Dondi, born Donald White was a New York native of African-American and Italian-American descent. He began his career in graffiti in the 70s and was one of the many artists to spray paint the trains of New York’s MTA. However Dondi set himself apart from the numerous other graffiti artists by his attention to detail.
He would practice his pieces over and over in sketchbooks and with outlines before finally putting them up. Although Dondi was very capable in the “wildstyle” of graffiti which espouses elaborate lettering that is at times difficult or impossible to read, he also was known for writing letters that were legible, mostly large or block type so that the public could read his work. The large lettering also allowed for Dondi to develop elaborate fill patterns within the letters.
In 1980 Dondi joined a project called “Esses Studio”, it was by a man named Sam Esses in order to preserve the graffiti that was being destroyed by the MTA. The project did much more than preserve art, it united a community of graffiti artists who had been divided by rivalries. Dondi emerged from the project with a new angle, he joined a group called “The Soul Artists” and began to exhibit his art in galleries. Dondi sought inspiration for his art from his childhood, the work of DaVinci and of course the graffiti style to which he was accustomed.