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  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

An Interview with WALLofWORDSart, an Incredible Word Artist

So we know that Bo is all about "Words Words Words," right?

Well, we are finishing off #FanartFebruary with the perfect melding of art and Bo's lyrics in the works of WALLofWORDSart (his real name is Travis).

The second piece of Bo art that I own is courtesy of Travis, and I remember being absolutely dumbfounded when I first saw this masterpiece on Reddit, particularly his insane making-of videos (one set to Bezos 1, while the other short is appropriately paired with Shit).

How in the WORLD is he able to write the lyrics from Inside in order to create a cohesive picture of Bo's iconic pose?

The question has plagued me since last May, so I reached out to Travis to find out what compels him to create and how he does what he does without making a mess or getting carpal tunnel in the process!

Here is my interview with Travis, which has been edited and condensed for clarity purposes.

Bo Burnham Historian: Hi, Travis! Thanks for chatting with me about your incredible word art!

Travis: It's no trouble at all!

BBH: Fantastic! First, can you provide some details about yourself?

Travis: I'm a 35-year-old, Austin-based artist who, after countless unsuccessful business ventures, decided to combine all of my passions of drawing, film, music, screenwriting and songwriting into a unique style of art that has thankfully (and finally!) taken off to the point I was able to quit my job as a courier driver and focus on art full time.

Now I sell out of my Etsy shop while doing commissions during the week and various art shows/pop up markets on weekends.

BBH: That is so wonderful that you are able to do what you love for a living!

How did you get started making such intricate art? Are you formally trained?

Travis: No formal training!

I was an only child and have been doing art to kill time my entire life, though I've only been doing this kind of art for about four years now.

I've seen the style before (which I've only learned within the last year that the technical term/name is "Calligram"!) but on a smaller scale and started small myself by transcribing the famous Chappelle Show sketch where Charlie Murphy played basketball with Prince, which filled up a regular index card.

Then I just kept expanding from there, going from a comedy sketch to a song, to a stand-up comedy set, to an album, to a tv episode script, to—finally—a feature movie script.

BBH: That's amazing. I know as a left-handed person, my attempt at such art would end up being a series of blotches! Haha

And thanks for providing the technical term for what you makes perfect sense!

So what are your art influences? Do you have any particular artists who inspire you?

Travis: Mostly my influences are outside of fine art. Movies, shows, and music inspire me to make companion WoWa (short for WALLofWORDSart, of course) pieces.

BBH: That's a great abbreviation for your shop but, since I'm a Philly girl, I can't help but read it as Wawa!

When did you become a fan of Bo? Have you known about him for a long time, or did you discover him through Inside?

Travis: I've been a fan of Bo since day ONE. From the literal first video he uploaded behind his keyboard in his bedroom.

He'd also uploaded random comedy sketches like parodies of MTV's Cribs that had me fall in love with him and his comedy.

I, too, had a comedy YouTube channel and dared to view Bo as a contemporary at the time lmao. But I was a bonafide fan from the first press of play. 

BBH: Oh, OG fan! I only fell down the rabbit hole in 2019, so you've got me beaten by many years lol.

What inspired you to make art about Bo, and what is your general process from concept to the final product? 

Also, how do you determine the thickness of each letter? Do you start with a blueprint or plan, or do you just do it freestyle?

Either way, it's incredibly impressive!

Travis: Thanks!

Initially, my one rule was to make WoWa pieces that genuinely resonated with me, so I knew that I had to make one for Inside because that special is so damn genius and moving and quite literally lived in my thoughts for a full calendar year without a single day of not having some song stuck on repeat in my head.

My general process from start to finish involves the following: for screenplays, I use the script page count but, for albums, I copy and paste all of the lyrics from every track into a Google Doc and use the "word count" tool to determine how many "characters excluding spaces" comprise an entire body of work.

I've done it enough that the specific information from the tool informs me about how much space I have to play around with. 

So I mark out the border, then map out a light sketch of the image I want to tackle, pull the reference image and lyric document up on my computer and then just get to writing! 

You start writing as small, relative to the number of characters per project, then make itsy bitsy micro-adjustments along the way.

If I'm roughly halfway through the lyric doc and halfway down the paper, then I know I'm on the right track!

The main ingredient is patience, patience, patience!

BBH: Yeah, that does sound like it requires a ton of patience!

What mediums do you prefer to use for your art? What types of pens/pencils?

Have you ever considered using different colors, or is your preference black ink? It does have a classic look to it, so I totally get why you make your art in that fashion.

Travis: I use bristol paper with Micron pens! Microns are AMAZING.

The ink POPS on the page and they're so fine-tipped, I can write as tiny as I legibly can and they come in multiple ink tip sizes that I alternate to accentuate detail, shading, etc. 

But black is definitely my preference. I'll try color if a commission calls for it, but I just think the black and white is too clean to pivot away from and the colors I wish to brand myself with.

BBH: That makes a lot of sense!

So why did you decide to do the Shit silhouette from Inside? Is it just because it's an iconic image, or was there another significance to it?

Travis: Of course because it's so iconic, but to be honest, it wasn't my first choice. 

Initially, as soon as the special came out, I hit the ground running to make the Netflix promo image of Bo in the dark with a sliver of light running down his face from the door opening.

But about halfway through, I realized I over-shot the font size and would eventually run out of room.

Though it was a blessing because, by that time, that image had proven to not really stick with the iconography of Inside, so I moved on to the image that did stick the most: The All Eyes On Me close up.

It's the flagship image by a mile, so I pivoted to that one for my second attempt. But at the time, I hadn't really figured out how to accurately do a realistic portrait out of letters, so by the time I was about a third way through, I knew it wasn't really coming together for me.

Thus, the Shit silhouette!

Maybe the next biggest iconic image from the special and I had yet to experiment with tackling an array of light and color, so I moved forward with that plan and the third time was a charm!

I've never gone back to make a second version of the same body of work, but I've since learned how to make a realistic portrait out of the style, so I may go back and make an exception for Bo!

BBH: That would be awesome, especially if you could somehow capture the rainbow effect in Shit!

Will you ever do other Bo projects like Make Happy or even The Inside Outtakes? I would love to see you tackle the Can't Handle This pose with all the lights focused on Bo, for example.

Travis: Definitely plan on doing one for Make Happy and, you nailed it, the image I'd shoot for would definitely be the Can't Handle This pose.

I'm just trying to expand the oeuvre with a little more variety in artists/tv shows/movies before going back to the well and returning to any artist's other works.

BBH: That's understandable, but I'm SO thrilled you are planning to do that pose. I remember watching it for the first time in 2019 and thinking "this is ART."

Do you create other pop culture art besides Bo? How do you decide on your subject matter?

Travis: Most certainly! It's my main source of income now, so I'm always creating new pieces from various source materials. 

I do movies, tv episodes, albums, and stand-up comedy sets.

My rules used to be that I would only make pieces that personally resonated with me, but I do commissions and half of my commissions are Taylor Swift haha.

So as soon as Taylor announced at the MTV VMAs that she was releasing a new album the next month, I said fuck it, "sold out" and immediately worked on completing a piece for Midnights.

It's been maybe four months now, and it's already my second-most sold piece! Soooooo yeah haha

I'll be selling out a bit more and squeezing out pieces for some of the more popular albums from here on out.

BBH: Nothing wrong with that especially since it's your full-time job now. Can't worry about selling out when you've got a family to feed, in my opinion!

So you said the Taylor Swift art is your second-most popular work. What is your MOST successful piece of art? Any idea why it's so popular?

Travis: It's actually BO! 

I *never* would have guessed that Inside would have produced as many sales as it has, and I'm so grateful for it.

I think his work just simply, deeply, resonates with mostly everyone it reaches and on so many different levels.

My wife and I LOVE having any opportunity to introduce people to Bo's body of work, make a full marathon out of screening his "big 3" specials and it never fails to completely enwrap whoever we show.

BBH: That's incredible that Bo is your number-one item! I seriously had no idea when I got my copy that it was that popular.

I have not had an ounce of success trying to recruit new fans, so good for you and your wife showing people his three specials (poor Words Words Words being left in the dust! haha).

So what's your favorite piece aside from the Inside one? Least favorite?

Travis: I think it's Taylor's Midnights because I've always had difficulty making detailed portraits of people's faces out of letters and I finally cracked it with the Midnights piece.

My least favorite is probably Lizzo's just because it was my first piece after discovering micron pens, and I had less ability or tricks in my bag to do anything other than a very simple execution.

BBH: Wow, that is truly impressive about Taylor's portrait! And even if you don't like the Lizzo one as much, it's still really well done.

So I have a personal question. When I received my Inside word art from my husband for my 40th birthday last July (I call myself a word nerd, so this was the perfect gift for me lol), I also got an adorable personalized card with my name.

Is this something you do for all of your orders? Thanks so much for that card, by the way.

I absolutely adore it!

Travis: I love to hear it!

I used to make personalized thank you cards for every single purchase, but after the shop took off a bit, it just became too unfeasible.

The cards take 20-30 minutes each to make and, once the sales started picking up, most of my productivity was spent on making thank you cards.

So now I only offer them as personalized *gift cards* for buyers who have marked their orders as gifts. 

At one point, I was spending 1-3 hours a night making thank you/gift cards when that time could have been put toward new pieces.

BBH: Well, I certainly appreciated that bonus surprise in my package, so thank you for making the extra effort!

Speaking of which, I also received a humorous list of FAQs with my gift. Is that another item you send to all of your customers?

I love how you address the likelihood you have carpal tunnel from writing all those TINY letters. My hand seriously aches just looking at your word art haha.

Travis: I do! I have specific slips that pertain to each and every piece. Just trying to sprinkle in a little bit of personality with each order plus provide some context to their purchase or gift. 

BBH: That is very clever marketing and really makes your art stand out to me—the human touch is so rare nowadays!

So back to Bo.

How many many times have you watched Inside to make sure you have all the lyrics correctly written out?

Did you ever check the word art against the official lyrics book that came with the Inside Deluxe vinyl set? I know there has been some ongoing confusion about the exact wording of the All Eyes on Me chorus for example (it's "Hands down, pray for me. Heads down now" by the way).

Travis: While I've watched/listened to Inside around 50+ times now, I use to resource any and all lyrics for my art and did so for the Inside piece. But I've always been team "Heads down"!!!

BBH: Nice! Yes, is the best source for accuracy...and I love reading people's interpretations of the lyrics. I had initially missed a lot of Bo's complex puns until I'd checked out that website!

So tell me one fun fact about yourself. Do you have any specific hobbies or interests people don't know about?

Travis: My wife Madison and I are filmmakers!

That was initially what spurred me to start my WALLofWORDSart business, to help fund our filmmaking.

I've been working in and out of film for 15+ years now and finally got around to making my own films in 2019.

Since then, we've shot two shorts that have traveled the country and won lots of awards on the festival circuit.

We're also mid-production on a feature that Madison and I are producers on called "Queen Cecilia" and are currently developing our first feature that I'll be directing—we're hoping to shoot this year!

Here's a link to our first short, Why Haven't They Fixed the Cameras Yet? and an early look at our second short, Man Seeking Man, which will be released to the public this spring!

BBH: Wow, congratulations!

I had seen that your Bo art videos were on a YouTube channel called Wet Denim Productions, but I'd never put two and two together. Very cool!

So what's your favorite Bo song/special? You can name more than one.

Travis: They are all monumental works of art that inspire me in so many ways, but if you held a gun to my head, I'd choose the Make Happy special. 

As a once-upon-a-time Youtuber, touring rapper, and actor: My whole life I've been a performer in one way or another.

So in many ways, I can't help but empathize and relate to his message and songs like Can't Handle This and Are You Happy? never fail to make me tear up and feel some sort of way.

Make Happy is just the perfect marriage and balance between Bo's comedy and layered songwriting that I'll cherish for the rest of my life.

BBH: That is absolutely lovely, and I feel the same way about Make Happy and Inside.

As Bo has put it, we're all performing, and we all wish to be satisfied audience members.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you're working on currently?

Travis: Always! I'm in the middle of making a piece out of the Empire Strikes Back script and one for Kendrick Lamar's Damn.

My next "sell out" piece will be Harry Styles' newest album.

And the next TV episode script I'll be tackling is the pilot episode for Breaking Bad (my all-time favorite show). 

BBH: Those look great so far, and I'm a huge fan of Vince Gilligan's dramas as well. I can't wait to see how all of the new pieces turn out!

How can fans best support you? And do you have any social media that you'd like to plug?

Travis: You can buy prints from my Etsy shop found at Tell friends, share on social media, Reddit and anywhere online.

Follow me on Instagram and/or TikTok @WallOfWordsArt. 

And you can follow our filmmaking adventures on Instagram @WetDenimProductions.

BBH: Thanks so much for taking the time to discuss your word art with me, Travis, and good luck with your filmmaking!

Travis: Thanks for the interview! It was fun.


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