Interview by Tony Roberts
What type of art do you specialize in?
In fine art: Oil on canvas and graphite drawings.
In commercial art: logos, illustration.
What type of methods and material are used?
When I'm working in graphite (pencil lead), I mainly use a 4H pencil (the "H" system designates how hard/soft, light/dark a given graphite is). I draw on illustration board or vellum- vellum is like a high-grade, durable tracing paper.
When working in oil paint, I'll paint on canvas, generally trying to stick to natural-fiber brushes.
Most of my commercial art is a combo of hand-drawn roughs that are finished off digitally, primarily in Adobe Illustrator. My cartoon work is usually done in pen, ink and then colored pencil or digital coloring.
What has been the main source of inspiration for your art?
Many artists have created work that has inspired me. The list could go on and on. Then there's nature as well- I like flowing lines. There are also personal feelings and goals that have inspired me to create art- starting in childhood and moving forward, they have kind of come in this sequence: personal enjoyment and succeeding at an art piece, display of ability, enjoying the accomplishments of other artists, making people feel good and/or laugh, and professional success. All of the above are still inspirational factors to one degree or another.
How big of a part of your life is surfing?
Surfing has been pretty big. Surfing itself is incredible, and being involved in the surfing industry has been a definite factor in the artistic success that I've had.
Is there a connection between your art and your surfing? If so explain how.
Again, there's the industry thing mentioned above. But more important, surfing introduced me to a focus on clean lines and flows that may not have developed as much if I hadn't been a surfer. The ocean is incredibly aesthetic. By its own nature, it is entirely made up of flowing things- water, currents, waves, tides. And then there's the act of surfing itself; flowing lines and turns are key elements to good surfing.
Do you do any other sports, do they have an influence on your art?
Skateboarding has influenced me in the same way as surfing has- it's all about clean lines and smoothness. Even if your doing the latest 720 heel flip variation (not that I can do one), it's gonna feel and look better if you've got some smoothness in there. Also, skaters for the most part are a very creative group.
What connection does music have to art in general?
Music is obviously the most widely expressed artform. It creates vibe very immediately, whereas other artforms may require more time to assimilate. And even then, the vibe of static or visual art is much more open for individual interpretation. Music has a stronger power to unify people- it's easier for musicians to communicate to a broader audience.
And your art?
Music can definitely influence the vibe of a piece.
What are some of your favorite types of music to listen to?
Funk, metal, disco, soul.
How old were you when you first considered yourself an artist, and what were you creating?
I was pretty young. The consideration definitely started by six. I was into drawing, and was a fan of a great commercial artist named Stanley Mouse who created a lot of famous 70s art. My mother explained what a commercial artist is. I told her that was what I wanted to be.
How old were you the first time you made money off art and what was it?
I think it had to be a skimboard that I airbrushed for Cello (Marcel Soros). We duplicated his surfboard's art, I think. We were around 15. I think he gave me twenty bucks.
How do you stay inspired?
There's no staying inspired- it's a continual condition. I have been very briefly uninspired, though, if that makes any sense. In other words, I didn't necessarily do something to get inspiration back. I know it's never lost.
Who are your present favorite artists, what do they do, and why are you so stoked on their work?
I'm a huge admirer of Alexander Calder. He lived until the 70s or 80s. I recently saw an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in SF. He's most known for his sculpture, but he drew, painted and did industrial design. His abstract sculpture work, which included hanging mobiles, is completely in line with my taste in abstract art- the design, aesthetics, lines and curves, color and texture. It's all there. I don't think I have a more favorite artist in the abstract realm. Currently, there's Banksy- he's mainly known for his graffiti work but, he transcends that media with powerful and unique pictoral messages. Another active artist I sometimes look forward to seeing work from is Bob Ryden- the subject matter in his oils and his painting style are insane. I get a dreamlike, weird sense of my past when I look at some of his stuff- he'll often paint using toys as models, the toys being ones from the same era that I was very young in. He'll bring them to life and put them in elaborate, bizarre settings. And then, I have to mention another guy. I love Cubism, and Pablo Picasso's is great.
Who were your first artistic influences?
My mom is an artist and was very encouraging. Also, Kelly Mouse, who I mentioned earlier.
And your favorite unknown underground artist?
Unknown is a relative term, but the first guy who comes to mind is Raymond Pettibone, of Black Flag album art, etc. He's pretty damn huge now, though. Same statement for Banksy.
Can an artist "sell out"?
Not by accepting money or even large sums of it. Only by compromising one's beliefs or integrity. For example, a lung cancer activist who accepts money to do a cigarette ad.
If so, have you?
Here and there I've been subject to bad art direction that I would rather not have followed. I've also done a little bit of work on certain food industry projects- I hope to see positive change in various aspects of that feild and in the way that animals are handled.
(Commercial work aside) when embarking upon a new project, do you care about what others will think about it? how much so and to what degree does this go into the planning of a new work?
Most work is done with the idea of communicating something, so there's always going to be a regard for at least one other person's viewpoint, usually many viewpoints. I enjoy presenting work that others will appreciate, so I'm very fortunate in that my art happens to appeal to a lot of people. How much care for other's thoughts can vary as much as the art itself can, I suppose. I can definitely put myself into other's viewpoints while creating. It's cool because if you choose, creating can be a mixture of your own ideas and what you estimate other's input would be. On another hand, when it comes to uncommissioned art, there are many times when I'm purely creating what I as an individual would want.
What formal art training/education have you undergone?
Grade school art classes and a design program at University of California Santa Cruz.
Were your parents artists?
Both are excellent at drawing, and my mother also does a lot of canvas and mixed-media work.
Have drugs had an effect on your art?
Any drugs I ever did only hampered my overall ability to create. If you look at artists and people who tout drugs as a tool, you can see that the vast majority end up quitting or harmed or both.
A couple of the effects of alcohol are impaired dexterity and judgement, so I don't think an artist would be better at rendering his or her ideas while intoxicated.
I would say yes, conceptually, regarding certain pieces. It's mostly the concept of beauty and how that can lend a sense of divinity.
Definitely in a visual/commercial way. It also has plenty of cheesiness and humor that can inspire a lot of ideas. You gotta be aware of the negative effects if you're going to watch it at all, though.
Does your environment impact your art?
Yes. It's very beautiful here (Santa Cruz, California). Plus the social environment has inspired some political cartoon work that has been fun to produce.
How about the weather (affecting your art)?
Yeah- I like the foggy scenes we can get up here in Northern California, and some of the big, grey-green, looming kind of surf. The greens and blues and greys, together, are very beautiful.
Has your art factored in on your decision on where to live, why and to what degree?
Not particularly, but now that I think of it, if I were to sit down in some funky place and be attempting to paint a beautiful scene of the ocean, it would be a bit tougher because I would very much miss the real thing. Then again, it would also be rewarding to do so, because the main function is the participation with your subject matter and media, uneffected by external circumstances.
I saw this permanent sculpture in the ghetto in Hunters Point, San Francisco that was a pile of tin cans glued together. Where does "garbage" stop and "art" start?
First let me speak on the example given. The tin cans and glue are simply the medium- the piece itself could be good or bad, I suppose. I haven't seen it. I think that a piece can only be gauged on how well it serves the artist's purpose. Does it communicate what he wanted? If abstract to any degree, does it invoke the range of emotions or understanding he wanted it to?
In your opinion, what constitutes "art"?
Good communication. If you consider any art that you're intrigued by, there's probably something it has given or communicated. And the artist probably intended it to communicate something or another.
Has the computer affected your art? If so how?
Computers are great for my graphic design and they're great for making reproduction and publishing more accessible to all of us. They have improved my speed immensely- once the basic thing is laid down, you can very quickly vary, refine and perfect something.
Art-wise, please give me your take on graffiti:
Graffiti is art and I sometimes enjoy the styles. Not all graffiti incorporates vandalism, but if that is part of the question, vandalism is not good.
I like some of the Tahitian and Maori stuff. I guess I like tattoos where they have profound and symbolic meaning for the bearer.
A good tool. Some artists are incredible with it.
I can enjoy a well done, cheesey-humored and/or insightful comic.
What style of art have you never done that you would like to do?
What does the future hold for your art?
Hopefully more and better of everything I'm doing. Maybe taking on new things, like that stone carving. Maybe some more writing, too.