1. The Formative Years
Years: 1991 - 1995
Notable works: Trains, Walls, Bombs, and Tags
KAWS, in a 1995 interview from T. DEE's Under Cover Magazine, tells the magazine's founder that he'd been writing graffiti in a three-block radius around his Jersey City, N.J. home since 7th or 8th grade. This, he said, was in grammar school, around the year 1991. The first billboard he hit was in 1993, a year after he graduated high school. Though it was nothing serious, it got him started on his path. "I was always into drawing," he said in the interview, "and I was always a smart ass kid when I was young, so I guess it was just a fun thing to incorporate my art into. Just the thought of getting up everywhere was my original goal." He also cites seeing his art teacher get paid to do illustration work, which hints at the ambitions of his later commercial work. It's interesting to note that in this interview he also bemoans the commercial state of street art-almost twenty years ago.