding of street art to the next level, or just gain some basic letter drawing techniques which you can apply to your art projects. These classes will also open up students’ understanding and perspective on what street art is and how it’s utilized in public art.

One of the classes you are teaching is called The Art of Tagging. A lot of people don’t understand or appreciate tagging. Can you share a little bit to help folks understand it as an art form?

Tagging is the act of writing your name on whatever media through whatever medium. It was a phrase coined by the media based on the original idea of a tag, which was initially someone’s nickname. Tagging has a lot of negative connotations behind it, mostly related to gang violence and the destruction of property. Outside of the criminal element associated with tagging. Tagging itself is a form of calligraphic art, which has been accepted to some degree in the art world. Places that have a deep understanding of calligraphic arts such as Chinese culture and Arabic culture have more appreciation for the styles that have evolved from tagging’s origins. Since its modern inception in the United States during the 1970s tagging has evolved to have very different regional styles, which, up until the mid-2000s were very defined.

Most tagging styles are very similar to cursive writing, in the sense that they are supposed to flow, from one letter to the next. Other tagging styles are more similar to Old English Illuminated letters, where the letters are rigid and do not flow from one letter to the next. A lot of street artists become sign painters or graphic designers because there are a ton of similarities in the art form. Some famous street artists known for their tagging styles in contemporary art are RetnaJose ParlaStephen PowersChaz Bjorquez, and Barry Mcgee.

It can be difficult for most people that don’t have a deep understanding of art to appreciate things such as street art. I compare this kind of thinking to people who can only appreciate realism as opposed to abstract painting.

As you say, it’s all about understanding and perspective. Thank you, Luis!


Follow Luis Pinto on Instagram @luispinto17


Street Art 101
Wednesdays, 4:00pm – 5:30pm PDT
Apr 21, – May 12, 2021
Online Youth Class (Ages 12-24)
More info…

The Art of Tagging
Tuesdays, 4:00pm – 5:30pm PDT
Apr 20 – Apr 27, 2021
Online Youth Class (Ages 12-24)
More info…

Street Art History
Tuesdays, 4:00pm – 5:30pm PDT
May 4, 2021 – May 18, 2021
Adult Lecture Series (Ages 16+)
More info…

Street Art 102
Info coming soon…!

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