Calligraffiti is an artform that combines elements of calligraphy, typography, and graffiti. Chicago-artist Tubs, is a master of this artform, one that has grown in popularity in recent years.

Growing up in Chicago’s Brighton Park neighborhood, looking out the window at street art heavily influenced him. His father was a painter and his mother taught him script and calligraphy, both helping to shape Tubs’s style.

On May 25, Jack Daniel’s and The New Vanguard held a four-course dinner honoring Tubs and his artwork as part of The Legacy of Now program.  

“We’re sitting down at the table and breaking bread, which is huge, because it’s making a statement. People of color coming together, and we’re celebrating each other while we’re here” Tubs told The TRiiBE.

The New Vanguard is a creative coalition that uplifts new-wave creatives of color through representation, media, production and philanthropy. Pilar McQuirter is the Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of The New Vanguard. She told The TRiiBE about their new series, Legacy of Now, a series with Brown-Forman that will honor artists in Chicago who are creating for the now. 

“For this series in particular, we partnered with Brown-Forman, parent company of Jack Daniel’s, and a spirits company that shares a commitment to diversity and inclusion, to spotlight four of our artists, and talk about the legacy that they’re building with their artwork. It’s called Legacy of Now.” 

Recently coming out with an art installation that focuses on his roots as an artist, Tubs’ art embodies the meaning of legacy, as much as a brand like Jack Daniel’s does. As the third brand partner in the series, Jack Daniel’s has supported art and culture through various partnerships, programs, charitable efforts and talent showcases for more than 20 years, and that commitment continues today with the Legacy of Now series spotlighting Tubs. The brand’s commitment to living boldly with a spirit of ingenuity can be seen in every piece of Tubs’ artwork.

Check out our interview with Tubs. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

The TRiiBE: In your own words, please describe the kind of artistry that you do.

Tubs: The artistry that I create has a nickname that's kind of worldwide right now. It's called Calligraffiti. So you're taking the basic elements of calligraphy, which is very traditional, and you're adding the energy, the aesthetics of graffiti. So again, this hybrid is something that was created from graffiti artists, who are also calligraphy [and] typography enthusiasts, so it's fused. Now in this new generation, you got a whole new art form that's coming forth.

You've been able to have some really dope partnerships and collabs. Now you're partnering with the iconic Jack Daniel’s brand. What makes them a good partner and fit for you?

I feel like Jack Daniel’s is a really good fit. Because when you think of Jack Daniel’s, you think of that Tennessee recipe, right? That is something that is so traditional. But over the years, they’re dropping new innovations like Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, and other flavors like Fire and Apple, with different twists. So I feel like that transitions over to me because I'm taking something that's very traditional, like calligraphy, taking my own flavor, and I'm twisting it and creating something new, and that's what they're doing. I'm just fortunate enough that they're giving opportunities to artists, Black and brown, to get into the room and express themselves creatively, you know, alongside with them in a partnership.

Absolutely. What is the inspiration behind your work?

The inspiration behind my calligraphy is my upbringing in graffiti, and traditional calligraphy. I learned a lot from both of my parents. Both of my parents are artists; my father is more of a traditional painter, my mother was actually the one that, as a kid, was showing me how to write calligraphy and script. Looking outside the window at street culture, graffiti art, even the gang culture, which has a lot of lettering. So all those different things influenced me. But it started there at home.

Tubs mixing paint
Photo of Tubs. Courtesy of The New Vanguard.
Tubs painting on a Jack Daniels bottle
Photo of Tubs. Courtesy of The New Vanguard.

You're Mexican American. How has your cultural identity shaped who you are today as a person?

So I look at my heritage as something very, very important. I was born here, but my roots are from Mexico. My family coming over and sacrificing everything to give us everything they didn't have, and recognizing the sacrifices while also recognizing the hard work. The work ethic that Latino communities have of just working hard through no matter what obstacle comes in your way. You keep working hard with that ethic that we're brought up with and just transferring it over into my art, that I can be an example for other shorties in the hood that are coming up. If you really have a desire or a passion, if you have a good work ethic, and you really strive and push through all the negativity or the obstacles, you can create something, you really can.

I want to ask you about the piece you did for the Grasshopper Club Dispensary. Knowing how Black and brown people have suffered at the hands of over policing, especially when it comes to minor drug offenses, how does it feel to contribute to the first independently Black-owned dispensary in Chicago?

Man, that was truly an honor to have the owners reach out to me and be fans of my work and tell me the vision that they have for their shop, that they want to include me in it and then looking into them personally and hearing their story. It's really great. 

The majority of the incarceration [is] Black and brown, right? And now that it's legal, everything's kind of changing. So I feel like to kind of balance that out, we do have to get in these spaces. We do have to start applying for these licenses and getting in these rooms so we can build up opportunities for our communities.

Anything you'd like to say or mention to our audience?

Just support your local artists. Support your local vendors. Support the local corner store. Support your family that's starting up something small. Support the people around you, because as an entrepreneur, as a small business owner, that little support goes such a long way. You never know if that artist or that business owner is going to blow up. 

I feel like we can start that with the people we know around us and just spread it out into the community, supporting each other, helping each other. Not even just our community, [but] reaching into the Black community like how can we be a part of something together? The shorties in the hood, you got a dream just keep going. Don't listen to anybody or what they tell you, keep doing it.

is a culture correspondent with The TRiiBE.