There have been many different graffiti artists that have been born and developed signature styles from throughout Europe. In particular, Semor the Mad One, or better known as just SEMOR, is definitely one of those artists. He’s taken his love of letters and abstract imagery, mixed them up into an atomic potion and unleashed his style onto the world. We were lucky enough for SEMOR to make some time for us here at SprayPlanet so that we could see what makes this mad letter scientist tick and how he turns his letters into ocular mind-spasms that tantalize the senses. Continue on if you think you can handle it.
History of Graffiti Writer SEMOR - The Mad One:
SprayPlanet: Let’s begin with the very basics: What do you write, how did you come up with it, and how long have you been writing graffiti? Where do you call home? How did you begin your life as a graffiti writer? Also, where did your Instagram handle come from? Anyone who knows you knows that you’re a pretty fun guy to be around… is it because your walls are crazy?
SEMOR: Hello, my name is “SEMOR” and I´m from Cologne/Germany. When I was a kid I wrote with chalk in my room. I wrote letters in different styles on the wall, but I didn´t have the faintest idea it was called graffiti or writing. In 1992 my sister showed me the film “Style Wars”. I love the film – so much colours and styles.
I got my name of the film “The Simpsons”. Barts rectors name is Seymor Skinner… I like the sound of the name, so I changed the letters into “SEMOR” and so on I´m painting that name.
I did my first piece towards the end of 1993 and wrote the letters “NES”. That was the official beginning of my passion with writing.
Heheheee…Thank you. I just love having fun and I just love my life. I want to give something back to others…having a good time while we´re hanging around or painting together. So many bad things happening around us, so I try to enjoy living as much as I can. I really don´t know if my walls are crazy or not. I just want to refine myself, in every way, not only on the wall. Life is too interesting to be focused on one layer of it.
SprayPlanet: Can you recall that very first moment that sparked your interest in becoming a graffiti writer? What compelled you to continue in writing graff and did you ever think that you’d be where you are now? Please feel free to elaborate. What were they doing or what did they do that pushed you to explore lettering?
SEMOR: There was no commitment, it was and is just free. The feeling of working with a spraycan…mmmhh…love it so much. I´m fascinated by the diversity in Writing, not only every single writer, of course because of the lettering. Influenced by every social stratum and countries. I wanted to be part of it. Writing to me has one language and every each of us can understand it, without speaking it. Writing teached me more appreciation. We building something unique…something from us, our own environment and it came out from nothing. I like that.
My attitude is affected by Writing…of course. I grew up without any money and my parents decided to live apart. Painting helped me at this time a lot. It’s a way to jump out of your real life, to put all the good and bad things in your art, to work with all what happened or will happen in your life. You know, for me it´s pure love.
My five letters of SEMOR are my pillar, beside my family and friends. Painting a SEMOR is a valve and a form of expression.
SEMOR Inspirations and Influences
SprayPlanet: If you’re talking to a bystander or someone who doesn’t write graffiti, how would you explain your style to them? Do you call it anything specific? Can you explain to us your process and how you attack a wall? Is it methodical or spontaneous? Both?
SEMOR: Graphic elements combined with traditional lettering….but “hey”…I just mixed it up. I don´t have a specific name or meaning. In 2013 I painted a wall in Copenhagen/Denmark with STORM, ZOER, VELVET and DAIS. It was the first time that I combined my letters with graphic elements. My view on lettering changed completely since then and I tried to follow that direction. Always painting the same did not satisfy me. I never do sketches; except on the wall with a leftover can and a standard cap. Some lines here…a letter there…mixing it up and connecting it and then add some graphic layers. Of course, it´s both methodical and spontaneous.
SprayPlanet: At what point did you decide to take the leap from graffiti being a hobby to you painting as a full time artist? Can you describe to us the emotions that went along with that decision? Were you frightened? Excited? Is there anything you can suggest to younger entrepreneurs that want to be full time artists?
SEMOR: I reached a point of no return in my life. I got sick of my regular job, I mean really sick. I had to fight against these issues with my boss. I needed to change something after having this job for 15 years. So I quit…with a lot of support by my girlfriend, my family and friends…..and by my tax adviser hahhaaaaaa!
It wasn´t easy--not at all. It became apparent that I had to organize all of the insurance first. There’s a lot of paperwork here in Germany.
After 15 years of a monthly income, but also pain and no estimation of all the work I´ve done, quitting all this was the best decision ever! It´s a completely new life, new structures, new priorities…from now on I started working free. During the years I got an ok income and a lot of interesting jobs. So leaving a safety job was definitely worth it.
I guess you know my way of living….love what you do and do what you love. I don´t want lose the great things in my life, because of having a job I don´t really like, with a boss who was not respecting me. You´ll reach a point in your life where a decision is needed. Otherwise you´ll lose yourself and I felt that I needed a change, so if you need a change “go for it and trust yourself”!
I´m not interested in having a dope car or a big house. I grew up poor and money itself is just an aid to go on.
Style, Progression and What's Next
SprayPlanet: Your Instagram account has quite a lot of followers! We know that you have been around a lot longer than social media, has this type of notoriety changed how you operate on an artistic level? Is there any added pressure with having a high-visibility social media account? Do ever come across negative comments? How do you handle them?
SEMOR: It´s just numbers. It doesn´t mean anything. Instagram is like Fotolog--just as an app on the phone, which makes it more easier to show new stuff. Instagram changed definitely the way of self-expression. I grew up in a time without internet, completely different compare to nowadays. I don´t want to say it´s bad, but don´t put too much expectations in it. I´m using Instagram as a platform to show my stuff and I´m not interested in numbers of followers. The more “followers” doesn´t mean the most quality.
Of course it happened some time and getting bad comments, but it´s so easy to write anything and everything on the internet. Most of the time it´s not even constructive criticism. Why should I think about it and lose my energy. Most of the time it´s just somebody with a boastful over-confidence…nice one.
But Instagram is a good platform to get or to be in touch with other artists from all over.
SprayPlanet: As you move forward in life, looking back on your past, where are some places that your travels have taken you? Which have been the most memorable or impressionable? Why? What are some places that you haven’t been that you’d love to travel to and paint? Do you have a “dream” list of writers that you would like to paint with and check off your bucket list?
SEMOR: My latest trips to Lima/Peru and Chicago. I had such a great time.
Lima was quit impressive. ENTES and his wife took care of me and organized some great stuff--not only Ceviche. They put me on two fresh spots to paint. One in Barranco and the other one in the new Museum “Museo Arte Urbano – MAU” in Callao. The city is such a nice place. Great people.
Chicago was a blast. I spent 10 days with AMUSE126 and MERLOT. He took me around. We painted a lot and it was super freezing. Negative 12 degrees….damn. But It was fun….nobody can stop us….hahahhaaaaa…!
There are so many good spots all over the planet. But I don´t have a real list. Even a list of writers. I´m interested in painting with everybody who´s not fake.
SprayPlanet: Recently, you’ve had a new addition to your family, would you mind sharing a little bit with us about having a new baby in the house? How has becoming a dad affected your work? Has having a little Semor changed your perspective on life and art? What do you hope to teach your child about graffiti or art in general?
SEMOR: Yeah crazy time. I´m a dad now. I have a cute girl now, beside my girlfriend. hehheeeee. It´s definitely a game changer, but in a positive way. It doesn´t really changed my perspective on art or life. Sure, from now on I have to be taking care of somebody, not only just myself. It´s a big change, but a change you can easily work with. And my girlfriend is always on my side and helping me going on with my art.
There are just a few things I want to teach my daughter and these are also the main goals in writing/life to me:
- and love what you do
I´m more motivated to paint and doing my stuff. Feels great.
SprayPlanet: According to your social media sites, you’ve been doing a lot of installations and gallery work is this where you saw yourself being when you went full time professional? Where do you want to see yourself in five more years? 10 years?
SEMOR: You know, I was a bit tired of doing letters. I still love it, but I also like to be in my studio and working on my “Fluor Series”. It´s more minimalistic and more abstract. I can work more free and going new directions.
I don´t know where all this is going and where I´ll be in five or ten years, but if everything will be fine I´m continuing painting and traveling.
SprayPlanet: Do you think that Europeans have different ideas about graffiti and where it belongs or doesn’t belong? In other words, you know a lot of Americans and people from other countries, how does graffiti in Germany (or Europe) differ from American graffiti? When comparing the two; in your opinion, how are the attitudes towards the culture different?
SEMOR: I remember when I was younger I looked up to guys like SEEN or TKID. So, I was definitely influenced by the Americans, but I was following more the stuff that happened around me. In 1993/1994 was already a strong scene in Germany, even in Cologne.
I think the Europeans, and not only the Germans, changed Writing completely. They put it to another level. During my travels to the US I always had that feeling that most of the big names stopped. Or they were still on the same level…no change, no advancement until I saw stuff of AMUSE126, POSE, or REVOK. These guys are pushing and pushing it hard. In my opinion FUTURA2000 was the only one in the beginnings of writing, who understood to develop his lettering and style. He was from another planet… ;-)
The industry and the media changed Writing a lot. I just started because I love seeing those big letters….everywhere…walls trains! I´m happy that I started in the 90´s. The beginners from today just know Writing from the internet…we know it because it´s happening on the streets. And don´t understand me wrong. If we needed any information about Writing, we had to search for it, on the streets…not on google.
I do a lot of workshops and the kids don´t understand why I´m doing this more than 20 years. In their mind it´s cool and that´s the reason to do it. Not all of them, but most of them. They don´t understand why they should practice every day and refine their lettering or technique. There is no room to fail, but you need to fail otherwise you won´t grow.
SprayPlanet: Originally European graffiti was very inspired by American graffiti and the graffiti culture; do you think that concept has flipped? Do you think that American graffiti has become very much inspired by European graffiti? Is it possible that something like this was going to happen eventually; especially, due to most of the top spray colors coming from countries inside Europe?
SEMOR: Nowadays American Writing is definitely influenced by European Writing. Of course we have some good brands [of paint] over here, which makes it more easy. But to be honest, you can work with everything. The brands just reacted on demand. It started as a youth movement. The youth got older and they were looking for good quality paint. So Montana, Loop and MTN are very important for the Writing movement.
America is a big country and it´s just one country. If you go to Europe you´ll find different cultures…Germany, Scandinavia, Belgium, Netherland, France, Switzerland, Spain, Eastern Europe…just to name a few. So Writing come up in the early 80´s in the Netherlands. From there it was clear that it will reach Germany. We took it more serious, we refined it…we wanted more.
For example, I can reach other countries from my town really easy in less than 2 hours by plane. Another culture in less than 2 hours…you can imagine. A lot of jams are happening during the summertime, so there is always something going on. You get influenced by so many different artists.
SprayPlanet: We know that you’ve been grinding for years now and that you’ve put in a lot of work to get where you are, do you have any suggestions or advice for those artists that want to make an impact in the gallery scene? Is there anything that you’ve done in your career that you would have done differently if someone had given you advice? Lastly, where can fans find your work for viewing and purchasing?
SEMOR: Like I said, you need to fail otherwise you won´t develop. Do everything with passion and love and you´ll see. A life as an artist is a life without a lot of money, but with a lot of time and fun… And time is the most important thing in life. Time to enjoy your life.
Love what you do and do what you love!