Adding characters to pieces is a fun way to complement graffiti and make it much more eye-catching. In the case of trains, it’s a task that can make the final outcome more challenging but it provides a result that can be much more stimulating, even for audiences who are unfamiliar with graffiti.
Froe is a specialist in this field, and the sheer genius of her work led us to wanting to interview her. Ken Càrgø took charge of asking these precise questions that guide us into Froe’s reality and unique style.
“You develop a certain style and people will know it’s you regardless of what you write.“
As far as we know, Froe is a writer from Belgium who specializes in pieces with characters. Would you add something to introduce yourself?
That pretty much sums it up!
How long have you been writing/how did you start?
Since 2010. I had a car and some guys from Holland asked me if I could drive them to a yard. I didn’t want to wait in the car for an hour so I went in with them, they gave me a can and I tried to do some tags or something on the train and I liked doing it. The guys went back to Holland and I tried to keep on painting. I didn’t really know anyone that painted in my city, so I started doing some walls and highway spots by myself and after a while I got to know other writers.
How many names have you had? Do you think it’s important to keep the same name for the longest time possible?
The very first few pieces I did were with a name that was very close to my real life name. One day someone said ‘you shouldn’t do that, just write FROE or something’. So I did exactly that, haha.
It’s not very important to keep the same name forever. You develop a certain style and people will know it’s you regardless of what you write. But personally I grew very attached to ‘FROE’ and I don’t think I will ever change it.
I’ve never seen you put up a crew name, any reason you’ve never got into the ‘crew’ thing?
No one ever asked me. Very sad. I think I’ll skip this question, hahaha.
At what point did you stop painting walls and streets just to focus on trains?
Beginning of 2013 I did my first real piece on a train. I immediately knew ‘ok, this is it, this is what I’m gonna do’, and I just very quickly started doing a lot of them and lost interest in painting anything else.
Most train writers become train-spotters. We know all the names for them, the history, sometimes a lot more than real trainspotters. Are you a train nerd?
Of course! I love trains, I know all the names and I like looking at them. When I’m chilling at the station with my camera, drivers and workers automatically assume that I’m a regular train enthusiast and I’m always happy to impress them with my train knowledge and learn new things from them.
What’s your favorite train from Belgium’s history?
It’s very hard to choose between the red scuba and the red piggy.
The red scuba was super beautiful, but I didn’t paint them a lot because they got cleaned super fast. Pieces on piggies could run for months.
So I guess, If you just want to look at a train I would go for the red scuba.
For painting I would choose the piggy.
“People that paint the same piece every time are usually people who paint all the time. (…) Maybe some people just care more about the action itself.“
Are you worried about the risks of painting? What scares you more, the Law, or the possibility of an accident or worse..?
If I’m completely honest, I am pretty scared of getting caught. I never stress when on holidays and painting in a different country, but most of the time I’m painting in my own country and I’m super careful here. I make sure I know the situation very well and do everything to minimize the risk. If something is too risky, I wilI just go home and try again the next day.
You try to do a different piece/theme character every time, what do you think of writers who do the opposite, just repeat their name in the same style 100’s of times?
I can totally respect that. People that paint the same piece every time are usually people who paint all the time. If you are out every night/day checking, spotting and painting there’s just no time left to sketch and think about doing something different every time. Or maybe some people just care more about the action itself.
For me, I like every piece to be a single little project. Sometimes it’s a struggle and a challenge to keep coming up with ideas. But, most of the time the sketching part is fun and I’m always very happy when I come up with something new.
How do you get your ideas for these character / comedy pieces? Do you always plan them or have you ever turned up and just ‘painted’ (freestyled)
Most of the time I sit down and try to think of something a few hours before we go painting. It’s pretty stressful that way, haha, and I wish I would take a bit more time beforehand to sketch things out more so I have some ideas to choose from.
There have been times that I didn’t have time to do a sketch, or where other people brought me some colors and I just had to make it work and freestyle. Or when I’m drunk and I think I have the coolest piece in my head and it’s going to look amazing and I don’t need a sketch at all. But while I’m painting these ‘freestyle’ pieces, I can already see that they are going to be pretty shit and that kinda ruins the fun. I have learned that, for me, it is better to come prepared.
“I never had any problems because I respected the older generation and the locals.“
Do you think it’s important to ‘get better’ or just continue doing whatever you do as long as it’s fun?
Having fun is the most important thing. But personally I think having fun also includes being somewhat happy with what I’ve created. So I do think it’s important to keep trying to improve.
How have things in Belgium changed since you started? I’m starting to hear that technology and better cop awareness in smaller towns are making things a little more difficult.
I don’t feel like that much has changed. A lot of times I catch myself thinking ‘I can’t believe this still works’.
Did you get any stress from locals when you started? Your city has some pretty well known writers who have famously been protective of their yard.
I never had any problems because I respected the older generation and the locals. Plenty of other spots to paint.
“I know the older generation doesn’t like the whole Internet game (…) but when I do a panel that I like, I’m proud of it and happy that a lot of people see it.“
Everyone knows about ‘Painted Trains’ – what effect do you think this has had on the scene in Belgium?
It changed my life! Belgian trains are so unpredictable. You can never be sure where your train is going to run. I used to spend all my free time in the station benching. I mean, days after days after days sometimes without any luck. I would skip work or school because I still didn’t have a day picture of that panel I was happy with. Now it’s a lot easier. I still go benching but if I don’t get a picture I’m not worried. I know it will pop up on Instagram somewhere.
Another change is that all your work is much more visible. Not only to other writers like in the old days on Flickr or before the Internet, but to everyone. I know the older generation doesn’t like the whole Internet game and yes, sometimes instagram can be frustrating when you want to keep a certain piece hidden for a magazine or for yourself, or when you don’t like a certain piece you made and it turns up on all the spotting pages even months after you did it. But usually, when I do a panel that I like, I’m proud of it and happy that a lot of people see it.
I think this would also be a good moment to give a small shout out to all the major spotters out there. Thanks for spending so many of your free hours at the station taking pictures, and making sure no panel disappears without being captured!
Do you think hardcore benching pages like this bring in a lot of graffiti tourism, which could make things a little harder for locals?
When painted trains started getting really big, there was a bit of a growth in graffiti tourism in Belgium. I remember at the peak moment, having to cue in the bushes and cross out other pieces.
I think after a while some tourists started getting caught and it just got a bit more quiet again. Also, there are big spotting pages in almost every country now which takes the focus off Belgium a bit.
“I remember, when I just started painting trains, someone saying, ‘oh that’s a great panel… for a girl!’. (…) It’s like there are 2 standards for panels and the girl standard is much, much lower.“
Recently, you posted on your instagram story ‘’please don’t reblog my photos using hashtag’s like #girlgraffiti (except if you also regularly use the hashtag #boygraffiti)” What do you mean by that?
Hahahaha. I just think that me being a girl has as much to do with my graffiti as the color of my hair. I don’t like putting the emphasis on someone’s sex. I remember, when I just started painting trains, someone saying, ‘oh that’s a great panel… for a girl!’. How awful is that? haha. Just tell me the panel is shit. It’s like there are 2 standards for panels and the girl standard is much, much lower. I don’t know, I think I just get annoyed by stuff like that and wanted to say something about it in a funny way.
What’s the most funny thing that happened to you while painting?
Not really while painting but one time we were walking to a spot on a dark forest road that was totally covered in frogs. We only had 1 small flashlight on a phone and in the middle of the road the battery of the phone dies. So the rest of the way we had to slide one foot before the other and kind of moonwalk to the spot or we would kill a million frogs and I wasn’t going to let that happen haha. Or when we ran in Milano from metro security and got a lift out of the area from the building security next door who didn’t speak a word english but kept saying ACAB! ACAB!
“When I think back those (chases and getting caught) where still funny times with my friends.”
And your worst graffiti vacation? What happened?
The first things that I think of are of course chases and getting caught in foreign countries, but actually when I think back those where still funny times with my friends. No one ever got seriously injured or major jail time so when I look back I can only smile. I think the worst time I had was when I was traveling alone and a Swiss conductor on the border of Italy noticed I had a fake InterRail and took it and left me stranded in some small border station. I just started the InterRail trip and wanted to go to Rome, Vienna and back home via Germany so I was super bummed out that it ended so quickly.
-Do you have a future goal with it all? Or just keep on keepin’ on?
Painting makes me super happy. I guess that’s my goal. I’ll stop when It doesn’t make me happy anymore.
-Anything you would like to add?
Thanks for reading !
AAAAAND SHOUTOUTS: ANIMALS, FRANK, NOACH, GORILA, XREY, WENS, NAWAS, NIKS, RUSH, QUATCH, ARCH, PRAN, FURIOUS, HOTUS, BISAR, RED, EILES, MUS, LOLA, MIDAS, MEDUSA, KCBR, 4US, CHAOS, MUEH, ABUSE, KING, KANG, HEADS; 80’s, WOL, MY MOM & all the people I had good times with!
LOVE YOU ALL <3