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Artist Interview: Peabe

Welcome to the first installment of our new interview series on the blog, where we profile artists and businesses we respect and who we think deserve some of that delicious, tasty spotlight. This series is also meant to give all you burgeoning artists and entrepreneurs out there a bit of inspiration and insight, so your comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome.

First up in the series is Peabe. We’ve known this guy for years now, having run in the same circles in Chicago. He’s always been a cool operator with a great sense of humor, not to mention a skilled artist who always impresses in print or on gallery walls.

We’ve collaborated with him before, and he’s since left Chicago to pursue another stage of his life out in Oakland. He’s still kicking down doors with badass art, and he has his own clothing line called Finally Hip.

A grad of the renowned Columbia College in Chicago, he’s a family man who still loves making art and living life to the fullest. All that said, let’s get it on.

1. How long ago did you start creating art, and what made you begin?

I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. Cartoons, comics, and my lolo (gramps) got me into art. Just chilling and sketching after my homework was done was a daily. Good times.

2. What mediums do you normally work in, and what’s your preferred method?

Pencil, ink, acrylic, spray, digital. As of recently, I work mainly in pencil, ink, and digital. Turnaround is quicker, and any space I used to have for a makeshift studio has now been taken over by my daughter’s toys and books.

3. How would you describe your style in your younger years?

Heavily graffiti-, cartoon-, and comic-inspired.

4. And now? Do you feel like it has evolved, or changed into something entirely different?

Still cartoon- and comic-inspired, but a little cleaned up and tighter. Slightly evolved and barely cleaned up, but I’m trying haha.

5. Do you plan or reflect on a subject before you start working on a new piece, or is it improvised?

It’s a little bit of both. Sometimes I know I have a subject in mind, and I wanna flip it right away. Then, a lot of stuff also comes from random sketches that lead to more formal ideas. Lots of breaking down and building up.

6. What inspiration do you find in your surroundings?

Current events, random colors, my daughter’s actions, my wife, my mood. Everything. It’s really random, but the best is walking into an environment that’s new for me. I love taking little road trips with my family and being able to sketch or write down something that inspires imagery. Seeing normal things that I haven’t seen before in person, and letting them bounce around in my head until something new falls out on paper because of it.

7. Would you say that your hometown has inspired the type of art you create, and if it has, how so?

Definitely. I was born and raised in Chicago, and that city is eclectic as fuck. Bright colors surrounded by dark skies, and vice versa, depending on the day and weather. People of all shapes and sizes. The graffiti scene in the 90s was super influential to me because I used to take the Red Line and a couple of buses to get to/from school, and that’s when graffiti was everywhere. Solo and Antck were huge to me as a teen, because all I ever saw was lettering and those two killed it with characters.

My mind was like, “Hold up, you can kill it with characters?!” I mean, this was in the 90s, before the internet was what it is now. I only really saw dudes like Bode doing characters when I’d find the occasional graffiti mag or zine. Those were cool, but seeing Solo and Antck on walls, in person, with gnarly characters, definitely pulled me off lettering and focusing on characters. I would take the train everywhere just to find more character work. I’d take mad pictures, run to Walgreen’s, and just wait for them so I could study their lines and colors at home.

8. When you’re in the town you call home, where do you prefer to work?

Anywhere I can. Going back home, I don’t have a studio, so I just always carry a sketchbook, pencil, marker, and eraser. Setup wherever and get it in where I can.

9. Do you travel for your work? If so, do you have a favorite place to go for that?

I don’t, but my wife, daughter, dog, and I have been taking small RV trips around Cali, and that has been beautiful. Disconnecting from digital and parking in a place surrounded by nature is really refreshing. So, at this point, any camp spot or RV spot is what I love now. Getting a chance to listen to your brain and put it on paper has been fun.

10. How does being an artist affect your social and home life?

I get a little too focused on work sometimes, so trying to put the equipment down to chill with my fam is important. It’s fun having drawing sessions with my wife and daughter. My daughter has been getting into Star Wars and comic books lately, so that’s been really fun, too.

11. Have you found it to be a breeze – probably not! – or is it a pain in the neck to be seen and make a name for yourself?

It’s a pain in the fucking ass, trying to “make a name.” It’s hard ’cause I try not to care too much about that, and try to let the work speak for itself; but it does take effort on my end. I’m trying, but I suck at self promotion. Also, I felt that getting too focused on “making a name” trapped me into trying to create a “recognizable style” that I eventually started disliking. So, I took a step back and just started illustrating and designing for fun. I stepped away from doing shows for this reason.

12. Are you at a point where you’re comfortable making a living as an artist, or do you still feel that you have to grind hard every day?

I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable and stop grinding at it. I got the Asian immigrant parent mentality of, “It won’t last forever, you have to – have to – grind forever.” It definitely does get tiring, though.

13. Do you have a career outside of the arts? If so, what is it?

Nah, if I’m not illustrating, I’m doing design work. It’s all art related. I’m not awesome at art, but I suck worse at everything else haha. Unless I can be a professional doughnut taster.

14. Have those around you generally been encouraging of what you do?

Definitely. My wife has always been really supportive; she’s an artist herself. She gives me the criticism I need, which I won’t normally get from others, and she always pushes me to promote myself.

15. On an average day, how much time do you think about your art, and does it drive you mad when you want to work on something but aren’t in a place where you can?

I think about it all the time. I try not to let it bother me, because sometimes things are just out of my hands So, I just try to get to it later. The way I look at it is, if I’m not stoked to work on it when I can, then maybe it was lame haha.

16. Tell us about one terrible experience you had as a burgeoning artist.

I won’t be specific, but interactions with certain galleries is what pushed me away from shows.

17. What about one memorable experience that has made it all worthwhile?

Rotofugi taking a chance on me for their first gallery grand opening is still one of my most memorable experiences. It was almost ten years ago,  but I’m still forever grateful to them. I think about it all the time and still thank Whitney and Kirby randomly, haha.

Studio by Peabe

18. What are the top physical tools that you recommend for any artist?

Pencil and paper. Start with the basics, and keep using those. I got to a point where I was barely sketching, and I feel like it definitely affected my thinking in bad way.

19. What are the top mental traits that you think an artist needs?

Perseverance and thick skin.

20. What dos and don’ts do you have for someone who is – or wants to be – an artist?

None, just do what feels right to you. Listen to people that give constructive criticism; but, at the end of the day, do you.

21. Would you recommend people forge a path in the arts?

If you want a life of pain and torture, yes go for it. If you want it to be easy, this ain’t the life for you. Unless you’re a rich kid, then whatevs.

22. Do you think you’ll ever stop being an artist?

No. I don’t know what else to do.

23. In a parallel universe, what would be your ideal profession, and why?

I’d like the life of pro skaters, like Ed Templeton or the Gonz (Mark Gonzales). After an awesome life of skating, their lives eventually led to their art.

24. If you were an animal, what would you be, and why?

A platypus. They’re fuckin’ weirdos,  but they’re cool as fuck. We can chill and be weird together; but mistake my kindness for weakness, and I’ll roundhouse you with my poison spur. It won’t kill you, but it’ll definitely suck.

25. Any last words of wisdom or warning?

Art is rough, but if you can’t picture yourself doing anything else in life, don’t force the other thing. Don’t be safe, go with your passion.

You can join the life and work of Peabe and his projects at the following links:

Any thoughts about our interview with Peabe, or his work? Any questions about this talk, or suggestions for future interviews? Let us know your thoughts down below!

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