Seattle graffiti artist Jesse Edwards knows his work isn't always welcome. Some people get upset about it ruining the public landscape.

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Jesse Edwards’ Denny Triangle apartment does not have the trappings of, say, a place where one might actually live. There is no bed. Or couch. Or table. Art supplies spill in all directions. Spray-paint fumes cling to the air.

But flickering on the windowsill is a modem, shuttling Internet access onto his flat-screen Mac monitor. When Edwards clicks through an online gallery of his blog,, it’s easy to see where all his energy goes. Creating graffiti, then snapping pictures of his projects. In between, he works odd jobs to pay the bills.

“Why graffiti? I can tell you this: It’s not about money. It’s about being seen. When you do creative stuff with it, you think, ‘Does that make more of an impact on society than just a gray wall?’ And a lot of times it does.”

People have been etching on walls since the Stone Age, but the practice took off as an urban art form in the late 1960s. New York’s subway cars became icons of graffiti art.

As a child in Snohomish, Edwards, 32, started tagging with his skateboard buddies. But he soon saw beauty in what others left behind on walls.

So he started practicing. He spent hours experimenting with different finger pressures on aerosol nozzles to get the right texture and coat. Meanwhile, he took fine-art classes and learned oil-painting techniques.

But graffiti always drew him back. He’s traveled to the East Coast and Spain to leave his mark. He just returned this month from New York, where he painted portraits of his friends on city walls. It takes him about an hour per face, he said. In Seattle, you can find him drawing at the Legal Graffiti Wall in SoDo or on freight-train cars.

“I’m trying to take the art to a higher level. My passion is making beautiful things.”

He’s had brushes with the law, and he acknowledges that what he does isn’t always welcome. That some people hate it, think it’s trash and get upset about it ruining the public landscape.

Which is why, he said, he’s come up with a moral standard. Never draw on private property. And never on churches.

When his work invariably is painted over, Edwards doesn’t mind.

“That’s just the transient nature of the art,” he said. “Here it is, and here it isn’t.”

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or