BL!SSS Mag: You’ve recently made the move from NYC (Brooklyn??) to Portland, OR. I know Portland has a fresh underground art scene but that was a really interesting move to me. Why did you move away from the Mecca of New York City to Portland?
Man, nowadays I’m not really concerned about meccas of culture or hotspots in art. I work for myself and work mostly from home so for me, having space is just about the most important thing I could give myself right now. In that sense New York (Brooklyn & Queens) just wasn’t filling the bill. Above all else, rent in NY is stupid expensive and I was paying way too much money to live in a crowded apartment in a crappy part of town. I mean, I was living literally underneath the elevated train in Queens right before I decided to leave New York. It was kind of like a funny, but bad, movie scene. Plus, I’m a country boy really, having grown up mostly in rural NH for much of my formative years, I guess I’ve just been itching to stretch my legs out so to speak.. go somewhere where I could have a full blown studio, make a mess, build stuff. I’m almost 30 now and after 12 years plus of city life, I’m just ready to get out and do some exploring… ya know for gold, god and glory.

Besides the obvious, what are some major differences between the two?
Portland is a bit of the “anti-New York”. Everybody moves and talks much more slowly and takes everything much more leisurely, For the most part people are in no great rush which I kind of enjoy. Car traffic is a hell of a lot less and a hell of a lot more courteous. I mean, if you are waiting at a cross walk sometimes cars will stop for you even if they have a green! I mean, can you imagine that in New York! Overall, people seem to place a lot more emphasis on quality of life in Portland.. good food, a down to earth outlook,, and lots more patience! Plus, Portland has way better beer and coffee than New York.

As an artist, what are some advantages and disadvantages of living in Portland?
The main advantage: space. The next best advantage: cheapness. In other words, you can get an apartment, house, studio, workspace etc for way bigger and for way cheaper than you ever could in other cities. Plus, people here are very supportive of artists and always hungry for new work.
The main disadvantage would be that everybody is an artist. So right from the jump, you kind of find yourself lumped in together with all the other sponge printers, quilters, hand bag makers, painters, performers and would be craftsmen that inhabit the city. This can be a pain in the ass when trying to explain to people you do more than decorate recycled wood with painted flowers.

You seem to be quite proficient in using Photoshop, illustrator, ect, as well as in fine art. How important do you think it is for artists these days to be skilled in both mediums?
For me, it’s important being able to take my own work, scan or photograph it, bring it onto the computer and being able to present and dissiminate it to other people, either via
my website or through email, etc. Plus, I do a lot of freelance and commercial projects that require me being able to create, change and manipulate my work for clients. But probably the main reason I’m proficient in using the computer is less my fine art work and more in my role as art director for my tshirt brand, Tank Theory. So for me, it is very important to have both skill sets. But for others, who maybe do paintings on canvas, this is probably less important.

This is a pretty stock question but are there any out of the ordinary things that influence you?
Science and nature have always been a pretty large influence on me. Like medical journals and scientific field notes.. that type of thing.. I love the idea that the scientists of yore, studying in the field, also had to be artists of sorts, drawing nature and cyles, cataloging species, taking notes on characteristics and behaviors, I also love old sears & robuck catalogs and magazines from the 40s and 50s. There is nothing quite like spending 2 hours in a thrift store, garage sale, or flea market sifting through old periodicals and magaines. The smell of old paper is kind of intoxicating in a way and something about that act of digging is like rummaging through the past.

The characters you draw seem devious and appear to have an evil side to them. How would describe their demeanor?
I like to consider it less of an evil side and more just plain pissed off. Most of the characters I create represent an unseen side of man or nature and that side is pretty pissed off at being buried and ignored.

You’ve done some sweet collaborations with brands like K2 Snowboards, Ecko and Osirus. Are you ever approached by companies that you wouldn’t work with?
I mean I grew up skateboarding and snowboarding so almost any company that works
in skate & snow I love to work with just because I have always wanted to design boards and stuff since a youngin.. I think I would hesitate to work for any type of cosmetic company or any fast food chain if they were to approach me. Not that I think they would.

With that said, do you feel like there is a line that can be crossed that makes an artist a “sell out”?
That’s a tough question these days. I’m not even sure “selling out” is valid anymore, as almost every artist I know works individually and commercially. Hell, the first time I worked on a pair of skis I considered myself a sell out because I don’t even ski. That was almost like working for the enemy for me considering I grew up skating. But the project was also really fun to work on and a got a couple pairs for free that I gave away to good friends.. so it was also awesome. So to be honest, I really don’t know how to answer that one anymore… I mean art & commerce are only getting closer and closer together.

We are in an interesting time with the web and being able to discover new artists online without even seeing the work in person (that’s how I discovered your art for the first time). How important is the web to you and how do you make yourself relevant and stand out from the rest?
Yeah, the internet is pretty important to me because it affords me from working a full time job or working in an office.. I really enjoy working from home and at my own pace on things and the internet has made that possible for me. I am working on projects here in Portland for clients in New York. That’s great and something I don’t think would be possible without the internet.
But it is also an isolating factor and that bugs me. I mean, the same tool that allows my work to be seen by thousands more people than would ever see it in person, is also the tool that kind of isolates you from the outside world and gives you a false sense of comraderie.. I mean look at myspace and facebook and all those ‘friend’ sites. How many of those people do you actually know? But I guess as long as your work is fresh and unique, there will be an audience for it. And the internet basically broadens that audience.

I was just at a Hollywood Banksy-esqe type show (without knowing, you’d swear it was his burnt twin brother without his own identity) and pieces were flying out the door for thousands of thousands of dollars. What’s your take on the whole Banksy craze and the people who are riding his coattails?
Yeah, well I know this other artist Blek Le Rat was actually his protégé and doing very similar work.. I think he just resurfaced and is getting the attention he finally deserves
for doing very similar work. Regarding other artists who are riding the stencil street level
artwork, I don’t really have an opinion to be honest. It isn’t particularly new getting up on the street. I just think it’s an extention of bombing and wanting to get up and noticed in a public space. But then again, if somebody is straight up copying, then that’s never cool.

The art world is a business like everything else but what to you equals personal success?
Creating work that makes YOU happy.. like when you do something and it just clicks and you’re like yes! It’s awesome to get recognition for your work and your style, but it often times turns into pigeonholing because people kind of demand to see more of that same work. That’s what is happening to some degree in my case. I’ve found myself stuck because galleries and clients are offering jobs to me for work I don’t necessarily want to do anymore. So for me success is doing what you want to do and still being accepted for doing it, even if it is constantly changing and evolving.

What do you want to accomplish when it’s all said and done?
Shit, I’m honestly still trying to figure that out. My main goal with my art and design is to travel through it and meet new people and see new places. Once I have traveled the globe, learned some new languages and gone as far as I can go, I’ll probably find my perfect mountain, climb to the top, turn, wave at the crowd below, then retreat forever. Or maybe just merge with the infinite.

Any shout outs, projects or future shows you want to plug?
Big shout out to Tank Theory and the new season called Sign Language that is just dropping now. Check out www.tanktheory.com when you get a second. Also, make sure to check out www.zenvironments.com. By the time this interview comes out, I should have a bonafied shopping cart on there selling new silkscreen prints I just had made, amongst other goods. Plus, keep an eye out for some new Wanderer series to come out shortly too. Otherwise, I am doing an installation show at Thinkspace gallery in LA this September and a big show in NY at the Jonathan Levine gallery in February of 2009. Keep an eye out! And thanks very much for the opportunity!

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