So where do you find your inspiration?
I’m inspired by everyday life in San Diego, spaghetti Westerns, comic books, militaria and war, pulp mags, and really bad C-level almost unwatchable movies. Basically everything around me has the potential to become a painting–I’m just here to take it all in, let it rattle around in my head for a while, and then paint it without its skin.
Tell us a little about the box eating boxers.
My Shipping Department is loyal, dedicated, easily bribed with fresh meat products, and the main reason I can’t have nice things. They are studio staples, providing both inspiration and distraction. They are so spoiled that after years of seeing their food and squeekies delivered to the house, they think every package is for them. I sometimes have to tape up their own toys in a new box and throw it in one room to let them fight it out “Thunderdome” style while I pack up orders in another room.
What do you do when you aren’t creating AWESOME art?
Our show schedule keeps us on the road (or prepping for the road) more than 10 months out of the year, so my getaway time is counted in hours rather than days. My girlfriend, my motorcycle (a ’68 Norton Commando), and my previously-mentioned dogs are my source of fun and entertainment. We hang out around our pool, play first-person shooters, kayak, and BBQ together like any other red-blooded American family.
I see that you use a bunch of different types canvases, what is the most unusual thing you have painted on?
I use 1 Shot Enamel for all of my line work, which is an oil-based medium that’s primarily used for pinstriping and sign painting. So maybe not the most unusual, but definitely the most nerve-racking surface, was a custom Harley-Davidson bagger that cost around $100,000. I was commissioned to design and paint HD badges on the tank while pinstriper Pete “Hot Dog” Finlan laid down lines, so let’s just say the pressure was on to nail the project.
What are your favorite mediums to work with and why?
I’ve developed a three-part layering process whereby I use acrylics or acrylic ink for my backgrounds and scenery, gouache to block in and highlight the characters, and then 1 Shot enamel for all of the line work and definition.
The acrylics can be thinned down to achieve almost a watercolor consistency, so I can push them around to create atmosphere and depth, while the gouache allows me to achieve transparency and create almost ghost-like figures; both dry very quickly, which is good because I paint very fast and always want to get right down to it. The enamel is a completely different animal; it’s thick, smelly, and tacky for up to eight hours, but it gives me the control I need for the fine detailing with the added bonus of presenting a strong, bright finish.
After it dries, I clear coat the entire piece with a poly to lock in the gouache (since it could be reactivated with water) and unify all of the colors and then I build my own rustic wood frames to complete the look. I was having trouble finding frames that upheld the story I was trying to tell through each piece, so these days I add that extra level of customization to my paintings and test the limits of my woodworking skills.
Have you thought about turning any of your creations into toys?
I’ve thought a lot about having 3D versions of my characters made, and after pulling and hand-painting my own resin sculptures, I’d really like to take it to the next level and get some vinyl ones made for me. Plus, it would make bathtime much cooler if I was surrounded by my own toys.
Any big plans for 2012 you want to tell us about?
2012 has been amazing so far. I just got back from a solo show in Australia, which was a great experience and opportunity. And I’m really excited about my new Day of the Dead art book that will be coming out in October with artists Jeral Tidwell and Angryblue. Besides that, I will be on the road all gypsy style, taking my art to new venues in San Francisco, parts of Arizona, and maybe the moon.
How do you go about starting a new project?
Everything starts in the sketchbook, and from there I gather reference material to begin rounding out my ideas and concepts. I typically go through several iterations on paper and on the computer until it sucks less.
Is there anyone you would like to collab with?
Jeral Tidwell is an artist that I’ve always admired because of his amazing line work and his ability to shift between inking, pinstriping, and printmaking seamlessly.
Share a great childhood memory with us?
Christmas morning when I woke up to find a Nintendo system under the tree and saw that my dog had chewed the face off of my sister’s new Teddy Ruxpin doll, revealing all of the animatronics and making her cry. Good times.
What do you like best about living in So. Cal.?
The art, culture, food, weather, people…I can’t choose just one. Every artist I admired growing up, every band I ever wanted to see live, and every cool custom car and motorcycle I ever saw in magazines came from SoCal.
If you had three wishes what would they be?
First, I want have enough money so that I can always live comfortably being my own boss painting skelly characters. Next, I’d like to have a lot of dogs, but not so many that I pop up on an episode of Animal Hoarders. Lastly, and since we’re on the road so much, I’d like to have a tour bus and driver so I’m cool like White Snake…and CB and my own call sign.
Sandwich or Burrito?
California Burrito…everything is better when you put french fries in it!
Interview by Adam