Nov. 5 :: Mission Muralismo de Young Finale

Hope to see you all at the last Mission Muralismo event at the de Young Friday Nights series.

This one will be special, honoring local stencilist Michael Roman, who has cut some amazing Chicano-themed stencils over the years.

::: Details :::

WHO: Cultural Encounters: Friday Nights at the de Young

WHAT: Grand Finale of Mission Muralismo’s Year-Long Series

WHEN: November 5 (plus special Bonus Sunday, November 7)

WHERE: de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

COST: Programs are free of charge

INFO: and
Continue reading “Nov. 5 :: Mission Muralismo de Young Finale”

7 May: Stencil Nation Meets Mission Muralismo

Cultural Encounters: Friday Nights at the de Young presents “Mission Muralismo” in partnership with Precita Eyes Muralists

Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo series presents “Directional Signals:  Pranksters and Preachers, Paste and Stencil” featuring talks by Rigo, and John Jota Leaños.  Also, Jack Napier, BLF co-founder, and Milton Rand, Kalman BLF chief scientist, will give a presentation titled “The Art and Science of Billboard Improvement,” plus stencil cutting demonstration by Russell Howze author of Stencil Nation: Graffiti, Community and Art.

Friday, May 7, 6–8:45 pm
Live music in Wilsey Court: Marcus Shelby Quartet featuring vocalist Faye Carol performing the MLK project, 6:30-8:30 pm

de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park

Programs are free of charge and

On Friday, May 7, the de Young Museum presents another dynamic program, luminous projections, and book signing in the ongoing series Mission Muralismo, in conjunction with the recently published book Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo, edited by Annice Jacoby for Precita Eyes Muralists, foreword by Carlos Santana (Abrams, 2009).  The evening focuses on the talent and passionate work of major contributors to the book: Rigo, John Jota Leaños, Russell Howze, Jack Napier Billboard Liberation Front (BLF) co-founder, and Milton Rand Kalman BLF chief scientist.
Continue reading “7 May: Stencil Nation Meets Mission Muralismo”

Stencil Whirlwind :: Banksy Frenzy

Whew, what a spin I’m in at the moment. Friday afternoon, after a carnival gig in the Mission, I headed over to the de Young museum to speak with Renee about my stencil bit for the Mission Muralismo event coming up Friday, May 7. The theme is “Preachers and Pranksters,” so I guess that stencils fit nicely somewhere in both of those angles. Their political bent preaches messages, and some of the more notorious street artists throw up the stencils in prankish ways.

The Mission Muralismo team has had three or four events at the de Young over just as many months. They’ve found that they book speakers for 20 minute talks and end up going over their short allotted time, much to the chagrin of the rest of the lineup. So they approached me with the idea to NOT speak about stencils. I offered to create a stencil making station, but they didn’t like the idea of putting me outside and away from all the action (Marcus Shelby will perform his jazz composition about famous preacher Martin Luther King, Jr., RIGO will introduce the speakers, including the Billboard Liberation Front). So I worked out a second idea with them: I’ll sit in a booth and cut a stencil before the speakers begin. I’ll hang samples of stencils behind me, and then photos of Mission District-based stencils will run in the auditorium. So I met with Renee from the de Young and we worked out most of the details. I love cutting stencils in public, so it’ll be a fun, quick bit.

I got home after that and got a call from Laura telling me that there was a Banksy stencil on the wall above the Amnesia Bar. What? Looked in my email after that call and found a video of a definite Banksy stencil at Commercial and Grant in Chinatown. What!? I dropped all plans, hopped on my bike, and hauled ass down to Chinatown first, thinking “this one’s on the street and will get buffed soon!” I found the location by pausing the emailed video and seeing “CIAL” on the concrete curb. Got there and found people already photographing the stencil. A huge Hummer was parked in front of it, so I began the shoot by contemplating climbing on the huge SUV.

Glad I didn’t. Maybe five minutes passed and the owner of the SUV got in and drove away. With this lucky parking space opening up, I had a great straight-on angle for snapping up pics. I chatted up some men as they snapped up pics, and one said he knew the bakery owner’s son (the Chinatown piece is on the outside wall of a bakery). The son said that Banksy paid his parents $50 to spray the stencil. A piece of paper has Chinese writing on it, with a hand-written note asking to please not paint over the Banksy art. A friend from Taiwan translated the Chinese for me, apparently written via an online English>Chinese translation tool. The sign said: “Please don’t erase this graffiti. It’s said that police are  investigating this case. You can erase by the end of next week, end of April.”


Back on the bike and straight down Market St. I was wondering where else in the City Banksy had hit. They could be anywhere! The Luggage Store Gallery door happened to be open. I have been needing to meet with Luggage Store Art Director Laurie Lazer so that I could get a copy of “Stencil Nation” to her, which I didn’t have due to running out to snap pics. I went inside anyway, to show her the flicks and to see if she had any leads on Banksy. She had none, though heard that he may have wandered into the gallery the day before. She’d just sold a Banksy panel, cut in two, to raise funds for the gallery, and said that he knew about this. After promising to meet with her next week, I went to Amnesia Bar for the second piece.

People were already snapping photos. After getting some photos, I met up with Christine Marie, and wandered in to an empty Amnesia Bar at happy hour. We both sorta knew Shawn the owner, and he sorta remembered us. I asked him for some time up on the roof, and he said he’d have to make a phone call. I told him that he’d be doing the City, and the street art world, a great service if he let me up there to snap some pics for the Stencil Archive.

Woke up Saturday morning and got an email from Shawn soon after breakfast. He was offering rooftop access for a small group of videographers and photographers, for 30 minutes only. Amnesia Bar has a testy neighbor, who had to give permission to have some people up near his windows next door, which I understand. As I prepared to hit the Mission again, word online said that there was a large rat on 9th St. at Howard in SoMa. Another spot! Where else could these pieces keep popping up? I packed my laptop for this trip, with the plan of stopping off in a cafe to quickly post the rooftop photos.

I got there early and the bar’s manager climbed up onto the roof with me. Two rickety ladders led us up there, and a French videographer was winding things up on the hot, white roof. While up there, I met Mike Cuffe from He’d broken the story on the web, and was now spending his Saturday following a list of locations to shoot. I also spoke to a nieghbor, who waved a copy of “Wall and Piece” at us and told me he was devastated that he’d missed Banksy in action right outside his own back door. Cuffe had tipped me off about a fourth piece on the side of Cafe Prague on Sycamore at Mission St., so I shared that with the grateful neighbor. After thanking the Amnesia folks downstairs, I biked over to Sycamore.

When I showed up to the Cafe Prague piece, a van blocked the art work on the brown, graffiti’d wall. Damn! Time to get creative again in order to snap the Native American sitting on the ground holding a staff with an real “No Trespassing” sign on the top. Just as I started snapping pics, a young couple came up and unlocked the van. “Are you all leaving?” I asked. “I am,” the woman said. She pulled out, and I had another magic parking space to stand in to get perfect shots of the art! Twice in under 24 hours? What luck.

A blog post had an incorrect location, so people were at Dolores Park looking for the work, but people were finding out the real location via phones with online social connections. I chatted with folks, passed out cards, and watched the frenzy. San Francisco openly loves technology. Online chatter seemed to be frantically discussing these pieces as movie promotions, and so people were tweeting, FaceBooking, and blogging away pics and text about the Banksy easter eggs across San Francisco. Being the most obsessed stencil photographer in the City, I left Sycamore and went to a cafe on Valencia to try to scoop everyone with the rooftop pics and the No Trespassing pics.

As I sipped iced tea on a sunny April day, I posted my best shots on FaceBook and Flickr. I put them in all the stencil and street art groups on Flickr, and spread them around on FaceBook. I then put them on Stencil Archive. After having scooped the first pics, I’m sure has major traffic, but it seemed that my corner of Stencil Nation was scooped by yours truly.

Ah, to be wound up in a spiral of Banksy mania, screaming like a rabid teenybopper Beatles fan. You’d think Obama was in town, speaking to the starry-eyed masses, who in turn wrote and posted every last detail of their experience on the Internet social sites. Call me a sucker, but I know that street art can quickly disapear, so snapping pics must happen asap. (Blogs are reporting that Banksy’s fresh piece in LA has already been taken down by professional art experts.)

Back on the bike to head to SoMa to snap the rat. Once I grabbed some photos (not much of a crowd there), I spoke to some of the local store employees about rooftop access. Struck out on four locations and got a nibble on a fifth. Sent emails to the manager tonight and after two bounces, found another email address for him online. Fingers crossed.

Came back tonight to see that a fifth and sixth stencil has been documented. either held back on the Erie at Mission (near 14th St.) piece or found out after I saw him at Amnesia. He has since posted flicker pics of that one, which has a bird on a tree. The other piece is the same large rat from SoMa, with a different punchline. So back down to the Mission I go tomorrow to snap up the Erie piece.

With the flights screwed up between USA and Europe, I wonder if Banksy is going to just stay in North America and tear shit up while he cools his heels during the flight ban? I also wonder if he got my email telling him that CELLspace is fair game? And finally, I wonder who he’s with and where he’s staying? I have theories, but it’s all fantastical and just plain fanboyish. When I said years ago that I as a Certified Stencil Geek, I wasn’t kidding!

Let the frenzy continue….

Stencil Nation 3rd Print Out Now!

Jennifer at Manic D Press just contacted me to let me know that the 3rd print run of Stencil Nation: Graffiti, Community, and Art is out now and ready to hit your coffee tables and local (hopefully indy) book stores.

Keep an eye out on upcoming Stencil Nation appearances here and there throughout the spring and summer!

DISTRO INFO (for any interested shop/gallery owners):

  • USA
    • Consortium 800-283-3572
    • Last Gasp 415-824-6636 contact: Jon Longhi
    • Ingram 800-937-0995
    • Baker+Taylor 800-775-1800
    • Manic D Press 415-648-8288 contact: Jen Joseph
    • Publishers Group Canada 1-800-747-8147
  • UK + EU
    • Turnaround PSL (London) 020 8829 3000

Stencil Nation to get 3rd Print Run

As some of you may know, Stencil Nation has been hard to find online and in the book stores. As the economy collapsed and fluttered over the past year, I ended my touring and began focusing on other projects (Stencil Archive, puppetry, events production, etc.). As things faltered in the world, Stencil Nation’s 2nd print run began to run out. There were moments in the year when I could barely fulfill the orers from

But I did, and Manic D Press continued to ride and survive the troubled waves in the publishing world (will the Kindle, etc. kill the book? Think not, but now something to think about.). Since Stencil Nation was released, dozens of stencil, street art, and graffiti books have been released, making a 3rd print of the book a hard decision for the always scrappy Manic D Press.

I just got word from Manic D that a 3rd print run will get distributed Feb. 24! This is good news to those of you who haven’t found the few places left online (like the book’s site) to find the book for a reasonable price. had copies of the book for sale well past $100 each. For those who don’t dig online for the best deal, that’s an unreachable amount to pay for the book.

Now that a 3rd print is about to be released, the price will once again be reasonable.

Thanks again for all your support over the past few years. I hope you all are enjoying the book.

I currently have 1st and 2nd print copies for sale via

Russell —

Final Pics fm Stencil Nation Tour

Stencil Nation Tour: the table

Just posted this up in the HFt Productions page, and thought you all might like to see the final listing of all the tour dates from the past year. Every thing adds up to 60 stops, with only two cancellations. THANKS again to ALL the people who helped keep me on the road, in the air, and in the spaces with all these fun, stencil-related events. Things I did this year: digital slide presentations, skillshares, street art tours, stenciling demos, book signings, stencil VJ’ing, exhibits, interviews, window displays, budget stencil art sales, and much more!

Continue reading “Stencil Nation Tour: the table” Stencil Nation Video

Back in April, recorded the Stencil Nation presentation at Booksmith up on Haight St. in San Francisco.  It has been posted on their site for a while (over 700 views, who knew?) but I decided not to spread the word until I finished the touring. With the Year of Stencil Nation finally complete, I present to you the presentation in all its guts and glory. Or should I say umms and uhs. This presentation changed over time (in Middle America, I opened up the presentation with pics of stencils and street art from Iran), and was always different. So here’s a unique slice of what was going down on tour a few months ago.

If you have Windows Player installed, you can see the Dec. 12, 2008 version of the presentation from A Cappella Books in Atlanta, GA (recorded by the Atlanta Forum Network).

B-Town, Paint Louis and Beyond

The week has flown by. I drove over the Canadian/USA border at Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls almost a week ago. Got to see the falls from the bridge, and I didn’t need to stop to catch any other view. The border guard didn’t flinch at the big bike box in the back. If he had looked, he would’ve found a partial bike made from used parts. The back tire of the bike Martin Heath made for me began to squeak again. It started up after I pushed the coaster break. Martin said the back tire was shot and that I’d have to find another one in San Francisco.

Martin gave me a pass to see the opening of the Short Film Festival up on Bloor St. Then I went to CineCycle, helped pack the bike, and watched some amazing 1960s Serioscope jukebox music reels. They were dated, but extremely interesting to watch. I said final goodbyes to Janet and then Martin and I pushed the bike to my China Town flat on a dolly. Toronto was fun! Can’t wait to post the stencils from there when I get a chance.
Continue reading “B-Town, Paint Louis and Beyond”

First-Hand News fm Iran

CNN is on here at my hotel room in Buffalo, and the main news story is how “citizen journalists” in Iran continue to cover the breaking stories with cell phones, Twitter, and FaceBook. Iranians are risking their lives to submit video footage to network news stations. Over on Huffington Post, Nico Pitney is blogging about Iran, using sources from all over the web, and doing a bit of vetting to discount some fake citizen journalism.

As some of you may know, I have stencil work from Iran over on Stencil Archive. I don’t know the artist’s real names, nor any details about their lives. But I do understand that doing graffiti in Iran comes at a great risk. Larger than the risks that other artists face, since graffiti is considered an evil Western-influenced activity by some fundamentalist Iranians. Since the protests started, I have been concerned about the artists, fearing their safety and hoping that they’re keeping things real in the streets. They’ve gotten in touch and are OK. But extremely excited and concerned about losing their votes in the recent election.  They have reacted by doing what they do best during these amazing times in Persia. They’re keeping art in the streets!

My data mining has dug up some blogs, and Dub Gabriel has started blogging for a friend in Iran who is telling his version of the story. Here’s a photoblog that I have gone to to look at photos. Here is a Flickr stream of some current art in the Iranian streets. Iran is blocking some major web sites (like YouTube), but Flickr seems to be available. And it’s easy to get around the government blocking: Dub Gabriel is easily helping his friend in Iran post information, probably via simple email exchanges. So posting some of these sites is a simple act that I can do to help the thousands of green-clad people in the streets of Iran.

Twenty years ago, Chinese students occupied Tianamen Square, and were eventually brutally crushed by the People’s Army. Last night at my presentation at Hallwalls, I showed some photos of the street art and stencil work in Iran. I made the comment that things might have ended differently in 1989, had the students used cell phones and cameras to let the whole world instantly watch and witness their experience with seeking freedom and democracy. I don’t know if today’s coverage in Iran will bring a huge change with their culture, but I know that our ability to witness it first hand is a sweet experience. CNN is showing international rallies supporting the Iranian democrats, and I am sure that those attending these rallies are snapping pics and taking phone vids of the scene. And they’re MMS’ing them to friends in Persia. And they’re instantly posting them online.

Together, we can witness what is happening half the world away, and thus our compassion expands for those who desire the basic freedoms we all should have. Hopefully, this will drive change in the world and bring lessons of unity and equality that we should’ve learned over and over again. If not, then we will once again have to see similar uprisings happen, and have to relive the painful images of oppression. That being said, don’t forget the recent struggles in Tibet, the ongoing pain in Palestine, and other suffering around the world of people who don’t have the technology to give us the first-hand experience.

Toronto Street Art Bike Tour

Up on my domino soap box (as Tino displays Stencil Nation), I explain how bikes and stencils taste as good together as peanut butter and chocolate. Last Saturday, forty people came along for Tino’s two-plus hour tour of the city’s cut-out wonders.


Originally uploaded by rtlechow

Street Art Four Hours Straight

Friday night ended up being a random chain of events. I had no plans really, and considered a Blue Jays baseball game. But Goran Bregovic was playing his Balkan beats for a free concert, and that seemed much more important to go to. After wandering by the book store to check in with them, Tino just happened to be at the cafe next door. Charlie from the bookstore introduced me and it was finally great to meet one of the featured photographers in my book face to face.

Tino knew about the concert and decided to go. I’d planned to meet up with a pre-party but Tino said that they were all down at the square where the concert was going to be. So we hopped on our bikes and rode down into Toronto’s version of Times Square on Yonge St. (complete with animated ads running up the sides of buildings). There was a crowd, but we found the party via a trumpet call and a ghetto blaster blasting Roma beats. Once we arrived, I re-met some folks I’d met in Portland last June during the Car Free Conference. They were plenty drunk already, and we all danced our way deep down into the crowd and close to the stage. Guess a boom box of Roma beats spreads the Red Sea for a good spot to dance.
Continue reading “Street Art Four Hours Straight”