OBEY CLOTHING PRESENTS SUMMER 2015 ARTIST SERIES PATRICK ROCHA
Patrick Rocha (B. 1982) is an artist living and working in Los Angeles. His work ranging from fine art, illustration, zine making, typography and murals has put him in numerous exhibitions and publications internationally. His work has appeared in Arkitip, Juxtapoz, Flaunt, Swindle, Frank 151and Jacques magazines among other publications. The range of the methods he uses can’t really put him in any category. Check out the variety at www.patrickrocha.com
Read on to learn more about the Kansas City native and how his Artist Series collection was a play off his flyer art in our exclusive Interview.
What was it like growing up in Kansas City and how did you get on a path to being an artist? I know your dad was an artist, was that a big factor?
Growing up in general is still a big part of the way things turn out in my work. I am somewhat immune to weird things, people and ephemera that I saw as a child. Kansas City holds a special place in my heart in that way. My Dad was an artist and musician and my mother was a singer in tons of bands in the Early 80’s. My dad took a graphic design job in California when I was two so we moved there for a short stint before moving back to KC. My parents were in their early twenties and figuring it out I guess. My earliest memories are my dad doing drawings without a desk, literally on a drawing board on the floor. freelancing, fresh out of a divorce, single dad raising two boys. So that turned into something of an original childhood. He let my brother and I check out whatever R rated movies we wanted and go nuts in thrift stores. Until he got re-married when I was five and things got a bit more normal, but he still let me do whatever I wanted. He became the courtroom artist for the local news network and took me to a trial when I was seven and I watched him draw and saw his work on the news later that night after dinner. I was so young, and it was actually a murder trial. but I knew then I wanted to be an artist. His encouragement to draw everyday and collect stuff was very important. He is a self taught artist, and a very good one. I owe a lot to his weird ways.
You ended up going to Pratt in Brooklyn. You had mentioned your step mom was really supportive in talking you into going to NY but your dad was discouraging art school. Was that a tough decision to make and what did you want at that time out of the move?
That time in my life was the essential “confusing” time. I was already drawing on my high school homework, not caring because I hated high school. I actually passed math because my teacher cut me a deal if I drew up all of her charts and drew a portrait of her daughter, which I did to pass. But at that time it was exciting, I was learning from the people I was hanging out with so art school was basically a boat for me to meet new jacks. I was hanging out with people older than me on the weekends, sometimes during the week, going bombing and doing murals with guys like Scribe, Audio, Moter and Pose. It was a really cool time for the KC graffiti scene. So as high school was coming to an end my step mom moved to New York and encouraged me to apply to an art school there. First thought was Brooklyn because I was really into graffiti. I applied to Pratt and got in and sure enough I met ton of writers and street artists on and off campus. It was the best decision I have ever made. Even though my dad thought I already had skills and didn’t need to pay tons of money to have some guy teach me how to draw, I was more interested in exploring the city. I made alot of friends right away that are doing big things right now. It changed my ideas completely.
After 2 years at Pratt you dropped out and started at SVA. Were you starting to think your dad was right about art school? What made you switch over?
That is actually very important. Things changed after 9-11. The heat got turned up a bit. Everyone I knew changed a bit and got more serious. As did I. I felt restless and wanted more, a different environment. My roommate at the time was going to SVA, so I was going to parties with him and meeting all these SVA kids. I was hearing about all these teachers that I have actually heard of. Artists I have looked up to. So I showed my portfolio to admissions and got in. I learned a great deal at SVA. There is a lot of taboo about art school and its purpose. A lot of kids can get in and not utilize the facilities or the connections to be made. I can honestly say that after Pratt and SVA, I learned a lot. So it was worth it.
I know you’re friends with guys like Eric Elms who started making some moves in the scene. Did that effect how you started approaching things?
Of course. The thing I tell everyone about art school is that the actual “Institution” is the creative people you meet and party with, draw with, bomb with and experience total youth in revolt with. When I met Eric Elms, he had just left Pratt to work as a designer for Supreme. Such a humble dude just going for it. He was doing all sorts of different projects that inspired me to branch out. I met people who were incorporating their art into commercial venues and making serious dough. At that time I had a group of friends that were all doing cool shit. We all helped each other out. Everyone started to get very professional in their approach to the art world. I remember when I first met Neck Face when he was a freshman at SVA and nobody knew about him, but I was seeing his stuff everywhere around campus. So I was like “come hang out in Brooklyn tonight, my roommate and I paint too.” So he became apart of our diverse mix of friends and ended up being my roommate for the last couple of years I was living in Brooklyn. The people I meet totally inspire my work. Personalities and everything.
You eventually ended up an at ad agency, how did that happen?
This is the most interesting left turn in my life. When I was at SVA, one of my professors was the art director for the Village Voice. He told me about some scholarship that a big agency in New York was only giving to minorities, and it was for illustrators. He was Asian and was like “you’re Mexican, do it man.” So I did and got it. That’s when I was introduced to that side of the industry. The agency that gave me the scholarship decided to keep me around. They invited me to be apart of this mentors project where they team up young artists with prominent designers and art directors, which I really knew nothing about. So I got teamed up with Michael Beirut who is the president of Pentagram in NYC and also the dean of Design at Yale. We got to collaborate on a poster together that would later be published. Micheal was impressed. He even held on to my graffiti blackbook for awhile to show his contemporaries, which I thought was sketchy at the time, but later found flattering. Michael was then telling me that his old friend needed an intern. That turned out to be Seymore Chwast, founder of the Pushpin Group, one of the first cutting edge ad agencies in NYC. But at that time Pushpin was just Seymore, a designer named Carol Chu and myself. I was there for about 8 months and was completely schooled on design, its history, the logic of writing good copy and the tastefulness of poster design. It was mind blowing to be there some days. One day Maurice Sendak (where the wild things are) came in with Milton Glaser ( I heart NY logo) and were all just doodling at the table. Old dudes just rapping about the glory days, talking shit on computers.
That seems like it can be a pretty lucrative gig. What made you leave that world?
I actually never really felt apart of that world. So after that I got a job at a 1 hour photo lab and decided to focus on my artwork seriously, which is always a hustle. All of my friends were in the same position. Then my friend told me that he was joining this new “weird” art division opening at the prestigious agency J. Walter Thompson on Madison Avenue. It was fun while it lasted. I was there with my friend Sam Friedman, who is now an amazing full time fine artist killing it. We would stay late and totally take advantage of the high end color copiers and make tons of zine editions. Totally milked it. All of us pitched so many ides that got turned down and the division was eventually canned. It was easy money but not something that was making me happy. So I got restless.
You were big into creating zines, at one time. It such a huge thing now but tell about that world and your stuff when you started.
I was introduced to the zine world early on when I was still a teenager in KC. I was friends with the artist Travis Millard’s younger brother, Brett. We went to high school together. He showed me these little xeroxed comics Travis gave him and I eventually met him at some show and a few years later hung out with him at his apartment in Brooklyn and we collaborated on zine together. My first zine. but we didn’t print it. It was just like 6 peices of 8 x 11 paper I folded and stapled and we just swapped each page with a different drawing. I still have it actually. Around that time, I met this artist Gary Fogelson who was making zines and eventually started theHolster.com which was, I believe, to be the first ever website to showcase and sell zines. We took zine making very seriously. When I got the job at the 1 hour photo lab downtown, I saw some crazy images. Some celebrities doing ill shit and even the NYPD crime scenes as well as just bizarre shots that I can’t explain. This was before digital cameras were the rage. I would have to reprint photos a lot because our machines were shitty, so by the end of each day there was a huge box of doubles that were supposed to be thrown out. I kept the best ones. Some of them very “zine worthy.” My boss was chill. We had two xerox machines that I would use to print my zines. I literally would put my zines together at work. Cutting out stuff from the New York Post and Daily News, gluing them down and using the doubles. Right in front of him on my down time. I got away with so much there. I even had a clientele of my friends dropping off rolls daily to get free prints on one condition that I get doubles. My zines were pretty dark actually. I got a lot of info from the news rags. Now it seems to be quite the trend. But I would say from pre-2006 iIhave quite the inventory of zines that people will probably never see. But I still make them in very limited editions.
What made you leave NY for California? It seems like you had a pretty solid foundation there and now it must feel like starting from scratch.
When I left New York I actually went back to Kansas City for a few years. Took some time off from the hustle to create work with my dad and my brother. I just needed a break from city life. But I am a naturally restless person and decided to move out here. It seems like there is something new and exciting going on in LA and the art scene is pretty legit. A lot of my old friends from NYC and even Kansas City have relocated here. I actually met you guys through an old friend from elementary school who is out here and connected. But for sure, it’s starting from scratch. Challenge is good though. Makes me work harder. One of the hardest things I’m trying to get over is that there are no seasons here. Not used to that.
How would you describe your style?
I don’t think I really have a style. My approach is kind of all over the place. If i could pin point a style that people might recognize and put my name to it, it would probably be compared to fantasy illustrations, the stuff I have done in the past I guess. When I get hired to do something for a company or just a commission and they tell me what kind of style they want it in, I will do it that way. But it’s obviously something that they saw that I had done before and were interested in, so I’m happy either way. I draw all the time. All day everyday. Right now I’m really into incorporating typography and patterns into my work. I like seeing the evolution of my contemporaries work as well. That inspires me. When that happens my work usually changes too.
Tell us about the pieces you did for OBEY.
The OBEY shirts were really fun because they were a play on my flyer art, which I do pro bono because I just love the immediacy of it. Cut, paste and add text. For friends in bands, art shows and even fake events that I made up as well as lost dog and cat posters. There is an art to it. Its like a less glorified poster for a concert or something. For this series, I tuned to character illustration and bold text. Basically letting you know that this is happening all over the world.
To check out the entire Patrick Rocha Summer 2015 Artist Series, click here.