Off the Wall: Sohoe
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Off the Wall: Sohoe

The best graffiti you'll never see

You’ve heard the old adage about what it takes for a struggling musician to get to Carnegie Hall, right? According to Toronto graff artist, Sohoe, the same applies to mastering the art of graffiti. Before gaining the respect of fellow graff writers, not to mention a dope reputation from here to Montreal, Sohoe followed the path many creative types have pursued to master their chosen art: practice, practice, practice.

It’s paid off. Today, Sohoe—a technically gifted graffiti artist—is respected by his peers and recognized for his unique style, colour choices, balance, and detailing.

Samples of Sohoe’s work can be seen in various locales. Some are easy to find, like his contribution to the Christie Pits makeover mural. Other pieces can be seen on the exterior of House of Spice in Kensington Market and at the rear of Sneaky Dee’s.

Then there are the less accessible samples, the tucked-away gems. When it comes to graffiti, there’s a truism that’s worth repeating: the premium pieces always seem to be beyond public view. More often than not, the best graffiti you’ll never see is hidden under viaducts, atop buildings, or accessible only by catwalk. Sohoe’s work is no different. “Some of my more recent, and in my eyes, more exciting work may be a little more difficult to find,” he says.

Sohoe got his start in graffiti in 2005. Before that, he put in hundreds of hours creating graffiti sketches on paper. A veteran graffiti writer once advised him to focus, before picking up an aerosol can, on developing stylistically in a black book.

High school art classes were a bust. Possessed by a desire to create graffiti-inspired pieces, he felt as though he was instead being force-fed a diet of still-lifes. Sohoe resented having to draw fruit and floral arrangements. Rebelling, he dropped high school art. In hindsight, he now understands the teachers’ motivation. Practice, practice, practice. Eventually, Sohoe pursued a fine arts degree.

Today, besides graffiti, Sohoe works in a number of other mediums. His studio work includes sculpture, drawing, painting, and design.

It’s no coincidence the visual artists Sohoe admires trace their roots back to graff art: Steve Powers, the art duo Morning Breath, Greg Lamarche. Sohoe particularly admires how these artists “seamlessly worked their way from graffiti backgrounds into…studio art success.” It appears Sohoe is following a similar path. As an artist, he’s come to a similar conclusions about graff and “fine arts.” “If you want to be a real graffiti writer, then you have to become synthesis of the two.”

Sohoe’s style is in constant flux. Presently, he’s pursuing a particular graphic style, inspired by advertisements and signage he views throughout the urban landscape. “It’s hard for me to describe my style. It’s an ever-changing evolution of letters,” Sohoe admits. “The moment it stops developing is the moment I’ll find a new hobby.”

Not unsympathetic to critics of the art form, he’s the first to admit that applying graffiti to private property without the owner’s consent is wrong. “That being said, I’d also tell them graffiti is long past its fad stage. This art movement is not going anywhere any time soon.”

If graffiti isn’t going away any time soon, we suspect Sohoe will be sticking around too.

Photos by Sohoe.

Torontoist is profiling the city’s graffiti artists, uncovering their best work and finding out what makes them tick. Are you a graff artist or do you know one who’s interested in being profiled? Email us.