It’s no secret that kicks and art go hand in hand, but UK collective Paintshop Studio are ready to take their love of both cultures to the next level. The three amigos have been killing it on the streets of London for the last 10 years, spicing up the drab walls of the UK with their prolific graff skills. Collaborating over pints at the local pub, ideas flowed (as fast as the beers) and voila, Paintshop was born. With a strong background in sneaker culture, artist Rick aka Dep has worked closely with Udox and Crooked Tongues to not only lend his magical strokes to The Complete Guide To Sneakers publication, but also the killer adidas Superstar 35 campaign. Oh and did we mention he was responsible for the creative on Stash’s Nike/Recon AFX launch in the UK?! We were fortunate to catch up with Rick and chew the fat about those golden years and find out more about the whole Paintshop shebang.
How’s it going up in the cold cold UK? You must be bustin’ for summer and a little bit of shine?
Ha ha, yeah for sure, but there’s not too much point looking forward to the summer here in the UK, you’ll only be disappointed…ha ha.
It’s must be difficult on you guys doin’ throw ups in winter – how do you deal?
You have to wear about 15 hoodies and go out looking like the Michelin Man! You need to layer up the clothes as much as you can, but just make sure you can still move your arms! The biggest problem is the metal tins, they get really cold and and the paint starts acting weirdly. I’ve heard of people carrying hot water bottles in their paint bag to keep the tins warm, sounds dumb, but we were painting in the snow a little while back and it wouldn’t have been such a bad idea!
Before we jump straight into it…tell us about Paintshop Studio and who rolls deep in the crew….
Ok, PaintShop Studio is a creative studio based in London, we work on a wide variety of projects mixing our skills in graffiti art, marketing and graphic design. There are three partners including me – I work on the graphic design and as an artist, Tizer as an artist and Suki handles the production as well as working with us on the creative ideas. We also have a huge extended family of artists, illustrators, filmmakers, photographers and techies who get involved whenever needed.
You’re all extraordinarily talented in your own right. How did you guys all come together to create the company and how do all your strengths complement each other?
It’s all happened pretty naturally, and like all the best ideas – it was the result of time spent in the pub! We were all friends – Tizer and I know each other through the graf scene and had painted with eachother many times. Initially we all wanted to find a way to make a living out of what we love doing, but it’s become more than that. We are now focused on trying to be as creative as we can and working across different media, using our combined skills in graffiti art, illustration, graphic design and marketing. We want to mix it up and and create something new.
How does what you do relate to your love of sneakers?
I guess it doesn’t directly, but for me it’s all part of the Hip-Hop culture I grew up with. It’s all connected – the graf, the music, b-boying, the style and with that, the sneakers. It comes with the same mentality; we’re all geeks, whether you obsess over graf, sneakers, records or whatever. We’re all just nerds showing off!
Just how intertwined are these two scenes and how do they feed each other in furthering each culture?
A large part of sneaker culture is routed in Hip-Hop culture, so for me at least, it’s part of the same scene. I know plenty of writers who love their kicks and collectors who paint. It’s got to be said though, sometimes graf and kicks don’t work together… I’m not a fan of graf on sneakers, and I know if paint gets on nice kicks they don’t stay nice for long! But seriously, I guess design or aesthetics is the common factor between the two. Tinker Hatfield is as much a god as Dondi White and each have been as much as an influence for me on each scene.
As far as kicks are concerned, you’ve had wide exposure to most brands in the sneaker scene. Tell us about working alongside Unorthodox Styles and Crooked Tongues designing the Complete Sneakers Guide – how did it all come about and what was your input into the killer project?
I was lucky to get involved with the Udox/Crooked guys. It was before we set up PaintShop and I went to do two days as a freelance designer at Udox and ended up staying there for two years. It was those guys who really opened my mind up to the sneaker culture and got me hooked. The Complete Sneaker Guide was a nice project – it was really intense and pretty manic at the time, especially for some of the other guys who were more involved in sourcing the shoes. I worked with Claw and Chris Aylen on the design, production and illustration.
You’ve worked with Unorthodox Styles and Crooked Tongues on other projects as well – most notably the adidas 35th anniversary campaign. That must have been an electric time…
It was an amazing time! While I was with Udox, I was working on the designs for the graphic materials such as the sticker book, in-store and windows graphics, promo items, street graphics and art directing the branding on events like the Ian Brown gig and as well as the general creative ideas with the rest of the team. The sneaker scene was really taking off with loads going on, and the Superstar 35 campaign seemed to ride the top of the wave. I think it was a really dope series, quality products with real thought and genuine involvement from the artists so it was a great launch to work on. It was surreal coming to work sometimes in those days, you’d have a stack of people outside stores in the AM after queuing all night for the latest Superstar drop. The best of the Consortium series were being re-sold for just under a grand almost immediately after going on sale. We were flying out to places like Stockholm to put on adidas gigs with Ian Brown, and sending Solo One out around Europe with massive sticky lace graphics to put up wherever he could! It was never dull.
We recently interviewed Stash about his time at Nike in the heyday of artist collaborations. He didn’t have the nicest memories on reflection, to say the least. You guys worked alongside some of Nike/Recon’s projects – what was the feeling back then? Was there a feeling that this magical time would never end?
I read that interview, it was good to hear him being so up front and honest about it. Yeah it was a crazy time and felt like anything was possible, but at the same time you could see it couldn’t maintain that kinda heat forever. I worked on the creative for Stash’s Nike/Recon AFX launch in the UK. His last ‘nozzle’ AF1 went super sonic, so we were in a kinda unusual position that we could do a quiet drop with the AFX and keep it under the radar a little, letting the grapevine pick up on the release and spread the word. We wanted it to be more underground, and let people discover it for themselves and to try to limit the re-sellers that were killing the scene. We released a date and time and for everyone to register their shoe size and be online to take part in a live Recon game. The first people to complete it were then able to buy their reserved shoes from FootPatrol in their own time.
The idea was to make it fairer and to limit the disappointment of people travelling to London, queuing up outside the store overnight, only to find the guy in front brought all the size 10s, just so he can stick them on eBay. It was a success as the whole range sold out in 15 minutes and it was also fair as the shoes were honestly distributed – so fair I didn’t even get a pair! But at this time, you could tell the scene was going a little crazy, the re-selling market was killing the ‘sport’ for the collectors and inflating the prices so only just the guys with money could buy.
It must have been so frustrating to watch! On the other hand, you guys are now doing throw ups in bars, designing record covers and broadening your demographic and workload each year. How important is diversity within the graff circles? I mean, most would assume all you’re doing is spray-painting walls, but Paintshop goes a lot deeper right?
Yeah I think so, we want PaintShop to be more than just about graf or design or streetwear or interiors – it’s a new model creative studio that is as comfortable working in spraypaint as it is in print and pixels. We can design a mobile app one day and then hand paint a huge billboard the next. We want to create the next campaign for ‘car brand x’ and then be working on a community project for under-privileged kids.
We come from traditional graf backgrounds after getting into it in the ‘80s, but we can see the full potential of where graffiti art could go and want to try and push it forward using different ways. For example, instead of airbrushing a rock album sleeve (as with tradition), we spray paint a four-meter wall for Justin Hawkin’s new band. We then photograph it, laying the type and details over it on a Mac. We’re just remixing what we know to create images, art, design and products in a whole new way. A lot of inspiration also comes from old-fashioned sign writing and the vintage painted signs you used to see, I love the feeling that it’s a one off, and the love and skill that’s gone into creating it. We want to push this more ‘personal’ side of advertising, rather than the mass marketing we all get blasted with. I think it will become more and more important over the years, as more scenes and subcultures develop. London is notorious for having a very traditional view of graf, which we are also into, but I think diversity is key for a growing scene, it needs to mutate and evolve so it doesn’t stagnate and disappear, as long as the history is not forgotten. I don’t think we will ever get rich from PaintShop, but that’s not really the point. We just want to do what we love, take some pride in our work, have some fun and ultimately fund our graf.
What’s popping off for 2011? Anything major we should look out for?
I’m probably not the best guy to ask anymore, I try to keep my head buried at the moment as I have no more room for more kicks, I had to clear out loads of stuff to make room for my new son, although, saying that it wont be long before he is old enough to have a collection of his own : )
Images courtesy of Errol Photography