T-Files 012: Andy Howell

There isn’t much I could possibly say about Andy Howell that hasn’t already been more eloquently expressed in one of the countless books, interviews, and articles about him and his work. Needless to say, if you know he is, you are already aware of his career as a pro skater, fine artist, graphic designer, and entrepreneur. That resume makes him one of the most impressive creative powerhouses of our generation. When Andy contacted me about his ARTSPROJEKT, I asked him if he’d be kind enough to do an interview. As you can see, he said yes. Read on to hear about this inspiring endeavor, and more, in his own words…

Where are you today? In my office at ARTSPROJEKT in Redwood City CA, just outside SF. I’m working on a new design contest platform which invites designers worldwide to design all different kinds of products, win money, and have a shot at being in collections for major retailers. It’s called ARTSPROJEKT LABz. This month it’s a t-shirt contest, but the actual product that designers are challenged with changes every time.

What else are you working on lately? Just finished a painting for the Red Cross benefit auction in San Francisco called Paint The Town Red. Working on a number of commissions as well.

Can you describe your favorite recent production? Man’O’War, a Neo-Contemporary commentary of recent world events, which juxtaposes technology and nature as seen through the notebooks of scientists. Science categorizes and explains with logic, and technology engineers mans decree of dominance through invention. The mathematical precision impresses with architectural spledor. We are awed and amazed, dazed and confused. How long we been doin’ this stuff anyway? Our infantile science imitates nature using man’s feeble language of numbers and words, while our universe waits patiently on the path of its billions of years of natural progression. Man’O’War ascends, we are all still simple invertebrates.

Has anything been influencing your work recently? Music and lyrics are always a factor in influencing me, hand in hand with current events and social politics. Devendra Barnhart has impacted my work recently, abstractions from jazz musicians. Current events like Obamanology, the packaging of diversionary information as it is served to the populace in nifty little flavored packets. Mmmm Mmmm good.

Right. I mistakenly thought your ARTSPROJEKT was all about custom printed skate decks, but it’s so much more than that. What do you produce besides decks, and what more can we expect in the future? I want to take the time to really explain this to everyone, because it is an alternate paradigm to the way things have been working for creative people up until now. ARTSPROJEKT is the culmination of all my experiences in the art and pop culture industries over the last 25 years. I’ve been the brand, marketing exec, retailer, creative director, writer, athlete, but most of all I’ve always been the artist. Frankly all the other titles I’ve held were all vehicles I created to get the art across, whether it was my art or other artists and designers.

Artists are a tiny slice of the world’s population, yet we collectively create all the creative visual information that the rest of the world craves. I have always believed that creative people should be celebrated and always share in the success of the ideas they manifest as art, design and products. It’s an amazing feat to have an idea and turn it into a thing that other people can enjoy. ARTSPROJEKT was created to facilitate the manufacture and distribution of these things that creative people all over the world are making. We created a community-based original art and product platform that allows creative people to design and offer unlimited numbers of products for sale with no risk or cost. We have well over 100 different customizable blanks that we offer to our artists and brands to create their own products, including art prints, apparel, shoes, skateboards, and a bunch of other paper products.

ARTSPROJEKT.com eliminates the barrier to entry for creative people who avoid the business of creativity by allowing them to instantly create real products for sale from their designs, and to make money by not only designing and posting the products but by spreading the word as well. We have created the community, the selling platform, design related contests, and the production facility, and we handle all sales and customer service, as well as all the annoying administration stuff. Creative people focus only on making cool stuff and making sure that everyone interested knows where to find it.

We reward everyone who helps grow the platform by creating traffic that leads to sales. Artists and brands make money on their designs, associates make money by bringing relevant traffic to artsprojekt.com, members of our digital street team make money supporting their favorite artists and designers by posting them on blogs, emails, sites, and on their own pages on facebook, myspace, flickr, and others. The coolest thing is that whoever owns the design gets paid and whoever drives the traffic to the sale gets paid, and those can be the same person, so there’s an opportunity to make as much as 40% of the retail price without ever taking any risk or paying ay money up front to do it. The fact that everything is manufactured to order in 24 hours and shipped to the customer makes it an unmatched offering, and by definition means that we will always have the newest most up to date art and products by the most relevant artists, musicians, and brands worldwide.

Basically I created this platform and I curate the kinds or artists, brands, designers, musicians, even media companies that become part of ARTSPROJEKT, to create an experience that highlights the best of the best of the art and design culture and all the relevant pop culture it influences. But once an artist or brand has been accepted onto artsprojekt.com, I want them to use the tools and opportunities we created in any way they want to. My intention is to regulate the quality of the participants, not the content, so the experience will build itself organically.

Awesome stuff. Have you seen anything interesting elsewhere lately? I really dig the Australian art movement and the kind of subculture that has sprung from that with design and fashion. Anthony Lister, Luca Ionescu, Jeremyville, Monster Children, there are so many. I like the site Lost At E Minor right now, kind of a hybrid of NYC, UK, and Oz cats doing that one.

When you’re not working, which seems like it must be a lot of the time, what have you been getting into? I’m in love. I’ve been married a few years, and have a 17 month old son, True Ocean, who is such a joy for my wife and me. I’m at once a father and a baby again, seeing things through him, experiencing his purity, it’s incredibly joyful and inspiring. He’s already into making art, has his little studio set up at home. Ginger and I are both artists so I guess he naturally wants to get involved when he sees us making stuff. Its cool he will actually choose colors or a marker or a brush and just start getting down. Then he’ll step back and watch for a bit, then come back in and hit up. We painted together a bit on Man’O’War.

Anything else you’d like to mention? Stay inspired and everything will be fine…

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