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Interviews

  • POW Chats: A Conversation With Artist Chris Ryniak



    Vanilla_Shuftergrundler-Chris_Ryniak-Acrylic-trampt-48240o

    Chris Ryniak is a long-time illustrator of mini monsterized characters and big-eyed cute and creepy things. We recently had a chit chat with the artist discussing his first POW release "Mothpup," and much more.

    Hey Chris. What were your early childhood career aspirations? Did they include illustrating tiny, beloved and bug-eyed creatures?

    Early on I just wanted to make cartoons, but once I started watching monster movies, all I wanted to do was make monsters.

    "MothPup" is your fourth release with POW and your first cut-to-shape project with the team. Can you tell us about this release and who this little guy is?

    "Mothpup" sprung from one of my daily drawings that I post on social media. The original drawing is of him just below a light bulb, looking wide-eyed and mesmerized. I think "Mothpup" is just a monsterized version of a baby moth, full of curiosity! I saw a post on the Prints On wood Instagram showing some cut-to-shape prints they were testing out and commented how much I liked them, then Erin contacted me to do one!

    Years ago, good friend of POW, Jeff Soto, actually interviewed you for FecalFace.com. That was really cool and refreshing. How did you and Jeff decide to have him interview you for the publication?

    Jeff has been a good friend of mine for a really long time now. We kind of came up in the same galleries in the early 2000's, but only saw each other when I was out in LA. I know Jeff knew the Fecal Face folks, so I think it was their idea. It's still the best interview I've ever done, I think because he knows me so well, so he knew what to ask!

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    When you are beginning on a piece, what are the routines, practices or rituals you engage in before getting to work?

    GET OUT OF BED! I start working on my drawings every day before I do anything. A lot of days, it hurts to do it, but it's like any exercise, you have to do it because you know it's good for you. I think what works best for me is to just get to it, no matter what I'm doing. Thinking too long on projects often slows me down, so I try to just keep moving. I grab some clay or a pencil and just start working.

    Can you describe what your studio/work space is like?
    I actually have 2 now. The new studio upstairs in a brand-new addition to my house that I share with my girlfriend and collaborator Amanda Louise Spayd. It has vaulted ceilings and 16 linear feet of custom work tables along one wall for us to work side-by-side.I do all of my design work, business operations and initial sculpting in there. The other studio is my messy basement workshop where building, molding, casting and painting get done. I need a lot of space because I'm often working on multiple projects at once that require different media.

    Where is your attention focused on these days artistically? What are the main projects taking up your time?

    Mostly sculpting, molding, casting and painting. I have 1-2 big gallery shows every year and it takes 4-6 months to complete the work for each one. The molding and casting process is tedious and time-consuming, so I have to really plan ahead. The rest of the time I spend drawing, working on new merchandise and toy-designing.

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    Who are you aside from being an artist? What are the other adjectives or descriptive words that make up your character?

    I'm a Dad and BBQ-er. I'm anxious, hungry, relentless and often complaining about my aching joints!

    What individuals -- who are not artists -- are you inspired by in this era of your life? 

    I'm a big fan of Adam Savage, who is more of a maker than an artist. Guillermo Del Toro has been someone I've admired for some time. He's also an artist, but he's a director, a fan, a big kid, a visionary and has a huge heart.

    What are you most looking forward to this summer that has zero to do with work or creative obligations?
    Walking down the creek with my kids and catching snakes and tadpoles!

  • POW Chats: A Conversation with Cartoonist and Illustrator Renee French

    RFrench-Ben-Mendolsohn

    Renee French is revered for her uncanny ability to work with detailed and meticulous cross-hatching illustration methods to create tiny characters and beloved cartoons with anthropomorphic tendencies. Well-known as a respected illustrator and cartoonist, Renee is as well a treasured author, constructing children's books under the pen name Rainy Dohaney for little art enthusiasts in the making. Scroll below for a conversation with Renee about her inspirations, dream oddities and more.  

    1. Hi Renee. Tell me about your first print release with POW titled "Stu." Who is this little guy, how did he come about and what's his backstory?

    Hi Kim! The whole POW process was a great experience. Stu was part of a collection of animal portraits that started with my muse, Ivey Breiman -- an incredibly cute, tiny, round, chihuahua with her tongue sticking out -- and morphed into other animals who had similar emotional pull for me. I fall in love with each character as I'm working on them. I really wish they'd just start walking around in the real world, but I guess that would be terrifying.

    2. What ideas or themes do you find are consistently revisited in your work, if any?

    Cute animals with tiny hands and emotional eyes. Swarms of insects, and sometimes those things together. 1970s hair, unrealistic facial deformity, water, islands, and cliffs. And flies.

    RFrench-Beak
    3. When beginning on an illustration, how do you prepare for the story you're looking to evoke?

    It depends on what kind of image it is, but almost always, it's got to do with my mood when I sit down. If it's a character, it doesn't matter how much I try to control the emotion, it ends up looking the way I feel at the time, and it can change midstream since the drawings rarely take less than a day to finish.
    4. Can you describe your current studio/work space for readers?

    Mostly I end up working in rooms other than my workspace; wherever there's a comfy chair or couch, or in hotel rooms on the bed. I draw on a board on my lap, on top of throw pillows, or a rolled up jacket, or whatever, and I wear magnifying glasses and listen to podcasts while I draw, so it can be almost anywhere. My workspace is a little room with a stand up desk, and a computer and a tiny tv.
    5. What artists do you find yourself inspired by in this era of your life?

    I love the whole LA art scene lately, but the artists I look at the most lately are Scott Teplin (@steplin ), Benjamin Constantine (@plumpe_ostere ), Allison Sommers ( @allisonsommers ), Mike Lee ( @immikelee ), Matt Gordon ( @mattgordon_paintings ) William Kentridge, Anke Feuchtenberger, and Paul Barnes, and the ones I forgot.

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    6. Do you dream? If so, do you remember any of your recent ones? Do you have any reoccurring dreams by chance?

    Yes, for sure. I have a lot of cliffs in my dreams. Pushing Mark Ruffalo off a cliff (I love Mark Ruffalo so that was a nightmare, man!), flying up to the edge of a cliff and seeing it covered in snails so I couldn't grab on... and last night I dreamed that I was living in a carnival tent that was half hanging over the edge of a cliff, and training tiny monkeys to drink from tea cups, and apparantly it was a crucial job, like serious Interpol business with tea drinking monkeys.

    7. What themes/lessons of life do you feel you're encountering right now? 

    Life is short. Do what you love. The classics.
    8. What work/ creative projects do you have coming up that you're looking forward to?

    Scott Teplin -- an amazing New York artist and friend -- and I are working on a 2 person show where we're drawing and painting our school teachers from memory. Some are hazy, pretty, giant hair studies (the hair is giant not the drawings) and some are grotesque and some are sad. I think the exhibition will be at La Luz De Jesus.

    I'm also working on a portrait for the Archibald Prize in Australia, and some portraits for the next issue of Tiny Pencil Magazine, and a secret picture book project that involves tiny animal hands.

    French_Dog-With-Steven-Weber-Hair

  • POW Chats: A Conversation with Painter Moira Hahn

    print_on_wood_under_water_world_moira_hahn Under Water World

    Moira Hahn's anthropormorphic and eastern-inspired paintings offer a vibrant and unique layer to the contemporary art scheme. In honor of her solo show at Los Angeles' Gregorio Escalante, and her first Prints on Wood release title "Under Water World," we chat with the artist about her methods, inspirations and more.

    1. Hi Moira. You just had a solo exhibition open at the Gregorio Escalante Gallery in LA this weekend. Can you tell us about the show and the content?

    Hi Kim, Thank you! The show is an exploration of my art, spanning the past twenty years, with a large component  from the past two years (eleven paintings).

    2. You just released your first print with POW titled "Under Water World" earlier this month. Can you talk about that print and the visual elements showcased in it?

    The image is a meditation about disasters -- including earthquakes, tsunamis and financial hardships -- that have affected Japan and the United States recently. Friends in Japan told me first-hand about the devastation caused by the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami. Five years later, a quarter-million Japanese are still homeless. Meanwhile, at the peak of the ‘Great Recession’, a third of the mortgages in LA County were ‘underwater’ due to the crash. The economies of both countries are still precarious. So my image is about cherishing, protecting and sustaining our families and friends, through difficult times.

    3. Your style is very notable and distinct. What are your tools of choice and what does your method entail?

    Most of the works are transparent watercolor paintings on Rives BFK (a printmaking paper) or Arches cold press watercolor paper. I glaze with multiple layers of color to get a very controlled and saturated effect, akin to the look of Japanese woodblock prints, or fin de siecle (end of the 19th century) American lithographic posters.

    Blue Moon Blue Moon

     

    4) When preparing to begin on a painting, what rituals, practices or routines do you do in order to get equipped for the task?

    When I start something new, I clear my drafting table and clean all my brushes and paint dishes. The open space makes me feel like working.  I have an extensive library of reference books, and also spend time visiting art galleries, museums, and conventions to get inspired. Recently, I’ve started using Google image search and Pinterest for research. I also buy (or make) 3D props, as needed, for compositions underway.

    5. Can you talk about the Asian influences expressed in your art? I understand your father was really intrigued by the culture also.

    Right, he lived in China for a couple of years during World War II. He was an avid documentary-type still photographer, fascinated by Chinese culture and art. I grew up with Chinese art that he acquired in the 40s. His best friend served in Japan as the US Envoy to Kobe and Osaka in the 1950s-60s, so he also used to send my family art, traditional attire, folk toys and miniature architectural models. My sister and I were mesmerized by these beautifully handcrafted visions of another world, which seemed like a precious, lost world, or like heaven. To my mind, as a child, it was a much cooler world.

    6. You've also been known to showcase your interest in "Persian miniatures, Tibetan Thanka paintings, Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, Indian animal drawings and Chinese guardian figures," can you talk about these specific influences and why you feel you're drawn towards them?

    The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) hosted an exhibition about Mughal (Indian) miniatures a few years ago  that was so breathtaking; I visited it four times with and without classes of my college art students. My cousin, Ed Bernbaum, is a trekker and mountain scholar who has traveled extensively through, and written books about, Tibet and Nepal. I illustrated his first book, “The Way to Shambhala”, over 35 years ago. Viewing Ed’s slide shows of his travels, including images of Thanka art, when I was a child, fostered my interest in the art form. My parents collected Ukiyo-e. A curator gifted me with a book of Indian animal drawings. We acquired a large scale Ming Dynasty painting of a guardian figure at a moving sale a few years ago, which was authenticated by a curator at LACMA. The curator later introduced me to other Ming and Quing dynasty paintings of ‘our’ guardian, Guan Di, and to other Chinese emperors, Gods, and cultural heroes. I seem to have had a natural affinity for Eastern representational and narrative art from as far back as I can recall, fed early on by my parents’ and their friends’ travels and aesthetics.

    moira hahn

    7. You've worked in the animation industry and for some great publications and media entities. Can you talk about your animation background and how that's played out through your career?

    I fell in love with Disney animation at an early age, probably with the film “Bambi”. When I studied the craft in a graduate program at CalArts 20 years later, however, the repetition (drudgery) of the work dismayed me. I worked in the field for a few years, to pay the bills, but I think that viewing animated films such as “Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke”, decades after I worked as an animator was much more inspiring than working in the field, at a low level, in the 1980s.

    8.  As a trained artist who has studied in various states of the U.S. and abroad, what do you feel are the most vital tools you've acquired from your collegiate training?

    A strong work ethic, and the ability to think independently, draw and paint. I later taught at several local colleges and universities, from 1989 until 2011. I taught exactly the way I’d been taught, because I got so much out of my rigorous academic training. It seems as though many of my students expected art to be easy, and always fun, so those guys were probably in the wrong class. The hard working young talents who appreciated my challenges seem to be doing well now in their studies and careers. I feel honored to still be in touch with many of them via social media; couldn’t be prouder of them.

    9. What themes do you feel are playing out in this stage of your life currently for you?  

    So this is my ‘Kanreki’ year; I’m about to turn 60. When (if, the birthday is months off!) that happens, I’d have made it through five cycles of the 12-animal Asian zodiac calendar. I’d  be back to the animal and element (Monkey + Fire, or ‘fire monkey’) year that I was born in. ‘Kan’ means ‘cycle’; ‘reki’ means ‘calendar’. At 60, a full cycle is achieved. Life from that point forward is a rebirth. I expect not to waste time obsessing about what other people think I should do, say, draw, or paint. At this age, it’s clear that time is a finite gift. I plan to spend more time creating. Other goals are to ‘give back’ by teaching and doing workshops, sometimes, because I enjoy helping people enrich their lives with their own visions and creativity. I also want to learn the process for creating murals and large-scale works. A talented friend, Jose Loza, has graciously agreed to let me observe as he starts a mural nearby this coming week.

    moira hahn210. Can you tell us about your upcoming creative projects or work obligations that you're excited for?

    One of my paintings will be in a cat-themed show at the Worcester Museum from May 21st to September 4th. The title is “Meow: A Cat-Inspired Exhibition”. I will also have a solo exhibition at Azuza Pacific University, this fall, from October 18th through November 18th.

    11. Completely aside from work or obligations, what personal things do you have coming up that you're looking forward to embarking on in the coming months?

    I grew a bumper crop of fruits and vegetables in my garden last year. Hope to continue that experiment. Our other, ‘drought garden’ (lawn replacement) has grown so spectacularly this spring that passers-by on our busy street stop their cars and ring our bell to ask us about it. My husband and I are also looking forward to visiting Canada and Alaska, later this year.

  • POW Chats: Catching Up With Illustrator and Painter, KMNDZ

    johnny kmndz

    Earlier this year we caught up with Johnny "KMNDZ" Rodriguez at the 2016 DesignerCon in Pasadena, Ca. We followed up with the artist to talk life lessons, origin stories and aspirations. Check out the Q&A below.

    1. Hi Johnny. When we met at DesignerCon a few months ago, you were explaining to me a few of the things you'd learned recently about love and all variations of relationships, and how that was playing out within your work. What themes are at the forefront of your mind lately and how do the vibes relate to your recent creations?

    It’ll always be a constant in my work as I try and keep my message personal. However, lately I’m more focused on painting to get better versus focusing on the message or story. Not having a show to deliver for has enabled me to explore. I know, I’m kinda avoiding your question here.
    2. Can you talk to me about the piece you painted during Air + Style a few days back. Where as your mind at with that one?

    I came across a photo of a bird bulleting through the air, it seemed to fit my current mood. It’s a painting of a bird speeding through the air while its being shot at with arrows. I’d say that sums up the last year for me.

     

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    3. Tell me about where you're from and what it was like for you growing up there.

    Was born in LA and grew up in Baldwin Park, home of in-n-out. As with any city, you get what you make of it. I grew up in the streets and was able to survive it because I had good friends around every corner. The block I grew up in (Phelan) was full of all the neighborhood kids playing till it was time to come in. I could walk five minutes, run into a completely different set of hoody kids, and jump right into what ever was being played. Gangs made it tough but I grew up breaking with most of them, so there was no real threat. A few close calls but again I had back up everywhere I went.

    4. What simple lessons are you learning right now in your life as you continue to live on and practice being present through the experience?

    Do good, don’t be a dick. I feel like I’m in the middle of a new life lesson so things are a little foggy. It becomes clear once the dust has settled and I’ve had to time to meditate on it.

    5. With a full time career in art, how do you balance what is work and what is personal, reflective or leisure time? Does it all meld together?

    They are all monsters in my life. While some get fed others starve; I’ve yet to learn balance. The hungriest of them all is sleep.

     

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    6. Which one project have you most enjoyed working on thus far in your career and why?

    Loaded question!!! I’ve been extremely blessed as a creative, from my personal work to my commercial work. Rebranding Disney Junior, working on NIN video, NIN mural in London LA, Baby Tattooville, the fun I had with NC winning the Munky King Battle, Tron work, working on Pimp My Ride, my Disney days. I can go on and on... And It keeps getting better.

    7. When preparing to get to work on a painting or illustration, what rituals or activities do you practice leading up to beginning your work?

    Lots of meditating on what I want to say and paint. Endless nights of conversations at two in the morning in bed with my self. It kinda sucks, but most necessary.

    8. If you were only able to paint with three colors/hues for the next 3 months, what would they be and why?

    Black, White, and red Iron oxide. Why? There’s something about the combination that gets me excited about creating. And yes I just referred to black and White as colors.

    kmndz-tres-colores

    9. Some people feel empowered by dedicating their work to others, but you've expressed that you create art primarily for yourself; has that idea, feeling or intention changed as you continue to paint and transform as an artist?

    No way... I’m selfish and that can never change. I paint to please my own eye as I hold my point of view in high regard. Making my self happy enables me to serve others with my work, it keeps the work honest.

    10. In terms of work projects and upcoming creative obligations, what do you have coming up that you're looking forward to?

    Nothing and It feels great! All im working on is getting better, painting larger, and trying new ideas.

     

    birds_nest kmndz

  • POW Chats: Jeff Soto Talks Owls, Origins and Future Plans

    jeff soto owl 2 "Snow Owl" by Jeff Soto

     

    Prints on Wood chats with long-time painter, illustrator, muralist and POW collaborator, Jeff SotoCheck the Q&A below!

    1. Hi Jeff. You have been at this art thing for some time now and have gone through various thematic phases of your career. From your box boy to cat-like figures and other muses. You have taken a noticeable lean towards owls in recent years. How come?

    I enjoy nature and particularly birds. I've always found owls to be fascinating creatures and aesthetically beautiful. It's a creature of the night, so lives in the shadows yet can see very clearly. There's this thing in western culture that owls are wise, maybe they are... but I think they're most interesting as a night predator.

    Several years ago, I was exploring the ideas of life and death and felt that the owl could symbolize an older matriarch or patriarch of a family. I also envisioned the antlers as a sort of mix up, where the twisted antler tips could represent a family tree. There's more to it, but yes I have been working with the owl imagery quite often lately.

    2. You're an artist that seems to revisit tried-and-true characters in his work. I wonder, do they have names, back stories?

    I feel like anything an artist creates is fair game to re-explore. I feel like I jump around often artistically and when I look back there's ideas I didn't fully realize. So I return to older imagery or thoughts and create new work based on it occasionally. Some of the characters I have created may have some back story. Often the figures represent me or my situation at the time- or their meaning changes over the years!

     

    311 Concert Poster by Jeff Soto

     

    3. How do you feel your creative processes have changed over the years as you've adapted to your own rhythm and style?

    The basic way I work- sketch, write notes and then create has not changed much. But I feel that I have gotten slower... whereas a few years ago I'd work on multiple pieces at the same time. I'd have five or six paintings going on-- now I tend to work almost too slow and have to work on one at a time. I give each piece a little more love I think. I am interested in revisiting my old ways and work on ten pieces at a time. I think if I had a larger space, I'd try it again.

    4. What's your studio space like right now?

    I'm working out of a small spot at my house right now! I moved from a real nice large space to be home with my kids more, and to be able to work late easier. I enjoy it, though it's taken some getting used to. We're exploring the possibility of building a studio in our yard so I can have more space, but keep it close.

    5. What are your creative processes when getting ready to draft a piece? What types of rituals or practices get you in your zone leading up to beginning a painting, illustration or mural?

    I just draw and take notes and keep working on it till something clicks. Illustration work is different and sometimes tougher because you're trying to solve a problem visually and also please the client. But yeah, just a lot of drawing.

     

    jeff soto riverside mural Jeff Soto & Maxxer242 mural in Riverside, Ca

     

    6. You grew up around the Riverside, Ca area from what I understand, and spent time in the local graffiti scene in the 90s. Can you talk about those days of youth running around with a backpack full of spray cans and what the overall vibe of your life was like during those times?

    It was fun and I have fond memories of riding my bike around town to look for graffiti. Our art community was small, we knew most of the kids at our high school and maybe a few other schools in the area, but we knew nothing of what was going on in the next town, let alone the graf scene in L.A. This was all pre-internet, so it was a quest to go and meet other graffiti writers. No one was interested in having their identities discovered by the police, so we had to be careful who we spoke with. It was good times and we had fun, but when I look back, Southern CA in the early to mid 90's was dangerous!! It could get pretty crazy...

    7. What was the transition from street art into the gallery world like for your personally? What kind of dynamics were you met with when beginning to do exhibitions? Did the process of creating work change for you or become more difficult?

    I had a foot in both worlds early on. Or I should say, I was aware of both and wanted to do graffiti, but also show in galleries, some day. It was always a goal of mine. My first solo exhibit was in 2001, and it came at a time where I had given up on graffiti actually. I just felt it wasn't what I wanted to do and I couldn't hang with graf crew politics and all the bullshit. I'd been interested in showing my work in galleries since 1993, so it had been 8 years of working towards that, showing in coffee shops, member shows, juried exhibits, and of course painting walls. In 2000 I had given up on graffiti and pursued the gallery scene and illustration. I decided to pick up graffiti again in 2009 on a trip to London. It felt freeing this time and there were no constraints!

     

    "Floating in the Garden" by Jeff Soto

     

    8. What projects or creative obligations are you looking forward to in the coming months?

    I am painting a mural for Empellón Taqueria in NYC in a couple weeks, really looking forward to painting and eating there! There's plans in the works for Germany, Spain and Tokyo, currently working on these... and I am curating some shows for the Riverside Art Museum over the next couple years. Also the usual gig posters and some projects on my list with Prints On Wood. I have been super busy since last summer, and my to do list is several pages long... good problems, but I never seem to catch up.

    9. Completely aside from work or career obligations, what do you have going on personally that you're excited to dive into in the coming months?

    I have been taking an hour here and there to prepare my planters for our veggie garden. I missed last year because I was too busy, but this year I'm just.. making the time. I enjoy working outside, digging, building stuff. Its a very different frame of mind from making art. It's a good break. We will have some nice vegetables on the dinner table this summer!

    soto-memorial-of-forgotten-11x14_1 "Memorial of the Forgotten" by Jeff Soto
  • POW Chats: A Conversation with Artist & tokidoki Creator, Simone Legno

    selfie simone legno 2 Selfie by Simone Legno

     

    POW chats with illustrator and tokidoki co-founder, Simone Legno, about his first POW release, "Selfie," and more. 

    1. Can you talk about your first POW release, "Selfie?" What's going on in that image?

    "Selfie" represents both the positive and the negative aspects of life. It chronicles the journey of life and the young girl in the front of the piece is taking a selfie to document her existence. The photo that she is taking is documenting this particular point in time in her existence. The other characters that you see are symbolic details and icons which represent different moments and feelings in life.

    2. What's your connection to Japanese culture and how does your interest in it inspire your work?

    I find a lot of inspiration in Japan. I love the country and the culture. From the urban streets of Shibuya to the quiet beauty of Kyoto, I have been fascinated by Japanese art and culture ever since I was a child. I frequently visit Japan for work, so it is a constant source of inspiration in my art.

    selfie simone legno

    3. Can you talk about where you 're from and what it was like growing up there? How did you gravitate towards and find your creative inspirations in your youth?

    I grew up in Rome, which is a city that is soaked in art. As a child, I was surrounded by works created by the great Italian artists of Western Civilization. Their artistic genius definitely inspired my artistry as I was growing up. In the 80s, Italy was bombarded by Japanese pop culture, so my generation was influenced by the art and animation coming out of Japan. We were also exposed to American pop culture, so my work utilizes iconography from all of these different sources of inspiration. For example, I use iconography from my own culture in my work. So, you will see pizza and soccer - themes from my heritage in my art. Most of the characters that I have created also have Italian names.

    4. So you just returned back home after a trip to Asia. Can you tell about your recent endeavors in the country?

    I enjoy creating and exposing my art to broader audiences. To celebrate the Year of the Monkey, I recently held an exhibition in Shanghai that showcased a limited edition capsule collection that I designed at Lane Crawford. I also just returned from a very successful art show in Manila, where all 40 of the pieces I created sold out pre-show. The pieces included both paintings and sculpture. I would like to hold something similar in China someday.

    Simone-Legno-art

    5. What were the early stages of the tokidoki brand like? What was going on for you back then?

    It all started with my online art portfolio. Today, everyone seems to have a presence online, but back then, when I created my website, having your portfolio online was a novel concept. My website became quite popular and I caught the attention of the people that would become my business partners: Pooneh Mohajer and Ivan Arnold. They convinced me to move to Los Angeles where we partnered to build tokidoki into the brand it is today.

    6. What does your creative process typically entail?

    My day starts very early in the morning so that I can answer business emails from Asia and Europe. I never start painting until I get through my morning emails. I need to be mentally free of business. Once business is out of the way, I feel like I can have my head a little more free. I do most of my sketching in the early hours of the morning and at night. I drink some coffee and then I get started.

    Tokidoki, 2/15/11, 10:03 AM, 8C, 5666x7464 (289+358), 100%, Repro 2.2 v2, 1/30 s, R33.4, G23.8, B43.6

    7. What creative projects do you have planned for the coming months that you're able to share?

    This year we are opening retail stores in mainland China and Korea. We are also trying to expand our retail initiatives in South East Asia. I am very interested in painting and fine art, so I would like to hold another art show featuring my work.

    8. Aside from work obligations, what personal plans and goals do you have on your mind in the coming months?

    My team and I are very busy trying to develop tokidoki as a global brand and we hope to become a part of pop culture. Although my work obligations take up a lot of my time, I always strive to be a success in my personal life as well. My family means a lot to me and I want to be a successful father to my daughter. I try to maintain a healthy work-life balance so that I can look back and feel proud about both my personal and professional life.

    tokidoki simone legno

  • POW Chats: A Conversation with Illustrator, Painter & Muralist, Greg Mike

    greg mike true colors "True Colors"

     

    1. Hey Greg! Your first POW release is an image used for a mural that went up last year in your home-city of Atlanta. Can you talk about that mural visually and thematically and the dilemma related to it that followed suit?

    The mural “TRUE COLORS” was painted in my hometown of Atlanta, GA and was all about not "judging a book by its cover."  From the outside and at first glance you see a angry wild bear, but upon further investigation, the colored, happy characters are apparent.

    The mural was all about feelings and letting out what’s truly inside.  People are constantly being judged by visuals and what’s seen on the outside. I respect the real and those who dig deeper.  Life’s too short to be something you're not or put up a false representation.

    The piece was self-funded as a gift to the city on a wall I’ve painted for the the last 3 years.  I think it’s extremely important for artists to invest their time and money back into the city to help inspire future growth and development.

    Three months after it was painted, it was covered without notice by a local art institution with an advertisement. It was a disappointment to say the least that they didn’t reach out when they have my number.  We created the print on wood so the piece could live on forever and also generate capital to fund another mural in the city.  I am all about walls evolving, I grew up painting graffiti.  There’s just rules to the game. Tags get covered by bombs, pieces cover bombs, productions cover pieces.  Advertisements shouldn’t cover local art. I also think it’s important to respect artists and speak with them before covering any work when it’s at a certain scale and make sure murals ride for a decent amount of time.

    2. Greatly put. And this is a really great piece to introduce your aesthetic to art enthusiasts that may not be in the know. Can you talk about your style and specific influences that play into your highly colorful and characterized work?

    I am influenced by BOLD and LOUD colors and imagery.  I grew up studying everyone from Walt Disney to Salvador Dali.  I am interested in new worlds and characters that don’t exist. Everything from wild animals to cartoon characters. The characters I create are inspired by the people around me that I interact with and the environment.  I live vicariously through my character LARRY LOUDMOUF that speaks a language of our generation though the LOUDMOUF says submissions.  His voice is now larger than just mine, it’s a collaborative organic movement that I am only one part of.

    GREG-MIKE-ART

    3. What are your creative practices, routines or rituals prior to jumping into an illustration or painting? How do they differ from your creative processes prior to beginning a mural?

    I usually start with a pencil, then utilize microns for inking.  Most murals start out as sketches and are refined.  More recently, I have been referencing and incorporating more realism into the work where I will study a number of photographs.  As for colors for murals, I usually have a general idea in my head in terms of the palette and will define it while working on the wall.  My work is always changing during the process.  I studied design for a bit, so I am a huge fan of balance.  A lot of times I will balance my colors on the spot as it leaves more freedom in the creative process.  I like to allow for a bit of change so it feels natural and not just like I am a giant printer replicating work on large format walls

    4. Can you talk about specific projects that you've gotten to work on that you're particularly excited to have been a part of?

    Honestly, I’ve been excited about all my projects.  If I am not excited, I won’t do it.  Each project has its own challenges and are exciting for different reasons.  All projects drive me to create, whether it is public art I’ve produced, solo shows, mural / music festival I founded (www.outerspaceproject.com) or the crazy projects we’ve brought to life through my design studio and gallery ABV (www.ABVagency).

    5. Yeah your background in pubic art as a muralist and as an all-around crusader for the arts is really striking-- you even founded ABV AGENCY / GALLERY which you just mentioned. What goes down there?

    After I started showing work at different galleries across the U.S. and designing for various brands, I decided I should start my own creative hub in ATL.  ABV (A Better View) was created as a gallery and studio space for all of my creative projects.  Over the years, we have developed some interesting collaborations with brands that incorporate the contemporary art and design world. We do everything from art exhibitions, live art projects, branding, collaborations and more.

    AMERICAN-DREAM-GREG-MIKE

    6. Fantastic. So I understand you reside in Atlanta, but were actually born in Connecticut. Can you talk about where you're from, what it was like for your growing up there and how you made your way to the ATL?

    I was born in Danbury, Connecticut.  Luckily, we had a really rad graffiti scene there.  Everyone from Cost and Revs and the whole DF / IMOK crew used to murder it there. I was just a little skate and snowboard rat back in '96 when those dudes were killing the scene.  We had really nice train bridges that were great to paint on.  Eventually, I moved to Florida when my parents split and was skating and painting on the streets through high school.  I ended up going to Florida State University to study studio art and graphic design, and got some formal training.  I got super bored on the weekends and used to head up to Atlanta, GA to hang in a larger city.  I was designing clothes for a bit while doing art on the side.  After traveling the world for fashion design work, I felt like I needed to go back to my roots and focus 100% on my true love.. My art.  That was about 7 years ago and here we are today.

     

    7. In regard to creative work obligations, what plans or projects do you have coming up that you're looking forward to?

    I am working on some more solo shows in markets I haven’t hit yet, and a few group shows. More murals and festivals are booked for 2016 which will be announced soon.  I hope to continue to be able to create on a daily basis and do what I love.  Life is too short not to enjoy it and follow your passion.

    8. Completely unrelated to work and obligations, what do you have coming up for yourself personally that you're looking forward to?

    I’m tying the knot in May!  Very excited about that.  :)

  • POW Chats: Dan May Talks Process & Practices

    Summer-May

     

    Long-time painter, Dan May, took time out of his schedule to discuss his creative practices, processes and his recent POW release titled "After the Rain." Get the details below!

    1. Hey Dan! I hear you're from Rochester, NY. Can you tell me about where you grew up specifically and what it was like for you there?

    Yes, I'm originally from Rochester, NY. I spent quite a few years growing up there in a great neighborhood with a huge extended family all living in and around the area. I had a really supportive family and spent most of my days drawing/painting and enjoying the outdoors. From Rochester, I went on to college at Syracuse University, and eventually, made my way down to NYC. About half of my life was spent in New York... lots of great memories there and it was a great place to grow up! 

    2. Where are you currently as we do this interview? What's the scene like for you?

    I currently live in Harbor Springs, MI... it's a tiny town in Northern Michigan-- a "no stoplight", Norman Rockwell-esque town. It is very small, but filled with incredible beauty. Located right on Lake Michigan, there is no shortage of outdoor activities. Everything from skiing, biking, hiking, boating, you name it... it's all in our backyard-- literally. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived.  Having lived in many large cities -- New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Jacksonville -- I have met so many incredible people and have been a part of various art scenes within those cites... I would say that this area is about as far from a "scene" as you can be. I like it that way though... it's quite a serene place that is loaded with inspiration. That said, we love getting away to larger cities whenever we get a chance. The world is so big and there is so much to experience, but it's great to call northern Michigan home.

    3. You're described as a narrative artist. What does that mean to you?

    The work has always somewhat mirrored events in my life and the world that I observe around me. You may find elements of pain and despair within my work, but there is always a glimmer of hope. I love painting from a place of deep emotion. Even when things are going great in my personal life, I find it easy to tap into what is circulating around me... not only in my immediate life, but in the world we live in. My paintings shed light on part of a story, the images are "scenes" from a much larger narrative. Like walking into the middle of a movie, not knowing what came before or what will happen next, you are left to fill in the blanks.

    The overall body of work is not necessarily sequential as in a traditional story, but the overall narrative continues to grow and evolve as I go through life. I studied illustration in college and I think that some of the storytelling elements that you find in illustrative work can be found within my paintings. It is really a blend of narrative and surreal... kind of like this rambling response, I suppose [laughs].

    dan may after the rain print on wood

     

    4. Can you tell me about your release with POW titled "After the Rain?" Where was your head at when creating that piece?

    'After the Rain' was originally produced for an album cover. As I mentioned before, I tend to paint what's happening around me... so building on the world that I have been creating and coming out of a long cold winter here in northern Michigan (with spring finally in sight!), I envisioned a creature emerging after a turbulent storm... the skies are beginning to clear and he's been trough a lot, but he's looking ahead to what comes next.

    5. When painting characters and creating storylines depicted in your work, what are the underlying themes you're commonly working within?

    Sometimes I have no idea what will come out when I sit down to paint. I'm constantly taking in things from my surroundings. While not taking physical notes, I am processing this and turning my thoughts into imagery. I have focused a great deal on the technical side of things... trying to develop the look and "feel" of these creatures and their world. Now, I am really focusing in on their stories... their surroundings, the challenges they have faced, and what lies ahead for them. While painting, I am thinking about life, death, family, our interactions with each other and our planet... why we are here? what else is out there in the universe? In many ways, these creatures are really telling "our" stories.

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    6. Who are your primary influences who aren't visual artists? Any thinkers, chefs, musicians, scientists, people in general?

    I wouldn't say that I have specific influences. I listen to a variety of podcasts while painting. This has been a great way to hear from some really fascinating people and listen in on many interesting discussions. Hearing other people's journeys through life is very inspiring to me. Even though we are all over the world pursuing different things, there are so many parallels that tie us all together. We all have unique stories and I love hearing them.

    7. Can you describe your studio/work space?

    The studio I'm in now is my favorite by far. It's located on the lower level of of our house. It's a large, quiet space where I can create well into the night and wee morning hours. I have a painting area, a computer & printing area, an area for drawing and even some space for "reflecting". Only down fall is there's a lot more to keep clean :)

    8. What rituals, activities or practices do you partake in before beginning on an illustration or painting? 

    Not sure that that I have any specific rituals that I partake in. But each day does include plenty of coffee, podcasts and music. I also try to include working out/getting outside into each day. Not always easy, but I try.

    Plight-of-the-Wanderer

    9. Odd question, but do you dream/ remember your dreams? If so, do tell.

    It's weird. I'm not really a vivid dreamer. Sometimes I will recall bits and pieces, but nothing that makes any sense. I'm not sure what this means, but perhaps I'm working all of the imagery out during my waking hours? [laughs]

    10. What creative projects do you have coming up that you're excited about?

    Well, this year I started something called, 'The Daily Creature Project'. Basically, I have been carving out an hour or two each day to explore an idea or thought involving the creatures that I have been exploring. So far, it has been an incredible challenge. I wanted to find a way to work out my ideas while offering some affordable original art to my collectors (all drawings are priced under $100).

    So far, the project has been very well received. I plan to continue this for the entire year and then see where I can take it from there. We have even discussed the possibility of putting a book of these together... either way, it has been a great way to keep the ideas flowing. Aside form that, my wife and I have been working on a book of my art. It will encompass the past several years of "Gentle Creatures" artwork, sketches, stories, etc. It has been in the works for a while, but we hope to bring everything together very soon. Additionally, I am working behind the scenes on some really exciting stuff that I hope to share more about in the coming months. 

    11. What plans completely aside from work obligations do you have coming up that you're excited about?

    Well, the biggest thing coming up for us is the birth of our second son, due this summer! We can't wait to welcome him into our family :)

    Fleeting-May

     

  • Chopping Block: Aha C

     

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    POW: At a first glance of your name, Aha C. Two possibilities came to mind. I would either be interviewing the 80’s pop band turned surreal painters, or very mysterious artist, who prefers to go by four-letter moniker. Alas, it is the latter. Telling by your full name, however, your background may be a bit different from most. Can you tell us a bit about it?

    Aha C: Well, I am from 80’s but don’t tell anyone ;D. But the real secret of my alias is my little brother... Well, now he is not so little, but when he was a toddler (he is much younger than me) and was learning to speak, he had some problems with my name. My name is Joanna, but Polish short version is Asia (we pronounce it not like the the Asian continent, but more like Ashia), and that was too much for him. So he changed my name to Aha. Short and simple :) And since then everyone started to call me Aha, first my whole family, then my friends. The ‘C’ letter came from my husbands’ surname. ‘Aha’ was too short and too popular for many sites, so I had to add something to that.

    GuRv5KChkC3oa3BgQ81qY7ptR3w74wVvoON9Csq72hU

    "Dandelions"

    POW: Is there anything about your upbringing that shaped your path towards being an artist?

    Aha C: My parents were always very supportive. They encouraged me to follow my dreams and to take new challenges. And they taught me to be consistent in what I was doing. All my life I drew something on anything with everything. And each time I saw new crayons or paints, they always got them for me. So I could make my own artistic experiments. I am a self-taught artist, I never went to any artistic school. Actually I’m an engineer. I graduated Technical University. But all my life I was searching for someone, who could teach me how to draw. And I learned from several artists, who taught me a lot. I think that my technical education and contact with some fabulous painters shaped my artistic path. Of course this is just the beginning. I’m learning all the time and searching new ways to express myself.

    w2N6Qk30PGk-4CyPfqzS_VL0snk5vHjP1OkDMRO4jpA

    "Birch"

    POW: While browsing through your art prints, I chuckled a bit when I saw the print, “Color Your Zebra.” I’m always a fan of art that’s minimalistic and playful; your style embodies the two qualities to a T. Have you always created artwork in this manner or was this a style that developed over time?

    Aha C: I’ve always loved minimalistic graphic designs with strong contrasts. But on the other hand I just love impressionism, art that can’t be clearly defined, something unsaid. So I think, that you can find bothof these in my portfolio. It seems I can’t decide what style to choose, but I guess the truth is that I’m just not able to resign from any of them. My style is developing all the time, I love to study painters of the past, but also to watch present artists on the Internet. All this influences me a lot.

    raLHYfLJ51J_M3OlTq56SC_CPs3Rx6CXXur1zOfKw40

    "Color Your Zebra"

    POW: With artwork on sites like Society 6, I’d say you’re carving out an impressive space for yourself in the commercial world. How do you continue to create work that remains unique in spite of the repetition that takes place in mass production?

    Aha C: Repetition doesn’t make art less unique. And thanks to POD sites and digital printing you can have your works on different products. I always liked to decorate things and now I’m far more able to do it. I don’t think there is something wrong with mass production. This is just a different kind of art. And creativity is also needed.
    I think, that some artwork suits mass production while some shouldn’t be used like that. Not everything will look good on mug or pillow. And some works are fun and will look great only on a t-shirt. I’m trying to separate those things.

    RwPgvQT-x94tjvqXLQDcxntQjtRCuno8XOf4fW6ojyQ

    "All you Need is Cat"

    POW: Each illustration possesses a vividly executed message. They seem like they would make great first pages in a children’s book. Have you given thought to publishing one of your own?

    Aha C: Yes, actually I was thinking about it. I have a friend, who is willing to write a book for children and since she told me about it, I can’t stop thinking about drawings for children There is one book (exactly one piece) illustrated by me. It is in a comic style, but it was made not for children. It was a gift for my friend. Still it was fun to do it.

    UVXsqvBOxYY1Zl3cahzEOA-DOnQrlEXioj1zXBsxdAE"Wildlife"

    POW: What would you say is your single most definitive accomplishment as an artist?

    Aha C: After many years of doing so many different things, I have achieved a situation where artistic expression is becoming my way of life. And I think it is my accomplishment as an artist.

    0zUc0Mqc5qHsQzDTQ7qa3v8IYGA8jurNCM0dOt44cfI

    "Starry Night"

    POW: What’s next for you? Any interesting new projects coming your way?

    Aha C: There is so much to do, and so many ideas and plans. One of the things I have already started is sacred art. I started to learn iconography. This is a very difficult kind of art using egg tempera and with a very strict rules of painting. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done. It requires a lot of patience, accuracy and knowledge. It’s a challenge, I hope that I can cope with it.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • POW Chats: An Interview with Bumblebeelovesyou

    bumblebeelovesyou bee there soon Bee There Soon

     

    Fresh off of Air + Style LA 2016, we chat with the always pleasant Bumblebeelovesyou about origin stories, communication, bees and beach plans.

    Hey Bumbleebee, I want to start where we left off at Air + Style when we were discussing how your name came about. Highschool right?

    Yes, the name Bumblebee, was a nickname in hs. I was wearing a black and yellow striped shirt that I got from Hot Topic, but it looked good on me I swear [laughs]. And someone at a party said the name and it stuck, but it wasn’t until years after hs that I decided I wanted to base my work around the theme of that name. I didn’t want to base my work purely around the theme of ‘bumblebees,’ but something clicked for me when I started experimenting with graphics and I just thought ‘bees’ symbolized so much and I knew there were countless ideas I could explore because of it. And ‘lovesyou’ just had this awesome positive aesthetic energy, not to mention when you google bumblebee all you get is actual bees, ‘lovesyou’ was a great extension and in this age of communicating everyone needs a good hashtag.

    Can you talk about where you're from and what it was like for you growing up there?
    I grew up in Downey, CA. My parents own a home and we had a front yard with a sidewalk to play on and a backyard with a lot of fruit trees (Dwny kids know: lemon tree, orange tree, grapefruit tree, avocado trees, fig tree and a lemon tree, oh and a peach tree that died recently).

    I’m a 90’s kid and was raised purely off Saturday morning cartoons, the Disney channel and Nickelodeon. I had a pretty great CHILDHOOD.

    bumbleelovesyou payphone prints on wood

    Your work has come to deal largely with communication as an underlying theme. Where does the desire to focus on that topic stem from as opposed to all the other muses to choose from?

    I’ve always felt that because of my age, I’ve always had one foot in the ‘age of analog’ and one foot in the ‘digital age’. Fortunately, while growing up I started to take note of all the changes that were quickly happening around us. Pay phones were just disappearing and cell phones were paving the way for new everything. GPS and laptops had been around but only if you were fortunate enough to bee able to afford them. Slowly but surely, everything started to become accessible and the way we communicated started to change. I still feel like some of my old friends are still trying to catch up with the new technology that is, social media. I always felt like no one was talking about this rapid change, so I decided to start a dialog with old telephone kiosks and turning them into sculptures with beehives in them. The theory being that the rise in cell phone usage had been starting to misguide the bees patterns of migration and because of the cell phone rise, public phones were no longer needed so they were taken out.

    You've been in demand lately Bumblebee, can you talk about your most recent projects?

    I’ve had a few recent projects. One major one being getting my ‘wisdom teeth’ removed; all 4 throughout the month of January. That was seriously one the toughest things I’ve done in my entire life and the tooth fairy didn’t even show up (smh tooth fairy).

    I made my first product available online-- ‘Mutual Feeling’ lapel pin-set available during the month of February. That was an awesome personal project because I’ve always been into product design. They came out so great I can’t wait until the next pin release, which is probably going to be ‘Somewhere I’d Rather Bee’.

    Another cool project was working with ‘Dunkin Donuts’. What an honor to be able to paint on their first store in CA. I felt very humbled that all my hard work had been starting to get noticed by big names like them.

    Also, speaking of product design, I designed an all natural butter label, TAVA Ghee, that is sold in Whole Foods in downtown LA. Of all things I did last year, nothing beats walking into a grocery store and being able to purchase your own product design. What an awesome experience.

    And the most recent project I did was my print -- which coincided with the Oscar Sunday and sold out -- of my print set trilogy, Director’s Cut. (Thanks everyone who got one!)

    Just Friends Just Friends

     

    What are your creative processes when getting ready to draft a piece? What types of rituals or practices get you in your zone leading up to working?

    In order for me to start working on a project I have to immerse myself into whatever I’m working on. Like, seriously, my gf sometimes gets jelly over the amount of time and effort I spend on them. But she knows ilher. Usually, it starts out with me going into the space and asking a lot of questions about what sort of ‘vibe’ goes on here. If I’m working on a canvas, it’s similar, but what changes is that it has to be my ‘vibe’ so I’ve usually planned in advance the type of mood I want to set, but I don’t always know what I’m going to create.

    One thing that I do is starting by cleaning my studio space. I can’t work in an unorganized & dirty room anymore. I feel like, the cleaner the space, the better the work tends to bee. It makes me feel more comfortable, relaxed and organized. Also, Netlfix and Seinfeld tend to be a go-to while I’m designing. Podcasts help too, the Nerdist is really long and entertaining. And lastly, listening to the same song over and over again for hours is when I’m most productive. (will ‘Views’ album ever come out?)

    If you could only paint with three colors/hues for the next 6 months, what would they be and why?

    I guess I only paint with white, black and yellow although lately I’ve been integrating, pink, blue, and green into my work. I would have to pick the first 3 because it’s where I first got my style.

    Last year you were voted LA Weekly's 'Best Street Artist' for all your efforts in the public forum. Can you talk about your history in public art-- your tools, some of your most memorable spots, etc?

    One day I just got up and said, 'I’m going to paint this outside. I don’t know where I’m going to paint it, but it’s going to happen and I hope I don’t get caught.'

    So using unloved parts of the city, I just started painting kids in striped shirts doing things that kids do. Then that evolved into my making beehives sculptures out of the phone book and placing them into unused telephone booths. That’s how it all started; just by me saying I’m going to do something, then actually doing it, but in a well thought out planned execution.

    I am very grateful for the love LA Weekly has shown me throughout the years. I’m glad they’ve recognized me for my hard work and what I represent. A lot of ‘street artists’ here aren’t even from LA so I think it was very important for my career as an artist to be recognized as the best in my city. It really shows the bond we share for people who grew up here. There’s a sense of community even though we are spread out. It’s like we’re all extended family.

    Somewhere I'd Rather Bee Somewhere I'd Rather Bee

     

    Can you tell me about the piece you painted during Air + Style? A rendition of your work, "Somewhere I'd Rather Bee," right?

    Yea, I love that piece! I hardly ever get to paint ‘Somewhere I’d Rather Bee’ anymore. There’s only a handful of originals of that image even though it’s one of my most beloved characters by my fans and myself.

    Air+Style seemed like a great opportunity to present that work in a more casual way: a ‘coloring book’. I traced the outlines of the image and put letters and numbers extending from the image to make it seem as if there were instructions on how to color in the piece and I invited random people to help color the image with sharpies and spray paint, crayons & colored pencils. It was awesome because Jeff Soto, who was painting in front of me, helped out a little bit too! It was such a fun weekend and I’m glad I was able to bee a part of it. Also, glad it sold at charity later that week. #stillgotit

    What do you have coming up in the coming months in terms of work projects and professional goals?

    Let’s just say ‘blacklights’ and ‘ceramics’ will bee involved for the pop-up. I’m in a few group shows around CA, and for the most part I am using this time to continue integrating collectible product designs for all my fans and collectors. There’s a few large scale murals as well and hopefully I’ll be getting out of state so if anyone reading this knows of any walls, please let me know ;)

    What do you have coming up in terms of personal plans you're looking forward to, completely aside from obligations and work?

    I really want to get back in the ocean. I used to surf and bodyboard and it was so much fun. I really hope I can force myself to get out of the studio and dedicate some morning time to get back in the water. This is CA afterall, or at least work on my tan while I’m there.

    Mutual Feeling Mutual Feeling

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