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Keep It Clean

By on November 1, 2008
RoadKing Mag

If only all cleaning were this fun. Artist Paul “Moose” Curtis has been making waves in his native U.K. for years by using water and cleaning solution to paint designs on dirty city surfaces. His “reverse graffiti” has attracted worldwide attention, and in April, he teamed up with Green Works, a line of environmentally friendly cleaning products, to do a large-scale art project in the U.S.

Curtis settled on San Francisco’s Broadway tunnel, which 20,000 vehicles pass through each day. With the city’s approval, he painted a 140-foot mural using stencils and Green Works products, depicting images of plants that are native to California. Documentary filmmaker Doug Pray (who directed the 2007 documentary Big Rig) filmed the project, and clips are available at

The idea of reverse graffiti took root more than a decade ago when Curtis was working as a porter at a restaurant. One night he was washing dishes and noticed a dirty spot on the wall. When he wiped it with his rag, it left a large watermark that revealed just how dirty the wall was. Inspiration struck.

“I’m always the first to say that my content — or the things I’m drawing — might not be as cool as a great artist, but the method of communication is spot on,” Curtis says in the documentary. When bystanders approach his murals and realize that he’s not using paint but a cleaning solution, he says, “It’s a cold realization that the world is really dirty.”

Curtis’ handiwork has been controversial at times. Officials in his hometown of Leeds have been reluctant to condone his graffiti, however clean, while supporters of the concept have criticized him for partnering with Smirnoff and Microsoft to turn his art into advertisements. But there’s no question Curtis’ work gets people talking — and hopefully, thinking green.

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