Interview of the Nite Owl

Originally posted by Street Art SF on March 11

ARTIST INTERVIEW: NITE OWL

By Street Art SF Team on March 11, 2013

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I guess the biggest influence hands down has been Dr. Seuss. The creativity of this guy and his working in the “fantastic” world have really been a source for me to draw from later on down the road.

When did you start making street art? What was it that got you started?
Well, after being on the streets for more years than i care to admit i stopped doing graffiti around 2000. I became a bit bored with it all and decided to take a break from the life and pursue other interests. Of course after a few years of inactivity I realized that i missed being out on the streets. Around 2006 i came back to the game but with a more focused artistic vision as opposed to just running around and dropping tags on the town.

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How did you come up with your name ?
Technically, i didn’t come up with that name. One of my clients nicknamed me the “Nite Owl” due to my habit of not answering his emails before 2am. I liked the name and just kind of ran with it. It fits me well, i’m a product of the 90′s rave scene –  i like staying up late, watching the sunrise and drinking dubious amounts of coffee.

Do you have an art and design background? If so can you elaborate a bit?
Yes, i have a design background. I have a couple of architecture degrees to fall back on if my art doesn’t do so well. In my spare time i design homes throughout California, but my main focus is in the Bay Area and San Diego. When i’m not painting owls i’m designing custom homes for people with elevated design sensibilities.

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What type of piece do you do?
I’m mostly known for my proficiency in the slap game, but i also do multi-plate stencil work, hand painted wheatpastes and i rock character based murals when there is wall space available.

What type of tools do you use?
Vinyl and hand drawn stickers (USPS and UPS slaps), Spray paint, Ink, pencil, X-acto blades – i’m not shouting out brand names since those companies don’t sponsor me.

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Where can your pieces be seen? Do you do walls, installations, trains, sidewalk pieces etc…
In the Bay Area, Tahoe, San Diego, NYC, umm, my slaps are everywhere. I tend to travel frequently. I have a few murals running in Oakland and some new walls in the works. I paint in the Lilac Alleys in San Francisco. You may have see some of the trucks I’ve painted rolling by during biz hours. I’ve hooked up with our local weekly paper and to customize a few of their boxes. Keep your eyes open, i have some cutty spots in the town and some cutty objects rolling around the streets daily. If you watch the local news there is a good chance of seeing my work there.

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Do you work by yourself or do you collaborate with others?
For the majority of my career i primarily worked solo, but over the past few years I’ve linked up with a few solid individuals in The Town that i’m always down to go out on the streets with or make art with. I guess this is where i shout out the homies: much respect to Onedr, Eddie Colla, Aura, Reggie Warlock, Filth Grime, Basic Lee, Saltr, Chris Micro and of course madd shouts to my dog, Chuwee. She’s been with me on about 90% of my solo missions. More shouts to The Others and the Chopsticks crew.

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Is there a specific message you’re trying to get across?
No, no real message for me. I try not to cloud my artwork with the serious stuff. If you’re reading something that I painted, then it’s more social commentary than it is art… If there is a message then it is up to you to delve into my works and pull it out of the images I’ve painted. I prefer to paint and let the colors i use assault your senses. While I don’t have a message I haven’t shied away from working with a few groups who have one. Most recently I did some artwork for the Justice for Alan Blueford Coalition and I was also behind some of the better artwork that graced the exterior of the Occupy Oakland bus.

Come to think of it I guess there is an intrinsic message in my actions…get off the couch and do something … fuck the establishment … the streets are ours.

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Where do you get your inspiration?
I’m inspired by day to day life. The constant struggle, the unanswered questions . . . just waking up and seeing the sunshine inspires me. I’m inspired by people who have had to deal with greater struggles than i have and continue to go on regardless.

What art / artist influenced you in your formative years ? Are there any now?
I guess the biggest influence hands down has been Dr. Suess. The creativity of this guy and his working in the “fantastic” world have really been a source for me to draw from later on down the road. While living on the East Coast i spent plenty of time strolling through the galleries and museums. The cubists. surrealists and the abstract expressionists have had the most impact on my art. It may not be evident, but it’s there in principle. Japanese manga, comic books and other people’s sketchbooks have always inspired me. The streets of NYC in my youth really played a huge part in my development.  As for artists out there now that influence me…first off, all my friends that i create with. I’m a huge fan of Murakami, Dalek, Kaws, Robots Will Kill, Dabs and Myla, Nychos . . . i could go on, but i won’t. Honestly, anyone who has been able to develop their own style and just straight rock it like nobody else can.

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Did you doodle as a child?
are you kidding me? I’m a chronic doodler. my parents bought me a new box of crayons weekly, and not because i was eating them. Yes, i doodled…i couldn’t stop and all these years later i still can’t ! I go through pens and markers like nobodies business.

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I am fascinated with the diversity of street artist. Some I have met work as full time creative artist by day and on the streets at night. Other artists have a 9-5 style job that is not artistic at all and street art is their creative outlet. What do you do day to day? Does your day job have anything to do with art? Is this a full time thing for you?

I think that is what is really cool about the whole graffiti / street art scene… there are no barriers to entry. Anyone can do it, you don’t have to be an artist to get up.  That’s also what sucks about it…you have people with zero talent going out there and making a mess of it all. There are a bunch of tags and images out there that are so lacking in style and thought that I personally want to buff them …

Anyway, back to the question . . . I’m a self employed designer / photographer / artist and I’ve been doing it on my own for over a decade now. While my work may be creative, the end product isn’t necessarily for me, so being on the streets is my own personal creative outlet.

I think it is interesting that you moved from photography to art. I wonder if photography changes the way you look at things and consequently your art?
well, i didn’t actually move from photography to art, it’s the reverse. I picked up photography shortly after college and I began to document the world that i saw around me.  Couple this with my travel to far off lands and then i really got into it. Photography definitely changes the way i looked at my art. It really taught me about how one’s eye perceives a piece and moves around that piece, hint, you never start by looking directly into the center of a piece. trust me…this probably explains why my subjects are never in the middle of a composition. Photography taught me about balance, borders and framing, and most importantly, how to make a static 2 dimensional piece into something dynamic that wants to leap off a page.

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Do you travel to do street art in different places or do you do street art when you travel ?
I travel for the sake of travel. I’m afflicted with wanderlust. Ever since my first trip to Europe I’ve been all about exploiting cheap airfares and friends in other time zones. When i travel i always have a stack of slaps, some pasters and a marker in my bag. I leave my mark in one way or another.

I’ve painted in other cities, but i really like painting at home more. I prefer a more intimate audience.  I really love it when little kids tell me they’ve seen my murals or posters. What’s the point of traveling to another country to paint when none of my peoples are going to be able to see it except via some shitty internet flick from someone’s cell phone ? I like the local fame, being a street name in Oakland is way more appealing than being an internet all-star collecting pointless “LIKES”.

That being said, if you’re down to fund my travel i’ll go paint anywhere if i can have some extra time to kick it and experience your city. I do make it a point to return to NYC twice a year minimum. San Diego a few times per year as well and i winter in Tahoe. I also make it a point to visit at least one new city per year…so yeah, I spread those slaps –  Nite Owl has wings !

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Do you have an upcoming project or show you want me to let people know about?
Yes, there are a few things going on in my world in the near future:
In April i’m taking part in a group show, The Elefunk Gallery, that is creating works in honor of Patti Astor’s book and experiences at the FUN Gallery back in the glorious 80′s. There is a gallery show at Loakal opening on April 5 and we are doing a wall jam with the artists involved. I’m working on a wall with Onedr, Ernest Doty, Griffin and Such from AZ. The Ex Vandal crew will be rocking the adjacent wall.The walls are being painted on April 27th with a closing show at Loakal that night. We’re also working on a secret “hotel” show for an upcoming Art Murmur /First Friday event. Next up, It’s a bit off in the distance, but we’re planning a 4 day,  back to back weekend jam for The Others at Chopsticks UAS in June 2013. It will coincide with the Oakland open studios – June 8, 9, 15 and 16. Don’t sleep on this one. Nite Owl, Onedr, Reggie Warlock, Basic Lee, Lisa Pisa, Chris Micro, Fem One and a few others will be displaying character based artworks alongside some sick local DJ talent. On the heels of that, The Others will also be doing a smaller show at Spice Monkey in downtown Oakland on July 6. Aside from that show you can typically find my work at Chopsticks Urban Art Space in East Oakland

Can’t get enough of Nite Owl? Check out his website and his photographs on Fatcap Follow him onfacebook or shop his online store

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact

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Interview on “LA’s Most Wanted” painting

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So what inspired you to do this work?

Well, I stopped in to see the MOCA show on graffiti artist, which I thought would be great. The show was truly amazing showing the history of graffiti rising from tagging to block fill-ins to pieces. Before I saw the show though, the LAPD were literally swarming the exhibition to try to keep away other aspiring graffiti artists from being “inflicted” or some other paranoia. That’s when I realized how crazy the LAPD had become onto this new rising art form.

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So why did you choose Revok as the theme?

Well the LAPD actually went after REVOK, who was one of the head artists in the show. The weird thing is they arrested him over one of his legal murals, so I was floored that the LAPD had overstepped the boundaries. Additionally, the bond on the case was $320,000 or more than a serial killer bond!? How is painting on cement as bad as killing people.

So what does the right side say?

I did this in “graffiti” style. Since I don’t do graffiti, its not true to the style. However, in graffiti you can pay tributes to artists fallen in your own style or a close copy of their style. Originally, I was trying to copy one of REVOK’s masterpieces, but it proved too difficult to execute well. (He’s been painting for decades, so no surprise there). You can faintly make out the original outline beneath the final lettering.

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What is bombing in graffiti?

This is the attempt to literally bomb the area with as much of your tags or block fills as possible; to literally paint a huge section of the city. Sometimes if you can paint on every area in the city this becomes known as “city-wide”. On the subway, there was the attempt to do top-to-bottom, then whole cars and then whole trains!

Below is an outrageous crew doing a whole train during operating hours with people in the train. Totally illegal, but fun!

Why did LAPD get so extreme in their policing of graffiti?

Well, if you look at maybe 50% of graffiti is simply tagging and another 25% maybe in block fills, which to the untrained eye just look junky and fall into the “broken windows” theory. While only 25% of graffiti might be the really quality pieces that are obviously art.

Another problem is that police tend to see or label graffiti artists as gangs. They share a bit of the characteristics in that you have a crew and are only admitted after reaching a certain level of quality in your work, but they really are not into serious crime. Some artists do live on the edge, stealing their supplies, so there is a rough edge.

What is the “broken windows” theory?

It arose in the 1980s in New York City, which was one of the capitals of graffiti originally. There was a book written that said if one window was broken in a building, that would lead to more broken windows and eventually increase in crime as criminals felt “safe”. Graffiti was seen as falling into this category of creating more crime after it was placed, so hence the police priority in stopping any graffiti of happening at all under this theory.

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Do you think the police action was appropriate in NYC?

There are two sides to the story. On one side Mayor Guiliani’s reform of the police led to dramatic drop in the crime rate, so jobs came back to NYC and people felt “safe” to live there again.

On the other side, the NYC government completely wiped out the subway graffiti culture and hindered the development of the arts. At one point the artists tried to approach the city to just paint one car to see how the public would react, but the police completely did not accept this.

How do graffiti artist see themselves?

I am theorizing here (as I don’t do graffiti), but they see themselves as taking on the advertising world. The advertisers are free to put as many obnoxious ads in the public eye under “paid” space. The irony is that the space is really for all the public, but the government only allows Madison Avenue to dominate.

Further Links:

http://www.graffiti.org/faq/werwath/werwath.html

http://revok1.com/

http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=667&issue_id=82005

http://www.moca.org/

 

Are any works available? 

Check my shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ShawNshawNart

 

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact