H+ Q&A with BRIAN KASPR!!
How long have you been creating & what came first, Graphic Design or Illustration?
I have been creating ever since I can remember. I was a child content to sit quietly at the kitchen table drawing on dot matrix printer paper my mom brought home from work. When I was about 10 I forced a family friend to show me a thing or two about sign painting. He was the first person I saw make a living from being creative, and the rest is history. I did a lot of painting and graffiti in high school, printmaking and conceptual art in college, and it wasn’t until after college ended that I really started taking design seriously.
Your based out in New York & occasionally Los Angeles. What do you enjoy most about these two cities?
In NY I love the size and the scale of the city. Everything is packed into such a tight area, and the diversity within such a small space is delightfully palpable. You have corporate fat cats and CEOs rubbing elbows and sharing public space with contractors, stay at home dads, and artists all day everyday. I love the general aesthetics of Los Angeles and the less intense work attitude. The workflow and work ethic is still serious and busy, but there’s something different about it that intrigues me. It feels less urgent. Amor y Amargo in NYC and The Walker Inn in LA are my favorite cocktail spots.
In the age of digital typefaces, what inspires you most about Traditional American Craft?
This is a hard hitting question, and one that is tough to boil down into a few sentences. Traditional craft and working with one’s hands is inherently accessible. Sure there is a learning curve, as there is with any skill. However, it is something that can be learned and perfected with minimal financial investment. Plus the tools will generally remain the same. You don’t need to download the latest version of a brush every 2 years. A pencil and a stack of copier paper can get you pretty far. I’m not a purist though. Handmade is great, but I think there is a grey area between digital work and analog work that should be pushed and explored. I think a well rounded understanding of both is integral to the development, growth, and ultimately the longevity of my work and skills.
Your work has a recurring color palette of pinks & blues. Tell us about your color choices & what it says about your aesthetic.
My favorite color is actually orange! However, I learned early on that orange is such a polarizing color, and most people hate it. Also, when I started to take art and design more seriously, I was always struggling with color combinations. I went down many roads, but ultimately realized that pink is kind of a neutral, it goes with everything. I use pink because I want my aesthetic to communicate a playful and free attitude. I’m not interested in the super stuffy world of black and white graphic design.
What is your process in starting a new piece?
I prefer to doodle a page or two in my sketchbook, but the speed of the ipad is really digging into that preference. Either way, I start by simply writing out the word or phrase to get a feel for the length and general form. I’ll typically have some kind of direction in mind and the early sketches will reflect that. This can be a general vibe or as specific as a type of lettering. Even with a clear concept it takes a few mistakes to really get cooking.
Tell me about your choice in words, or the musical references. Are you a big music fan?
There isn’t really one source for the words I use, but music does often supply them. I like to pick words that aren’t too specific, or could take on different meanings depending on the design. I am a big music fan, and I am all over the map.. Really slow heavy doom and psychedelic metal is probably my favorite genre but I also put the Spice Girls as the hold music for my company’s phone number, so, there’s really not much out there I don’t enjoy listening to. Spotify has a really hard time making those daily playlists for me.
How has your work evolved since attending Maryland Institute College of Art?
I technically graduated with a degree in conceptual sculpture, but I also spent many hours in the printmaking building. A lot of that conceptual work has fallen by the wayside in some respects. However, the lessons I learned from developing and beginning those conceptual projects are still in the back of my mind. I try to approach everything I do from several angles and always pay attention to how a viewer might interpret (or fail to interpret) a concept. I craved screen printing in college because it was more rigid, at least in the process of creating the work itself. Your work has to fit into the structure of the process, which I find challenging and rewarding. I’d say the biggest way that my work has changed is I take it less seriously in some ways. I encountered the attitude in college that work for the sake of aesthetics or work with any sort of humour or play is considered lesser than. F that, I like funny and pretty things. Craft is key, but so is the ability to take a step back from yourself.
You’ve worked with a variety of clients ranging from Facebook to Victoria Secret. What has been one of your favorite projects?
Just about any project where there is a lot of trust in my skills on the client’s behalf are going to be the best projects. The greatest example of that was an ice cream truck I painted for Facebook and Feeding America last year. The deadline was so tight that they barely even had time for sketches. I sent them a bunch of options and they said “Great we love it!” to which my response was “Which of the 5 directions do you love?” which they responded with “Whatever we trust you.” So that’s how I spent 2 very full days covering an ice cream truck in sprinkles and ice cube lettering. Everyone was happy, and they got something incredibly unique. I sort of wish I could have bought that truck. I found out later that they just gave it away, bummer.
You’ve also worked on a number of different materials ranging from leather jackets & bags to helmets & vehicles. What has been your favorite material to work with?
Physical things are great to paint because it gives people specific context. It’s one thing to appreciate a piece of lettering for its design, it’s another to realize it as a tangible thing. Plus it lives in the world as an object that people use and abuse. They talk about it, they gift it, they pass it down. Cars are probably my favorite object to paint because there are so many aesthetic time periods to pull from. I grew up around cars so the appeal to vehicles is real. Painting on glass and painted metal are my absolute favorites.
What’s next for you? Are there any new mediums or technologies you’d like to explore?
I want to do more all-encompassing projects. Murals and environments are an amazing opportunity to take things to another level in so many interesting and multi-disciplinary ways. I guess that’s my conceptual sculpture background coming out to play. I’d love to work on AR and video projects. Just give me Fvckrender’s phone number and we’ll get back to you.