In 2011, Tony “TEMPT ONE” Quan became the first graffiti writer in the world to get up — the draw on walls, in Graffiti-speak — using just the movement of his eyes to create art. This historic bomb was featured at the Pasadena Museum of California Art  

That was his ninth year anniversary of being diagnosed with ALS and that art piece was made possible thanks to the eyewriter, an open source pair of eye-tracking digital glasses that allowed him to draw, type, and speak using just the movements of his eyes. That inspiring project was documented in Quan’s self-titled documentary: Getting Up: The TEMPT ONE Story.

TEMPT is an iconic graffiti artist whose handstyles first harmonized the precision of Chinese calligraphic lines with the boldness of classic serif Los Angeles “cholo” letters. His ability to draw again was a revolutionary moment in mankind and our deep love for art.

TEMPT ONE’s 3D graffiti sculpture in 2011 at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, a collaboration with ANGST, EYEONE, DEFER, PRIME and SLICK. Photo by Rojelio Cabral

Fast forward to 2018 and the independent artist is still showing Lou Gehrig’s Disease who is the boss. He is the embodiment of the term “going down swinging” and to celebrate his 15th anniversary of not giving up, L.A. Taco reached out to him to find out how life has been treating him and of course, find out his favorite taco.   

Uniting for TEMPT ONE, at the fundraiser: BIG SLEEPS, DEF, SLICK, ANGST, Shepard Fairey, CHAZ and NUKE. Photo by Javier Cabral

L.A. Taco: How are you doing today?
TEMPT ONE: I’m doing good. Staying focused, and staying positive in the struggle.

How does it feel to stay kicking ALS’s ass 15 years later?
Well, I’m not out of the woods yet — not by a long shot. With ALS, it’s about small victories over a long period of time, and in recent years I’ve been noticing small reversals in the disease. Sometimes it’s a “two steps forward, three steps back” type of thing, so it’s important to not get easily discouraged.

Are there any secrets?
There’s no real secret to it, just exercise and a plant-based diet. Juices and smoothies with nutritional supplements, and everything organic and non-GMO. Before I was diagnosed, I ate the standard American diet —  meat and dairy, a lot of fast-food, etc. So I just stopped all that and began eating healthy. There’s no magic to it. Eat shit, get sick. Eat healthy, feel better.

What motivates you every morning?
Every day I do my exercises and healthy vegan program, I never take a day off. Why would I? Anything you want to achieve takes perseverance. Besides, I like the results I’m getting.

Give us a day in the life of you, what’s your morning ritual like and the rest of the day?
Get up just after 7 A.M., start the day with a good amount of water, then a fruit and nut smoothie at about 8:30 A.M. At about 10 A.M., I do some circulation work. At noon I have another blender smoothie and bathe at about 1 P.M. Then I catch up on my messages or what have you, take a power nap if needed, then a veggie smoothie at about 5 P.M. for dinner. More circulation work at about 9:30 P.M., and lights out at 11.

Know the history, respect the culture, and forge your own path.

Now for the tough question What is your favorite taco? Think hard about this answer…
Well, back when my diet was crazy, I used to love the tacos dorados from Carnitas Michoacan No. 3 in East L.A., the ones from Lucy’s on Pico and La Brea, and Ciro’s in East LA (closed also), and Al & Bea’s. You have to remember that this was back before the foodie explosion in L.A., so if my tastes seem a little ordinary compared to “rabbit meat tacos with corn tortillas dipped in squid ink” scene, well, what can I say? I’m old school with it, not trying to reinvent the wheel. Something about those greasy deep fried tacos always did it for me — especially after a long day of painting. LOL.  

How do you feel about the graff game in 2018?
Back when I started, kids did it for the passion and the love, but today everything seems so…calculated. Although, I do see some interesting work from time to time.

Are there any young bloods that you have your eye on?  
It’s hard to say because I haven’t been around in so long. You can see things online, but that doesn’t give you a sense of whether or not a writer is grounded in the history and being innovative or just mimicking someone they like online.

I know you collaborated for that show in Pasadena a while back, have you drawn any new bombs lately?
No, my main priority right now is beating ALS and bringing awareness about the benefits of a healthy plant-based diet.

Your iconic handstyles have inspired many around the world, do you have any advice for any young graff writers out there?
Know the history, respect the culture, and forge your own path.

What are your plans for the future?
I have a fundraiser going on and I got some new projects in the works so keep an eye out. Much respect to L.A. Taco for the love.

Thanks for speaking with us. STAY UP.

Editor’s note: TEMPT ONE is still currently paralyzed, hospitalized, and depends upon 24-hour care. To help with his daily costs of staying up and keep him afloat, Quan has launched a Generosity account. If you enjoy his art and are inspired by his story, we strongly encourage you to donate anything you can.  Follow him on Instagram