Words by John Hall
Photography by Switch
You’re a California native right? What do you love about LA?
Well I was born is San Diego, and I did live in a small town up in northern CA for a couple of years back but over all I have lived most of my life within the LA area. I love the diversity of the food, art and culture that big cities have. LA provides all of that for sure. The weather kicks ass and the people are great and much of my family is close by. California in general is pretty awesome.
I read that the art of Frank Frazetta was an early artistic influence on you, when your father introduced you to his work. Since then, who else has been inspiring or influential in your creative life?
There’s so many, and not just art related. Artists that come to mind would be Mode2, Vaughn Bode, Jose Guadalupe Posada, OG Abel, Bouguereau, Bernie Wrightson, punk flyer artists, zombie movies, and Renaissance artists.
Do you prefer to work by hand, with computer, or a combination of both?
I actually like to work by hand the most. Drawing and painting is much more gratifying to me personally. Having something tactile versus a computer file is very different.
When did you decide to pursue career in art (as opposed to doing design for other companies)? What caused that shift?
I was always into painting, even when I was working in house for companies. Working for myself allowed me to determine when, where and how much time would go into my fine art. I think I just realized how important art was to my life and wanted to have more control of it. I guess that would be the major shift.
I know you’ve worked with many, many clothing brands. Is your approach to designing T-shirts any different than any other graphic you create?
Yeah, the limitations of a shirt design are very different than say a painting or a vinyl toy. Poster art design is it’s own animal as well. When working on a shirt design I tend to take in mind the placement, colors, the brand etc.
And you’ve worked with more bands than I can even begin to list here. Do you go after that sort of client, or is it that they come to you?
I will usually contact artists personally if their music inspires me in some way, but most of the work does come from word of mouth through art directors, labels, and people seeing the work I have done for other bands. I am very grateful to have people pass on my info out there.
How do you find a balance between doing work for other companies and focusing on your own personal work?
I try to remember to make time to draw and paint. I also started a section on my website called Aimless sketchbooks where I post my personal sketches and people can follow the RSS feed. Hopefully it will help remind me to sketch more.
What are some of the themes you’re exploring in your personal work?
In my personal art I tend to explore different characters and worlds that don’t really fit into my regular work. Some of it has direct meaning to my personal life or political views and other are just concepts that manifest themselves in dreams or my imagination.
Zombies seem to play a big role in your work. Why is that?
Zombies are just fun to draw and paint. They allow me to focus on the human form, which I love drawing, and tear it down to a abstract representation. Nothing but gory good fun! I like to express beauty in the morbid so really, what better than a crazy looking zombie? I also think it might have something to do with the concept of loss of self-control and just giving in to really primal urges.
How did you get George Romero’s blessing for the Night of the Living Dead print? That’s pretty cool.
It’s way cool. Ben Scrivens over at Fright Rags really seems to know a lot of people in the horror movie genre, so he was the one that actually put that whole thing together with the blessing of Mr. Romero. Getting the godfather of all things zombie to co-sign on one of my designs is a great milestone. I was really happy when that happened.
What are some of your favorite Zombie flicks? Are you mostly into the classics or do you like the new joints too?
I like them all, I’ll tend to give most any zombie movie a chance. A lot of them are really, really bad but it’s almost expected. Shaun of the dead is great because of the whole comedy thing. The Dawn of the dead remake is good also. I know a lot of zombie movie fans will disagree but I like it.
I see you have designed some sick tattoos too. I also read that you apprenticed and have tattooed yourself too. Do you ink tattoos commercially too?
I did apprentice, but I don’t do it commercially. I was considering it a while ago but my painting and freelance work has been taking up so much of my time right now that I will only work on close friends and family at the moment. I am a huge fan of the whole art though, and I’m glad to see it getting more accepted in the mainstream.
I wanted to ask who you were referencing in your portrait for the feature on you in Juxtapoz #96? Emiliano Zapata?
Sort of a reference to General Zapata but also just the revolutionary spirit of LA, in general.
The decks you did for the Fighting 4 Dreams group show in SF seemed to be based on the Zapatistas?
Yeah they were based on El Sub and Comandante Ramona. The concept of fighting for something when you have nothing to lose inspires me to really live and keep pushing my artwork to another level on a daily basis to a place where it can hopefully inspire others to do the same. Although at times I do paint revolutionaries I would say I just have a particular interest in the human condition and it’s history, it’s myths and it’s legends.
And you’re also into the writing of Subcomandante Marcos?
I’ve read much of the older books of communications and letters he would send out and some of the newer stuff as well. He’s a very charismatic and intellectual person. The way gets his point across in a clear and precise way while being witty and still relating to the people in the region is a good example of any leader. As someone who communicates mostly through images I really appreciate it when people can get communicate such strong emotions and ideas though other avenues such as writing.
What do you have on the horizon as far as your personal art goes?
I am trying to get a couple of shows going this year, painting, drawing and more painting.