As you wind deeper and deeper through the tight residential streets of the Bang Phai neighborhood along the edge of Bangkok, colorful and skillful graffiti starts to pop up all over the place. Most of it’s painted by MisterBows, a local writer known all over Asia for his blocky letters, chunky arrows, techy line work, and energetic handstyles. This is where the 37 year old grew up and still lives to this day, with a graffiti store in his living room called, astutely, Graffiti House. Writers from all over the city come through to get paint, caps, markers, and ink. He also hosts paint sessions around the area, bringing out writers from all over the world to this quiet neighborhood, recently including Germany, Switzerland, and the US.
Bows got inspired to write graffiti when he visited New York for a high school program in 2002. He stayed there for two months, where he worked the register at a local bodega in Elmhurst Queens. “There are lots of Thais there,” he laughs. The rooftop graffiti outside the window of the elevated 7 train captivated him, and when he came back to Thailand, he couldn’t get it out of his head.
There was also some graf in Bangkok to kept the fire stoked, like productions along the bus route to downtown by foreigners with local old-school writers. So after a couple of years, he decided to try it for himself. He practiced tags, throwies, and pieces in his backyard using local hardware brands for several months before venturing out into the city. He caught tags around town (and got caught a few times), but he kept working on his piecing technique in abandoned houses near his home before unveiling it to the public.
Bows—who now pushes Zinc Nite Crew, one of Asia’s largest teams, as well as local the DOD and TFK crews—picked his name in 2005. He says he was just copying styles from the internet at the time, and he didn’t start painting in his current style until about 2012. Even then, “It was still some beginner’s stuff.” Watching him paint these days, Bows sprays quickly and confidently, hitting his lines cleanly on the first try without any need for fixing them. His colors fade softly and his letters pop off the backgrounds, which are usually done in classic graf styles like bricks, lightning, cracks, and abstract fades. It’s an instantly recognizable style, hard to miss but easy to look at.
Writers from all around the region agree, and he gets invited to a different graf festival every year, painting everywhere from The Philippines and Vietnam, to Malaysia and Indonesia. But his first festival was the Bangkok Meeting Of Styles in 2013. Local writers were still using local hardware paint back then, and Bows wouldn’t start using aerosol created for artists until BKK Graf began carrying MTN 94 from Spain a couple of years later. Then Bows started importing German brand Belton Molotow at Graffiti House after a couple more years. But he’s recently leaned into regional artist brands like Indonesia’s Diton King and now Hype Spray from Thailand. “The scene here is getting better and better,” Bows says. “We have a lot more writers now. Commissions are good too. Even the government sponsors a street art event now.”