The idiom “sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you” is perhaps the biggest lie ever told because it suggests that words hold no power—and that’s bullshit. Southern California street artist who goes by the pseudonym WRDSMTH is a prime example of how powerful the simplest words can be. Using language as the basis of his work, he proves that words are often the catalyst of inspiration, and thus transformation. Like Spiderman, however, his identity remains a mystery while his work is impossible to ignore. Maybe you’ve seen his creations on the sides of buildings, power boxes and brick walls from San Francisco down to SoCal, New Orleans, New York, London and Australia. But for the first time ever, his work will be on display this weekend at Lightning In a Bottle—his music festival debut.
“Lightning In a Bottle is so much more than a music festival. It offers a place for artists to shine,” says WRDSMTH, who began creating art, or “WRDSMTH-ing,” in late 2013. “As an artist who dances the line of legality, when the Do Art Foundation came to me I felt so honored and validated. It’s fantastic because it gives me the opportunity to share my messages of inspiration, love and humor with more people.”
While validation is always great (and sometimes it’s all people search for) WRDSMTH explains that feeling validated is just a bonus because he’d be making art regardless. “You have to create what you feel and if it resonates with others—great. But if it doesn’t, you shouldn’t stop because other people don’t like it or understand it. But the fact that my words resonate with others is unbelievably thrilling, and I’m grateful they do.”
Before moving to LA, WRDSMTH worked in advertising as a copywriter in Chicago. But when he realized that writing is what he was born to do, he left Chi-town to pursue a more creative avenue. He began writing a novel as soon as he arrived in LA, which locked him in front of a computer for the majority of 2013. “I had a realization one day that I needed an active hobby. But I didn’t want it to be a distraction from writing because it’s what I love—I only want to write,” he says.
It didn’t take long for him to figure out that street art was the medium in which he wanted to attempt. “I’ve always loved word-based street art, but I didn’t actually think I could do it at first. Growing up I thought super heroes were the only ones who did that kind of art because pieces would just magically appear on buildings, and I was so taken back by it,” he laughs. “But it seemed completely out of my realm.”
WRDSMTH began his journey as LA’s man of mystery on November 29th, 2013 when he spray painted his first type-writer (now a signature of his work) and wheat-pasted his first words, or “WRDS” as he calls them, to the back of a power box in Hollywood. “I began writing things that I wish people would have said to me when I first arrived in LA. This town is a roller coaster—everybody needs the extra push for motivation and inspiration here,” he says.
Two-and-a-half years and 89-thousand Instagram followers later, the mysterious WRDSMTH has transcended the world of street art to the whimsical realm of transformative festivals. With messages like, “Aspire to inspire others and the Universe will take note,” and “Follow your calling. Trust your talent. Chase your dream. Believe in yourself,” WRDSMTH’s powerful WRDS are bound to be a hit at LIB. “It’s important to do what your passionate about in life and it’s important to inspire others along the way,” says WRDSMTH. “I love that I’m able to spread those messages because they’re really important, and honestly, that’s what WRDSMTH is all about.”