Desmond Hansen (known as Graves 33) is one of Seattle’s most prolific artists with a resume that includes the completion of 13 individual aerosol/acrylic enamel murals painted for the public, an album release of original music, dozens of pen, ink, and colored pencil illustrations for private commissions and a live-painting performance at the 2018 Morgan Junction Festival (MJF), all within the last twelve months.
It was at the MJF where festival-organizer Phil Tavel first introduced me to Hansen, allowing me to view first-hand the brilliance of Hansen in real time and experience the innate way he commands the artistic mediums he employs. His performance was amazing.
If you’ve visited the West Seattle area in that time you have undoubtedly seen one or more of the 4-foot electric boxes featuring Desmond’s homage to famous figures who made their mark on Seattle. The likeness of Chris Cornell, Macklemore, Bruce Lee, and Ann & Nancy Wilson to name a few.
According to Hansen the 25-location mural project had very humble beginnings; with Hansen contacting the SDOT for permission to paint the box nearest to his home after tiring of continued event flyers and multi-colored paint splotched that the city used to cover graffiti tags.
The city approved the request and granted permits for the mural project as well as additional boxes in the area, but provided no financial support which forced Hansen to launch a GoFundMe page in order to cover the cost of supplies. #BrightenUpSeattlesIntersections.
Hansen tells us that he chooses the subject of each box based on their relation to the city, either as a resident or having ties to Seattle’s unique culture. Additionally, there are historical figures who he admires that have also made the list. Upon completion of the designated 25 boxes on his list Hansen plans on starting a second campaign which will involve content other than portrait painting.
Other than the financial component, Hansen shares that the biggest hurdle to completing the 25 total boxes is Seattle’s unpredictable weather and ensuring that the murals have the proper coating to maintain their long term sustainability, for which he has turned to Jess as Diamond Fox Detailing to provide a clearcoat guaranteed to last 10-years; protecting the art from both graffiti and the elements.
Hansen’s love for mural creation are linked to two memories from in his childhood. The earliest being his experience at 8 or 9 years of age when one of his mother’s friends gave him a box of colored chalk during their visit to the Bumbershoot festival. Starting with chalk drawings on the walkway and park bench young Hansen soon turned his sights to something bigger, and scaling the diagonal side pillar of Key Arena he drew a giant smiley face which brought praise from his mother and those around them. The second instance that made an impact and inspired Hansen to pursue an interest in murals was in 6th grade, when a artist painting one of the portables at his school allowed him to participate in the project, giving Hansen his first experience with aerosol paint.
Hansen also credits many figures from his childhood as mentoring his creative growth, including his father Randy Hansen, WS art instructor Mr. Gervais, and a large number of local artist who he has aligned himself with over the years including Chips, Bluez, Brim, Jurs, Salem, Mope, Jaber, Diesl, Hnsr, Evok, Jose Rodriguez, Jonah Gilbert, Biker, Eddie and others along the way. Many of these artist expressed to Hansen the importance of staying active. Early on, Hansen says he would only dabble with the idea of becoming a professional muralist, not knowing how important the medium would become in his life.
In addition to the 25-box mural project Hansen is working on a new unified canvas art series, and getting into the garage with the rebuild of a classic Chevy automobile and a couple vintage cruiser bikes.
As if the projects listed above weren’t enough to keep him busy, Hansen is also an accomplished musician with over 100 live performances to date who has just released his album titled Graves 33 “Anatomy”. He’ll be performing some of his new songs when he and his group Pryor Prism open for the Pharcyde at the Nectar Lounge in this Fremont, WA on May 30th & 31st.
Hansen is a singer/songwriter who ads a rap component to his songs. He also produces and engineers the majority of his one music, with the occasional partnership with beat-producers and produces Phreewil, Jewels Hunter, Diogenes, Slew and some others. Active since 2002 he doesn’t think he really became a decent songwriter until 2006. According to Hansen “I started rapping because at the time I was making beats for my friends to write to and they weren’t always around so I would just go over my own beats with really bad rhymes. It took me a long time to grasp what I wanted to do within music. Started as a scratch DJ and moved to producing. That took me to writing and performing.”
Other artists whom Hansen has worked with include guitarist Randy Hansen, Dox and AV (Pryor Prism), Grayskul, Asun, Specs Wizard, Barfly, Progeny, Kasi, Julie C, Araless, and more. “At one point in 2011 we had 11 people in a single room writing one song”.
Being a recording artist has had its peaks and valleys. Hansen recounts the years it took to establish himself above ground, in an industry so marginalized that most grassroots artists have to sweat and bleed in order to establish their own identity in the game; and the hurdles of staying true to himself in an arena that rewards acting and the ability to mimic other artists more than creativity and individuality. Hansen goes on to express his disappointment with watching some of his favorite rap artists struggling to remain relevant, having trouble filling venues, and fighting to make ends meet.
Still, recording and performing can also be one of the greatest experiences in a persons life, especially when working with the right artistic partners. When asked who Hansen would like to work with (musically) in the future he mentioned some well-known NW icons such as Specs Wizard and Silas Blak, Moor Gang, Kung Foo Grip, Black Magic Noize, Alchemy Union, Vitamin D, Xperience and Progeny.
For now Hansen has a full plate and is enjoying life to its fullest. Currently living in West Seattle with his wife Melissa and son Izaiah he is grateful for the many opportunities that he has been given, and wanted to give an extra big thanks to his family, parents, friends and clients that have supported his artistic vision with awesome commission art and murals to paint, and to the many who have donated to the public art project.
Hansen ends the interview with a nod to Radio Concuss crew and the friends that are helping him with the Impala restoration and bike builds including Troy, Keo, Bert, and everyone EDICC.
Contact Desmond at the following sites: