Gap’s REMIX Project was accompanied by a commemorative linen-bound & slipcased book containing interviews with each of the artists. I’ve included a few pages (and the entirety of my interview) below:
My design for the REMIX Project is inspired by San Francisco, the city I live in and where Gap was founded in 1969. My design presents the Golden Gate Bridge within a contour of the city borders, while letterforms and the brand logotype recreate the fog that so frequently graces ‘The Gate’.
SAN FRANCISCO /
San Francisco has been my home for 18 years now. My family lives in the Northwest corner, bordered by the Presidio, a National Historic Landmark of nearly 1,500 acres, the Pacific Ocean, and Golden Gate Park, another 1,000 acres of trails, lakes, museums, and freely roaming buffalo! A fifteen minute hike separates our home from the beach; a few hours on the road and I can find myself among the 10,000 food summits of the Sierras in Yosemite, or amidst the coastal redwoods. I’ve always been inspired by nature, and prefer to be outside more often than not. I graduated from the University of California at Davis with dual degrees in—you’ve probably already guesses—Art and Biology, with an emphasis in evolution & ecology. San Francisco is a great place for a guy like me, it’s full of inspiration fueling all my interests.
I’m a dad. Being a father is an awesome experience. I’m so necessary! Children don’t just want—but need—to be fed, burped, changed, loved, taught how to ride a bike, read to taken camping, consoled, celebrated, raced home early for, lathered in sun lotion, hugged, bathed, clothed, rocked to sleep, deloused, potty trained, played with, listened to, protected, supported, emboldened, stimulated, encouraged, respected, challenged. In turn, I learn and am loved, am exhausted and rewarded, in amounts heretofore unknown, and get to enjoy a life that is so much bigger than it was before. Fatherhood has given me insight into my parents, my wife, and my own childhood, thus enriching me and invariably, my work. The kids make you think a little bit differently about yourself because certainly, you’re defined a little bit differently.
My illustrations are hand-drawn and colored and my photographs are usually shot on film. However, I spend a lot of time composing my work digitally. Negatives and drawings are scanned, placed, rotated, scaled, duplicated, erased, and animated. Technology has a greater bearing on how my work is shared. Every time I put my work online, I’m now inviting others to share it: actively, via post, pin, tweet, blog, and passively, via likes, favorites, reblogs, repins. The more inspiring that people find the work, the more extensive its reach.
Although I rely on it for life and even my artwork, I still try to find ways to get away from technology. This is likely why I use film cameras and am still drawing and coloring by hand. I mean, so many of our tools are becoming centralized—email, your phone, your camera, your notebook, your weather forecast, etc. It’s all in your pocket or it’s on your laptop, we are left without much reason to leave the guardhouse. So, to the extent that I can use tools that are detached from technology, I try to. As a person, I feel better when I’m not tethered to a screen.
Creativity to me is using one’s imagination to derive original ideas for the purposes of problem-solving. I develop creativity by constantly asking myself questions in and out of any work context. “In what other ways can this be accomplished?” The popular answer is often easiest or cheapest, but not always best. Simple questions like “What is the ultimate goal?” or “What will be considered a success?” can get me thinking outside a particular box of expectations.
To me, creativity is thinking around something. It’s almost cubist, in a way, because you’re trying to look at it from different angles—looking at a problem that you’re trying to solve, and coming up with a solution that’s unique, generally speaking. Hopefully, with regard to my work, the solution is something that reflects who I am, it’s in a style that I feel comfortable working in, but a the same time reflects the needs of the piece. And it’s different every time—the solution is different every time.
My strongest influences are those I found early: John R. Neill (illustrator of L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series), Shel Silverstein, Johnny Gruelle (author & illustrator of the Raggedy Ann & Andy stories), Uta Barth, Henri Rousseau, William Gedney, Paul Klee, Edward Gorey, John James Audubon and various films from my childhood including Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, Dot and the Kangaroo, and Pete’s Dragon. This is where my creative inspirations originated.
My photographs typically serve as environments or canvases for my illustration—environments that I’m drawn to, and that are often personal. I’m usually making an effort to document—not necessarily the way things were, but the way I want to remember. Drawings, including typography, allow me to add new narratives to the photographs. Together, I’m able to combine photo-based ‘reality’ with the illustration-based ‘imaginary’—a juxtaposition of the real and surreal. This approach has been appropriate for a wide range of assignments, from the whimsical and decorative to the conceptual and thought-provoking.
I’m not the best photographer out there. I’m also not the best illustrator in the world, but I like the output that I make in each of these mediums. At some point, I realized that merging these two things was going to give me something that was more unique, and hopefully, more interesting than either would be on their own. Combining illustration and photography creates artwork with a richer experience for the viewer. It’s a more holistic representation of what I’m doing, what I like to do, what I like to make, and how I see things.
ART & BIOLOGY /
I double majored in art and biology with an emphasis on evolution and ecology, so my studies married my passions for nature and for art. I saw things in my biology classes that were some of the most visually inspiring and visually interesting, from an artistic standpoint.
I remember seeing films with platelets running through the blood stream. I found it to be so beautiful. There’s real subtle color, it’s a moving picture, but you’re also grasping that this is entirely functional, and it’s providing these vital services to your body. As a film and as a piece of art, it’s wonderful, but then you realize how functional it is too. I always end up being hugely inspired artistically by biology.
Generally what was here on Earth before we added things is nicer than what we added. I can still appreciate good architecture, and a cup of coffee or a pair of flip flops, but a lot of the stuff that we’ve made is concrete everywhere. It’s not necessarily a plus. For me, technology is not always the answer. I think sometimes we go backward when we’re trying to go forward.I’m not somebody that’s not going to go to the hospital when I’m sick, and there’s certain things that I’m definitely glad that we have—for me, for my family, and for all of us. But I just appreciate what was here before. To the extent that I can grow these things around me and entice some birds, and raccoons, and skunks into the yard, that’s exciting for me. To the extent that I can go for a walk, and go see the ocean, and be in the trees; it’s nice, it’s lucky. I feel fortunate that I have these little escapes.
In college, I was doing a little bit more sculpture and I used to think that if trees didn’t exist and someone could make a functional tree and it’s running through the whole photosynthesis process—it’s using carbon dioxide, emitting oxygen, and it’s living—that would be amazing. That would be beyond what anybody else is doing or has ever done.We’re all sitting here trying to represent these things in a lot of our art, and these things are all around us. These are the finest pieces.If you wanted to get into it—what’s art? It’s a work on paper, it’s a sculpture, it’s a photograph, it’s a painting, it’s stuff that humans have made. And then you look outside and see the rosemary bush growing there, and it’s just doing its thing. It just gets a little water, maybe it sucks it out of the air, maybe I don’t even water it. It’s just so much better than anything I’m making. Nature sets a high bar for artists. It is the ultimate art. You’re not going to top it and you’re not going to be able to copy it. So, you might s well create something that tries to honor it.
In my photography work I use film instead of digital because I like the results. It’s what I know and I’m comfortable shooting on it. I’m comfortable shooting with these types of cameras. As much as I like instant gratification like the next person, there’s something about dropping film off at the lab and not knowing if you got the shot, which is scary. And then rushing back there as soon as it’s available—6pm on whatever day. It’s like Christmas—you’re unwrapping. I don’t get that experience shooting digitally—which I’ve done a little of —but it feels more like work, going through and editing. I like Christmas much better.Getting to experience that “unwrapping feeling” of developed film on days other than Christmas or your birthday—to be able to get that every week if you wanted it—that’s pretty great.
The old cameras I use have no batteries. You can throw it in your backpack. You can be gone for two weeks, backpacking around, and no need to think about batteries or charging. They’re just pieces of metal and pieces of paper. It’s magical, really, that you don’t need to rely on technology. You don’t have to worry about your camera being obsolete in two years. I can print crystal clear, sharp images from this medium format film upwards to eight feet tall. On a digital camera, I can’t get that without stretching pixels and blurring the shit out of everything. Film wins, always.
I like telling layered narratives in my work. If you could somehow get audio in there, if you get the olfactory (which I can’t yet) if you could have a picture that spoke to you on all these different levels, that would be amazing. I think that is one of the reasons I started including text in my work, to give another layer to the storytelling. Even an abstract letter means something to people. It’s different than an abstract line or a drawing of a cat. With an “L,” people respond. I might be your first initial and you have a different relationship with an L than someone else does. So, text is one story, one layer. The photo is another layer and how viewers interact with the work is creating yet another layer of storytelling and meaning.
I used to think about designing spaces for the Natural History Museum where you walk in to the African hall and you get hit with a blast of 30 mile an hour wind. You’re in the middle of a sandstorm and you’re trying to look at the exhibit but you’re in it. You’re part of the exhibit and you’re walking across the dune and you may or may not get charged by a herd of elephants or maybe you feel like you’re about to. I want my work to feel rich and include many narrative layers that reflect different kinds of realities … yours, mine, everyone’s.
FORTUNE COOKIES /
I used to eat a lot of fortune cookies … a LOT of fortune cookies. They’re cheaper than chips. You could go to the store and buy a huge bag for like 99 cents, so I would do fortune cookies for lunch.This was when I was in my 20s and had no money. I would have a banana and a bag of fortune cookies for lunch. I saved the fortunes because I felt like I earned them, but I didn’t know what to do with them. I started mailing them to people, collaging fortunes to postcards and mailing them off, and started giving away my fortunes because I was already so fortunate, I felt, with all these fortunes.
Then I thought, I’m doing all these photo series and a lot of them included my kids, so, I needed to pass these fortunes on to them somehow. I started looking through my fortune collection and picking out ones that I thought were particularly relevant, ones that would be worth passing on, and then doing them in kind of a cursive style.Overlaying that over photographs of my kids and then cutting the photos out so that the texts would break in kind of weird spots. But it was a way to work with photos of people that I cared about.
My wife is my biggest supporter. She’s available. She’s encouraging. I send her my half-baked work via email during the day and she’ll give me her feedback. She always finds time to help me. When she’s at home and were having dinner, I’m talking to her about this or that, and always bouncing ideas off of her. That’s very helpful to me, because I don’t have a team of people here that I’m working with on a regular basis. The nice thing now is that we’re collaborating together too. Ultimately, if we can include the kids in some of these collaborations down the road, that would be fantastic … kind of a dream come true, actually.
I also like bouncing ideas off my kids. I was doing a series of monsters for a book with Exploratorium and my son was suggesting other types of monsters that I might want to consider. He was drawing monsters next to me and showing me what I should include. A number of them had to be rejected, but there were a few that were great. Just having some young, imaginative, and “thinking” minds that you hold in regard to balance things out is a great resource.
Success for me is completing projects that are challenging, that are new, that are fun, that evolve me, that are engaging on a number of different levels. It’s being a value to my clients, to my family, to my community. I wouldn’t say it is entirely work-centric. You can’t be just focused on work and be successful. Success is way more involved that that, it’s more holistic.