An interview with Atomik
Atomik is a graffiti writer based in Miami, Florida who is most recognized for his orange smiley-faced character, along with painting letters for nearly 20 years. Today, Los Angeles-based photographer and frequent Juxtapoz contributor, Walter Yetman aka The Harsh Truth Of The Camera Eye catches up with Atomik.
WY: So like all graffiti interviews usually start out tell us how you got started in graffiti and how you picked your name?
Atomik: I got started by writing toy tags in marker around my neighborhood. Next to my house was a popular skating rink, many writers from my city would hang out there and leave their mark in the surrounding area. It gave me plenty of eye candy on the way to and from school everyday. My name is Adam and a friend gave me the name Atom. I got the book Spraycan Art and saw there was an Atom in Brooklyn, that's when the "ik" was added on.
WY: You’re pretty dedicated to traveling to paint any places you haven’t gotten to paint yet that you’d like to in the future?
Atomik: Africa, Russia, Canada, Taiwan, Austria and Guatemala are all on my radar. I'd like to hit Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Texas and a few other cities in the USA.
WY: Favorite city/least favorite city to paint in and why?
Atomik: My favorite city to paint is always the last one I've visited. Each city has its own character and culture which differentiates from the next one. The last city I painted was Tokyo and it rocked! The energy there is intense, yet so calm. I remember getting on a packed subway train and not one person was speaking, you could hear a pin drop on the opposite end of the car. My least favorite city to paint would have to be my own; Miami, Florida USA. It gets boring painting in the same city for nearly 20 years. Traveling charges my creativity and motivates me to paint once I return.
WY: You recently traveled to Japan with Saute. How was that trip? Any stories you’d like to share from it?
Atomik: Eggshell Stickers approached me about creating a vinyl toy of my orange character, so I booked a ticket to Hong Kong immediately. I traveled to Hong Kong and Tokyo with Saut and Woke. We had a blast! I absolutely love Asia. Fortunately I didn't have any run-ins with the law this trip. For Thanksgiving we ate sushi in Shibuya with Henka 24k. Good times, except I made the mistake of putting soy sauce and wasabi in an ash tray! We got a good laugh out of that.
WY: In addition to walls you paint a lot of freights. I’ve noticed you’ve been painting your character on the ends of tanker cars. How did you come about the idea of painting a piece in the place most writers wouldn’t even catch a tag in?
Atomik: Sometimes my layup doesn't hold boxcars. The alternative is tankers, used for transporting cooking oil. I painted the sides of tankers a few times then realized my orange character fits perfectly on the end. It is a match made in heaven, I have heaps of fun painting the ends of tanker cars.
WY: What are some of the positives and negatives you’ve gone through doing graffiti?
Atomik: Doing graffiti has landed me in fist fights, jails, hospitals and the worst neighborhoods across the world. With that being said, the positives outweigh the negatives. I've made good friends throughout the globe and host incredible artists who come to my city for the sole purpose of painting. I'm able to make my living off of graffiti. When I paint, everything in the world comes to a halt and I'm concentrating only on my art. Painting is a form of meditation for me.
WY: Interests outside of graf?
Atomik: I enjoy creating art to exhibit, trade and sell. It's completely different than painting in the streets. In 2012 I started focusing more on the studio instead of the streets. Collecting art has become a big part of my life too. I like riding my bicycle and photography as well.
WY: Favorite writers in the game right now?
Atomik: Bates, Cab, Joker, Aroe, Ichabod, Saut, Katsu, JA, Malvo, Quake, King157, Snafu, 5 Gallons, Retna, Astre/Rugs, Katch, Nope, Slick, Sheryo & TheYok, Ces, Phiesta, Jaber, Fisek, Kuma, Rime, Binho, Want, Cale, Wane, Ewok HM, Phibs, Skrew, Komik, Demos, Defer, 1UP, Bio, Mecro, Risk, How & Nosm, Sofles, Nychos, SPone, Acme SH, Os Gemeos, BNE, 5Stars, Big Sleeps, Pear, Craola, Suiko, Vyal, Seen, Panic UTI, MQ. Is that too many? I could double or triple that list easily with writers that are my favorite.
WY: Plans for the upcoming year?
Atomik: The release of my first vinyl toy, a 1xRun drop, solo show, marrying my fiancé Emmy and starting a family!
WY: Any shout outs you wanna give?
Atomik: My Mom, Dad and Sister. My brother Philip may you rest in peace. RIP Ynotse, Korn, Sege, Merk, 2Buck, Reefa, Anemal, Demz, Nes, Batle, Vote1810, StayHigh149, Nace, and Beno. Rest in peace Mamilila, Mamiana, Titi Lucy and Nana. Free Whie, Crome, Xeno, ST and Dees. I wanna big up the writers who make a living through their art. One time for all the galleries that have shown my work and anyone who has purchased/commissioned a painting, print or mural. Last but not least all the homies from MSG, 28K, B5E, SH and K2S. Peace to Cink of Smog City clothing. Thanks HarshTruthoftheCameraEye for this opportunity. Peace.
Interview and Photos by Walter Yetman aka The Harsh Truth of the Camera Eye
See more of Atomik's work on his Instagram