Twin brothers HOW and NOSM are on the move - constantly. Currently painting murals all over Rio de Janeiro, the graffiti artists return to their home base of New York very briefly before heading down to Miami at the end of the month to paint in Primary Flight, a mural project during Art Basel week.
Born in San Sebastiano, Spain, and raised in Dusseldorf, Germany, the brothers landed in New York in 1997, where they live and work (they are part of the TATS CRU). They paused just long enough to tell us what it's like to be not only all-city, but all-world.
Does airport security let you through with spray paint?
How and Nosm: No. We used to take paint to some of the 60 countries we have visited but nowadays you can consider yourself lucky if you get one can through security
Is it easy to buy paint in Brazil?
How and Nosm: It's pretty easy to buy paint anywhere in the world, but the question is, do you want to use the shitty paint that most countries have in their hardware stores? They sell spray paint anywhere in the big cities in Brazil, and we have our boy Beam that keeps our paint stock high since he owns several graffiti supply stores in Rio. Red-White-Black is all we need anyway. Besides that we use mainly acrylic latex for most of the large areas of the pieces.
You seem to travel a lot. What’s your most essential item?
How and Nosm: Yes, we do travel quite a lot and already have a routine. Besides all the clothes, we would say our ideas and all sorts of spray caps are the most essential items in our luggage. Don't rely on the caps in foreign countries. They are rare and the local writers snatch them up quick from the graffiti shops.
Is it different working in Europe vs. working in the U.S.A.?
How and Nosm: It is pretty much the same. We had quite a good opportunity to learn a lot about business in New York and dealing with big name companies and such. But at the end it is everywhere the same. You have to give 100 percent quality, and you have to be on point with the business side as well even if that is the most boring part.
We are artists and love to paint, but we have to make a living, too. When it comes to painting in the streets, New York used to be much better in the 1990s. Getting permission to paint a large-scale mural was so much easier than it is now. In Europe, wall space is very limited in the cities so most artists paint illegally along the tracks of the commuter trains.
"Not only did they shoot at us, but a big fucking Rottweiler look-a-like came running and barking toward us -- and we all decided it was time to be out." -- How and Nosm
Can you tell us a good painting story?
How and Nosm: On September 11, 2001, we left New York for Bogota, Colombia, and had quite a rough time over there. Not only did we wake up to watching the Twin Towers collapse on TV, but we also had our own violent experience that day. We bought some Colombian spray paint called Abro, which is very popular in South America and the Caribbean, and were ready to go paint a train laid up near where we were staying. We waited until night and went with some of our non-graffiti friends who knew the area.
Now they didn't have any experience in painting trains, but they assured us it couldn't be hard because nobody was doing it there. We already knew that South America has a weakness for extreme private security, and since this was a nostalgic train, the only train like it in the whole city, we thought different than them.
So once we entered the yard through a shitty fence, we walked slowly to the train. Now we were hyped up and our friends were being very loud and drunk, which didn’t help either. Then suddenly HOW saw a shadow by a tower and pointed out that they had machine guns. Still, our friends said they wouldn't do anything - little did they know.
Not only did they shoot at us, but a big fucking Rottweiler look-a-like came running and barking toward us -- and we all decided it was time to be out. The dog was unfortunately too fast for us, so one of our Colombian friends simply stopped and kicked him in the head. We got rid of that problem, but we were still in fear of the passing bullets when NOSM busted his ass on the train tracks and dislocated his big toe.
Somehow we managed to get away and it was time to drink away the pain. The next day some voodoo doctor NOSM visited put his toe back in place, and we got to do our first wall - that wouldn't have been complete without a police chase.