Mr. Tony Papesh is an American artist who began his life adventure of creation from the genesis of being a bed-ridden sickly child. A child with a very active imagination, ample time on his hands, and the raw talent needed to turn his mind to art!
Today Tony’s art is respected world wide for it’s unique style, technical brilliance, and gloop. Lots of gloop. All imbued with that 1970’s patchouli freak scene – beer, psychedelics, denim and weirdos.
(Picture below of a painting by Tony called ‘Keep it Down’)
Interestingly, Tony is also a skilled digital technician – with his art being used for DJ Shadow’s 2011 LP ‘The Less You Know, the Better’.
With lots in the works from Tony, and a unique world view, now is the perfect time to get to know Tony the man and artist, by reading the Art Talk interview below….
Basics/Getting to Know
Name + D.O.B?
Tony Papesh + July 8ish.
City, State n Country you’re Repping?
I’m currently in the SF Bay Area which is in California which is in ‘Merica.
(Photo below of Mr. Tony Papesh)
Describe a memory from three stages of yr life ….basically trying to piece together Mr. Papesh’s pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, women, school, crime… ANYTHING man.
* age 10 – beginnings:
I grew up with shitty health in the midwest.
I wasn’t on life support or anything like that, I just couldn’t be all sporty like most kids so I spent most of my time indoors.
These are the years that allowed me to sit on my ass and draw, play videos games, and watch TV.
* age 15 – getting serious:
This was about the age I realize I needed to get out of the midwest.
I was quick to learn that if I wanted to make art, this was not the place to do it.
At 15, I was about halfway through High School and mentally checked out. My ticket out of this place was college and I had to wait 3 more years before I could journey out West.
Other than being the typical “outcast teen,” nothing much of interest happened here.
* age 20 – adult mode:
By the age of 20, my main concern was paying rent.
I just finished art school and was ready to make some money!
I was able to fake my way into the professional world and worked in advertising. Though I was hired as an animator, I rarely did any art at work, mainly touching up photos and stuff like that.
It would take a few more years before I got serious about painting again.
(Picture below of a self portrait sketch by Tony)
Making paintings is usually something I do when I am alone so I tend to listen to a lot of music so that I am not sitting in silence.
I tend to listen to a wide range of music ranging from good stuff to total shit.
I will spare you an intricate, snobby list but lately I have been listening to a lot of metal (as always), a bunch of garage/psych rock, old surf guitar stuff, and some dark electronic stuff.
Favorite TV show(s)?
I don’t watch much TV anymore so most of my favorite shows are cartoons I saw growing up.
A show I always go back to is The Simpsons. I have yet to pinpoint exactly where the show went stale but I think it was around the time they switched to digital coloring. Anyway, I still quote that show and watch it all the time.
As for my other favorites, well, anything that was on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon in the 90’s.
There’s a ton of great new cartoon shows on TV now (and I have some buddies who work on them) just that I can’t seem to find time to sit in front of a TV for that long anymore. Maybe one day I will be bed bound and I can catch up.
Favorite sport(s) + teams?
You know those indie/artsy/film-school movies that all those snobby folks like to talk on-and-on about? I like those kinds.
(Picture below of Tony’s studio)
Favorite books and comics?
I love the old Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics.
They just rereleased them in a few versions (color and black-and-white) so go pick them up!
Favorite ‘other’ artist(s)?
I have a lot of lovely artist friends who make some of the most amazing art. There is no way I can list them all but I love seeing their work.
They are all great…. except maybe one or two.
Worst aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
Starting out in the art world would have to be the worst part.
You look at everyone else being featured here-and-there and think “Why aren’t people going crazy over my shit?!” If you are lucky, you will catch a break otherwise…
Best aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
There is some crap out there, for sure, but it seems there are more and more talented artists who are getting exposure.
I love being able to find new talent just by browsing the internet for a few moments. Just do a quick search online and you will have your pretty little eyes filled with whatever kind of art you want!
I am also loving the trend of people using traditional mediums rather than digital. I love seeing one-of-a-kinds in galleries rather than something printed from the computer.
Keep those hands dirty, people!
(Picture below of a sketch by Tony)
Do you consider what you are making to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?
I would say most of the stuff I do for myself is “art” while everything else is “work.”
I like making stuff I want to see so I tend to hold on to most of my paintings. Though, when I get strapped for cash, I am sure I won’t mind parting way with a few of them.
When and why did you first start making ‘art’ (drawings, paintings, anything)?
I started long ago when I was about 5 years old when I had to take treatments for my health. I had 30 minute sessions morning and night and there wasn’t much else I could do during this time.
I didn’t really think anything of it at the time, I just drew stuff to pass the time.
Before long, I was drawing all over every sheet of paper that was put in front of me.
I remember having a teacher send a note home telling my parents to discipline me for drawing on all of my papers. My mom took a look at the letter, crumpled it up, and said “Go to Hell, you old bitch. Tony, draw whatever you want.”
What did you draw as a pre-teen child?
When I was young, I drew tons of video game characters. I would look at the Ad papers in the newspaper and flip to the game section and draw Mario, Donkey Kong, Sonic, the Ninja Turtles, and whatever other characters I saw.
I wasn’t much interested in drawing them correctly, just having fun in my own style.
What did you draw as a teen?
I went through an anime phase in my teen years.
Nothing wrong with Anime, but mine wasn’t pretty. I eventually moved on.
(Picture below of an illustration by Tony)
Any pivotal artistic moment/influence?
Lately, I’ve been drawn to a lot of weird, psychedelic art from the past few decades as well as a lot of contemporary weirdness.
It seems nasty, gross artwork died out in the early 2000’s so it is great to see more if it again.
Why + when did you decide to go in on the art hustle?
I have always been drawing in my spare time so there has always been work from me, it just took a while for other people to notice me, I guess.
Describe the method of making a Tony Papesh piece? (dot point all o.k.)
* your paintings?
Lately, most of my paintings have been on wood just because it is tougher than canvas and can take a good beating!
Anyway, I usually set up the board and sketch something out in pencil.
Most times I start drawing without much of a plan- maybe a phrase I thought about, or an emotion I want to paint, or a character or something.
From there, I do a quick first pass at the lines and start throwing down paint. My method of painting is to put color all over the board and make it work.
After I finish the paint, I go back and clean the lines by redrawing as well as adding any finishing touches.
(Picture below of a painting by Tony called ‘Crazy Cat Lady’)
* your sketches?
My sketches range from “total crap” to “stuff I want to show people.”
Nothing too special here with the crappy pieces- just scribble on some paper and something might come of it.
As for the more “refined” sketches, I like to use ink with two-or-three tones of gray/grey for shading.
(Picture below of some tattoo idea doodles by Tony)
* your animations?
I don’t do too many animations unless I am at work.
I know, that is a really awful thing to say but I would rather be painting than sitting in front of a computer.
What are the best and worst commissions you have worked on, and the tale(s) behind them?
Actually, I haven’t done too many commissions. The last one I did was probably 15 years ago – it was to draw someone’s characters. They were happy with the piece but it wasn’t very fun.
I pretty much stopped taking commissions after that – I would rather draw my own stuff.
What was it like working for DJ Shadow on the teaser video and other art for his 2011 album ‘The Less You Know, The Better’?
That was probably the coolest project I worked on.
It all started with an email asking for my availability for some work. I originally told them that I was busy (I was already double booked) and then they told me that the client is DJ Shadow and wanted me to do some album artwork for him.
My schedule instantly cleared up!
I met with him, we nerded out about old cartoons, and then went over what he wanted for the project: An LP cover, 3 EP covers, 2 Animations, handwrite all text, and a whole mess of other promotional drawings.
It was pretty surreal to have your boss tell you to draw a mustache and pointy boobs on a promotional photo of himself.
It was a ton of work but it was a blast to work on.
I would totally do it again!
(Picture below of some of Tony’s art for DJ Shadow’s LP ‘The Less You Know, The Better’)
Odds n Ends
What role did toys play in your childhood?
I had a lot of Ninja Turtle figures – I loved that series a lot when I was younger. It was fun to play with them (ya know, that’s what kids do) but it was also great to check out all the details in the figures.
I think this is what inspired me to always include details here-and-there to make my stuff more interesting.
(Picture below of some Playmates Toys TMNT figures from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s – Tony’s most loved toys as a child)
N.B: Picture from ‘Yard Byrds‘
Who was your 1st crush and why?
I remember staying up late when I was pretty young and there was some boobs on the movie channel.
I would say that was probably my first crush.
Does sex change everything?
Maybe if you do it wrong.
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
I was tired, I closed my eyes, and then woke up.
I don’t remember my dreams so that about sums it up.
Have you ever tried psychedelics of any sort? And what was the experience like?
(Picture below of a drawing by Tony)
What are the 3 weirdest questions people have asked you at an opening/gallery?
I don’t have any fun “question” stories but I met an erotic cake decorator at an art opening.
I was pretty gone at the time so I had a blast hearing about dick cakes.
Any collaborations on the horizon?
I may have drunkenly agreed to a few collaborations that I forgot about with @stefari.
Luckily, her art is badass so I would be happy to do a collab.
Other than that, we will see!
Any major projects you want to hype man?
Nothing too major at the moment.
I have had to take a short break from painting so that I can look into making merch like pins, shirts, zines, and toys.
I am getting antsy to start painting again so the merch might be put on hold.
(Picture below of a t-shirt with art by Tony)
- Tony Papesh – site
- Tony Papesh – online store
- Tony Papesh – Instagram
- Tony Papesh – Facebook
- Tony Papesh – twitter
- Tony Papesh – tumblr