5 & 3/4 QUESTIONS
1. Describe yourself and your work. My parents are artists who met in the Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love. When I was growing up, we lived on the land in a camper. I’m now 45, and except for babysitting and mowing lawns when I was 14, I have never worked as anything but an artist. The key to that is not expecting to get rich.
Part of my work is juvenile—I love Mad magazine. My work has an illustrative element, although figures haven’t been showing up as much lately. It’s becoming more abstract, which I think is a natural progression.
A lot of my work has collage elements and involves weathering of things, whether I actually let something sit for a while or weather it artificially. It’s art about the passage of time and people and material passing through time.
I’m not a fan of paintings that hit you over the head. I like things that are a little opaque. In some ways my work is really obvious, but obvious about what?
2. How did you get started? When I was in junior high, Steve Oliff, a Superhero Comics colorist who lived in my small town, hired me and some other kids to help with his comic-book coloring. I don’t believe in this idea that if you just visualize something, you can have it. Everything’s 99 percent luck. I had skills I developed from lots of hours of drawing, but that would have been nothing without Steve giving me that opportunity.
Later, I went to the Academy of Art. I didn’t see any illustrative art in galleries when I was growing up, and I thought that because I wanted to be more illustrative, I’d have to be a commercial artist. So I was.
When the lowbrow art movement started in the early to mid-1990s, I saw that graffiti, tattoos, and comic books could be fine art. Robert Williams and other lowbrow artists were having successful art careers, and I thought, “I could make paintings.” I started having art shows.
3. What piece of work best represents you and why? I just did a commission for Hyatt, the hotel chain. It’s not what you would call hotel art, like Thomas Kinkade. They let me do whatever I wanted.
This piece is 11 feet by 13 feet, and I worked on it off and on for eight months. I made it with the same techniques I use on pieces that are inches big, but I had to scale up to this huge thing. It was super labor-intensive—I used more than 1,000 pieces of archival paper!
It was an intense chore in a way, but I think art should be work. When I make art, I like to be in a little bit of a painful place, pushing myself. I’m a glass-half-empty guy. I think life is hard, and my art represents what I feel life is about.
4. What are you currently interested in? I’m making art furniture with my buddy Greg. We made a coffee table bench for my latest show, and I’m interested in making more.
5. Which three things have you learned that young creatives should know?
There’s no substitute for hard work. Even if you’re talented, you’ve got to put in a ton of time to become a master at it.
For commercial artists, the most difficult part is client relationships. Work on that as much as you can. I’ve had to struggle with that. Even though it’s distasteful, you have to deal with it.
With certain clients and art directors, you can help yourself by making a big mistake on purpose that’s easy to fix. If you feel you’re really nailing, it, just misspell something. They’ll catch it and tell you to fix it, and they’ll feel like they’ve done their job.
5¼. Favorite color? Dark red; just slightly lighter than maroon: 10 C, 100 Y, 100 M, and 5 K.
5½. Favorite website? My current favorite is Discogs.com. It’s an exhaustive list of pop and rock music, where you can find places to buy vinyl. I’m a big vinyl guy.
5¾. Pet peeve? I have two art-related pet peeves. I have a million others that aren’t related to art.
One: There’s a general disrespect for intellectual property. When people see an image, they don’t think about who made it—they just use it. My poster art friends are always finding T-shirts that people make from their art. Artists aren’t getting paid for that.
Two: Everything’s been done before, but I run up against people who think the person who appropriates an idea first has dibs on it.
They say, “You’re copying that style.” What they don’t know is that that person’s style is like this jazz cover artist from the 1930s, and many people do his style now. All artwork is somewhat derivative.