Whether we’re talking about canvas, skin, glass or public property, the need to create distinctive and visually arresting art knows no bounds. From the streets to the gallery, inspired by DIY music or pop culture—the visionaries we profile for our first Art Issue stimulate our minds, find inspiration in unlikely places and remind us that the eye of the beholder is merely a first-class ticket to the realm of the senses.
Size Does Matter
Mike Giant’s lifestyle gives him colossal street cred
By Paul Rogers
An influential graffiti artist, tattooist, illustrator, zine-maker and skateboard designer, Mike Giant both communicates and decorates street culture. Yet he still finds time for fixed-gear riding, mindfulness meditation, Buddhism, zealous globe-trotting and unusually strategic marijuana use. Lately, the San Francisco-based Giant (who’s both color-blind and nearsighted) has been focusing on yet another creative medium—his Rebel8 clothing line.
“I’d been doing freelance graphics for lots of different companies—people were trying to buy a look and buy into a lifestyle,” recalls Giant of conceiving Rebel8 with partner Joshy D. in 2003. “It’s our lifestyle, really. I grew up skateboarding and riding BMX bikes and listening to punk rock. I saw hip-hop come out of nowhere and saw the Internet come out of nowhere. I’m 38 years old now—all these things kind of affected my way of seeing the world and that comes out in all the work . . . We don’t really look too much at what other people are doing.”
Giant and another full-time designer create Rebel8’s look, while Joshy D. handles business matters. With Giant’s existing fan base of graffiti, tattoo and skate fans, colossal street-cred and a distinctive, precise-line Sharpie style (often incorporating skulls and tattooed girls) which translates well onto clothing, sales have grown steadily. And Rebel8’s success is just one symptom of an ever-growing mainstream acceptance of the underground art.
“I feel like a lot of the changes that I’m seeing in terms of street art in the popular media happens to coincide with a change in political power,” he mulls. “I don’t know how much credit I can give the Obama administration . . . but I do know he organized a summit and they really discussed street art and its relation to the public and the fact that it’s illegal, but it hasn’t stopped at all. And in fact the rest of the world recognizes it as legitimate art and as something America should be proud of.”
“It’s gotta change and it is . . . When I was coming up as a graffiti artist, we really ran the show—there wasn’t really re-paste people or sticker people . . . Shepard [Fairey] really blazed a trail for that and I’m really thankful. I hope that people will see the streets as theirs too. Regardless of the medium you choose, I just like the interaction.”
Giant sees parallels between the legitimization of street art and the more relaxed attitude towards cannabis under the current White House administration. “I can see that the powers-that-be see the merit in de-criminalizing it . . . [but] there’s still a lot of people in this country that are of generations that really dealt with the demonization of marijuana head-on and they’re not going to be so easily switched. Frankly, I’m surprised at how quickly it’s happening.”
He began dabbling with pot while studying architecture at the University of New Mexico (on a full-ride scholarship) in the early ’90s and became a regular user a few years back.
“I lived in Amsterdam for a summer two years ago and I was able to really work with different strains of marijuana. I really got an understanding for myself of the difference between indica and sativa,” he recalls. “Because I was just working; I was just drawing all day, every day, and under that kind of controlled environment I’d feel like I was really able to see which strains were beneficial and which weren’t. I just came to find for myself that a pure indica sort of facilitated [creativity]: it kept me concentrated and relaxed, but I wasn’t super-thinking, thinking, thinking . . . and then I could smoke some sativa with friends and entertain and talk a lot and be social!”
See what else Mike’s been up to at www.mikegiant.com.
Head of the Glass
Sheldon Black’s smokeware is definitely high-end
By James Abraham
At April’s THC Exposé, shapely models strutted the L.A. Convention Center floor in barely-there micro shorts announcing “Sheldon Black: Nice Glass” across their behinds. No kidding: Sheldon Black creates high-end smokeware that’s had connoisseurs chattering since it became widely available under the umbrella of long-established German water-piper makers RooR last year.
Something of an enigma, Black has in fact been quietly designing and manufacturing premium smokeware in Los Angeles since 1988, and even holds a pair of U.S. patents (for his Combined Tobacco Smoking Pipe Bowl and Receiving Stem). Going from anonymity to industry ubiquity almost overnight once he teamed with RooR, Black’s fine, hand-blown glass is now festooned with his deeply-blasted logos (in part to curtail rampant smokeware counterfeiting) and is available in retail outlets across America—36 in California alone. His range of products is huge, with multiple sizes, shapes and numbers of diffusers/chambers offered.
SB’s stuff isn’t cheap: a basic 13-inch water pipe can run around $150; with non-removable percolator, make that $460 (or $550 with removable version). But you get what you pay for. While Black’s glassware can ostensibly resemble existing RooR products, closer inspection reveals ultra-clean quality, with flawless welds and nice attention-to-detail touches like ground glass joints with authentification marks and dates of manufacture.
Sheldon Black’s not just about impressive aesthetics, however. Users rave about the effortless flow of his tubes, which milk smoothly and clear quickly. Removable mouth-pieces (making for easier cleaning and transport) and multiple chambers are carefully designed for a pleasing balance of flow and back-pressure, resulting in an incredibly even toke.
Do we really need designer smokeware? Maybe, maybe not, but Sheldon Black’s products offer superior performance and durability which justify their price tags. And as water pipes are (often literally) at the center of so many social gatherings, why not make them beautiful? Once you go Black, you never look back.
For the latest smokeware, check out www.sheldonblack.com.
Mr. Scott would like to teach the world to smile
By Stacy Davies
Artist Scott Stewart believes in three things: Superman, Spider-Man—and cannabis. A self-taught illustrator, Mr. Scott (as he is professionally known) has achieved the American Dream—at least his version of it—and is on a mission to educate the people about cannabis and promote truth, justice and being damned happy to be alive.
Hailing from Tennessee via Florida, Mr. Scott discovered his love for comics and cannabis in his teens, later taking on a myriad projects including a line of Superman, Spider-Man and Wombat comic book illustrator jobs; but it was last year, after moving to Los Angeles, that Mr. Scott segued into what he considers his artistic goal in life: putting a happy face on cannabis.
“This is dear to my heart, my numero uno life’s work. I do what I do with the highest regard and respect. I want to promote the recreational use of cannabis, but also the product and industry end. There’s a lot more there than just the high—there’re like 50 thousand commercial uses for cannabis.”
Visually illustrating his desire to peel the criminal label from cannabis has led him to produce a wide range of work, from hip/psychedelic posters (most notably Train Wreck, which is dedicated to Jerry Garcia) to a new project that he’s staying tight-lipped about.
“Right now, I’m working on a personal work that’s solely about cannabis. It’s inspired by [activist and The Emperor Wears No Clothes author] Jack Herer, and it’s my opus.”
He’s also moved further into the commercial end of the line with a new company currently under construction.
“My partner Nick and I formed a little company called Bud Brand, and we’ve started to do logos and labels and product design, all within the cannabis industry. I’m also working on some custom rolling papers that will be out soon.”
And where does Mr. Scott foresee the Bud Brand taking him and the rest of us?
“The truth is bubbling to the surface—there’s a lot of info coming to light, and as we learn more, there’ll be change. In the New World, we’re going to get out from under this oil dependency and I can do a lot through my art in cooperation with other people who have the same focus. Once people can see that it’s not a threatening situation that we’re dealing with, then it’s done, we can claim success—and can all go sit in a hot tub!”
The list of invitees to the hot tub party is all-inclusive—Mr. Scott doesn’t like fighting and wants everyone, whether cannabis is part of their life or not, to come along. He also notes that he’s a living example that cannabis does not hinder success.
“If anybody had any question about cannabis impeding progress, well, I’ve accomplished my wildest childhood dreams of becoming a published illustrator of my favorite characters—and I was smoking the entire time.”
With such a promotional spin on his career, it begs the question if Mr. Scott should be the poster boy for the positive effects of cannabis use—but he prefers to let others take the glory.
“Tommy Chong is the poster boy!” he laughs. “I’ll draw the poster boy—I don’t want TMZ in my front yard!”
Mr. Scott can be reached at email@example.com.
Boy in the Hood
Estevan Oriol tells an L.A. story—from the streets
By Paul Rogers
Estevan Oriol has parlayed a great eye, access to L.A.’s grittier neighborhoods and rare business savvy into a multimedia empire. He began taking on-the-road photos while tour managing Cypress Hill and House of Pain in the early 1990s and progressed to capturing street life back home. Now one of the most recognized urban and hip-hop photographers (and directors), his work has graced GQ, Details and Rolling Stone, and he’s directed music videos for everyone from Blink-182 to Linkin Park. His Joker Brand Clothing, established with L.A. artist Mister Cartoon in 1995, has a become a stalwart global label, while SA Studios Agency—a design/art “culture factory” and another Oriol/Cartoon collaboration—boasts corporate clients including Nike, Toyota and T-Mobile.
“My style hasn’t changed, but just my technique is better . . . and my hustle has gotten better,” says Oriol in his matter-of-fact tone. “My style is rough, ready and raw . . . I was in a low rider club in East L.A. and was documenting the low riding scene. That’s what I became known for—music and L.A. street life.”
Oriol offers a window into the coveted Hispanic urban market for corporations because, with the respect he commands in the hoods, he can shoot in places where most photographers can’t and offers his own version of L.A.’s story. For example, his 2009 portrait book, L.A. Woman, shuns the “enhanced” blondes so often associated with the city in favor of girls-next door, store clerks and single moms.
Oriol started smoking pot at age 10 but, unsurprisingly, it was while hanging with Cypress Hill that his usage went “full blast”—with some resultant artistic inspiration. However, despite the fact that Oriol says he’s been cannabis- (and alcohol-) free, he admits it does get the creative juices going.
“People don’t take you serious when you are going to a business meeting and you smell like you just came out of a Cheech & Chong van, y’know?” he laughs. “[But] I think that [cannabis], period, makes you more creative. I don’t know, it just makes some shit loose in your head—you think of crazy and wild shit . . . that’s pretty f*#king creative to me.”
And he’s totally pro-legalization.
“I think it’s cool, cuz everyone can make money at it; it opens up opportunities for people to work. And I don’t think weed is the problem.”
Keep it real and check out www.estevanoriol.com for more info.
Scratch the Surface
Post-punk legend David Yow explores his inner Lizard
By Matt Tapia
David Yow definitely knows something about being on the fringe. As the frontman for the reunited The Jesus Lizard (and the vocalist for pioneering noise-rock/post-punk band Scratch Acid), Yow’s bread-and-butter was exploring the edges of texture, acoustic terrorism and feedback-drenched mind expansion. All the while, his burgeoning artistic talents helped him create album covers for his bands. Yow recently designed a poster for an August 2010 Queens of the Stone Age/Eagles of Death Metal fundraiser concert. Now, he’s a one-man show. Through Sept. 11, Yow has a one-man exhibition of paintings, collages and digital drawings called “SOLO” running at the DIY Gallery in L.A. With mediums ranging from acrylic, pencil, tar on wood and charcoal (among others), the artist has been successfully exploring his inner psychological textures to reveal his uncommon perspective.
And, yes, sometimes cannabis helps the creative juices flow a bit more easily. But let Yow explain: “I’m not really a pot smoker, but I did a drawing the other night stoned off my woo-hoo,” he tells CULTURE.
Get more details on Yow’s show at www.facebook.com/diygallery.
She’s Got Issues
Talk about reader response. When the Riverside artist that goes by the name Panda Anderson received a stack of CULTURE issues, she decided to take them to a whole new level. Suddenly, Southern California’s best medical cannabis lifestyle publication became the 24-year-old’s medium of expression as she turned the magazines into decorative bowls and planters. “A friend of mine told me that she had heard of bowls from old magazines,” Anderson says. “Intrigued, I did a little research and sort of created my own version.” And medical marijuana sometimes plays a role in the creative process. “When I medicate, I find it easier for me to see the way I want a project to turn out and the most effective way to get there. I also find myself much more focused and attentive to the smaller details of my work.” Hey, we’re bowled over!