If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Morley’s Chalkboard Wall Project

Morley’s street art is incredibly distinct. Though his trademark outline can be seen on just about every piece, his work is not really about him. Rather, as he says in his 2014 book, If You’re Reading This There’s Still Time“it’s about the relationship that [the people] have to the messages they’ve stumbled upon — basic, yet intimate, messages aimed at a city full of people and the dreams they’ve deferred, the loves they’ve lost, and the jobs they hate.”


Morley is not the only one to identify this relationship between the public voices and his street art. In a 2012 article entitled “Best of Street Art in LA”, the blogsite Melrose and Fairfax recognizes this connection as well. They write, “Morley is a poet of the streets. Those are our words, not his.”

Typically, this relationship is implicit, an understood connection where Morley seems to echo the voices of our culture. However, in one of Morley’s most recent projects, this connection between the people and his message moves into a much more direct territory. Using a chalkboard wall, and the phrase, “If I knew then what I know now…” Morley actually invites and includes public participation in his thought-provoking street art.

Check out his take on the process:


I’ve always fantasized about getting to communicate with my younger self. To warn him of upcoming complications or encourage him at his low points, to make a promise of the surprises and joys that he will experience. To be the one person that gets it- that knows exactly what he is going through and offer the relief in the knowledge that he will survive it all.

On Sunday, May 3rd — 2015, I went to Carlsbad, CA, where I was invited to paint a mural. The wall was offered to me by Bryan Snyder, a wonderful artist himself. I was asked to be one in a series of rotating artists to paint this wall. Prior to my visit, it had belonged to BumblebeeLovesYou whose work was really quite lovely. I have never pretended to be the world’s greatest painter and am well aware of the limits to my abilities. The last thing I wanted was for the community in Carlsbad to weep at the loss of Bumblebee’s beautiful mural at the sight of mine. But, I thought- perhaps what I can bring to the piece is something unique in its interactivity.

With that in mind, I decided to turn the wall into a giant chalkboard that said: “IF I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW” and encouraged people to use the wall as a sort of “creative time machine” where they could write messages to their younger selves. To those who lived far away or otherwise couldn’t make it out, I asked them to e-mail me their messages and that I would write them on the wall in their absence. The hope was that although time travel is impossible (no matter how many crystals, potions or bedazzled cardboard boxes you buy off of e-bay), that these lessons could be of use to someone else- someone who needs to know what you have learned. Someone who you can have learned this lesson for.

My wife filmed the project, where you can watch it come together:

IF I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW… from Morley on Vimeo.

Next week, the artist Annie Preece will be taking it over and I’m excited to see what she comes up with.

Looking back, it was an awesome experience. It was so much fun to see it evolve as it was cleaned off every couple weeks and, hopefully, acted as a source of hard earned wisdom for all who happened upon it.

Special thanks to Bryan SnyderSenior Grubby’s and the good people of Carlsbad, CA.

– Morley (IAmMorley.com)

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