Like so many kids growing up in the Pasadena Valley in the early ’90s, Patrick Martinez‘ formative years were shaped by bumping hip-hop in beat up Cutlasses and b-boy movies like Wildstyle and Style Wars. While graffiti is still an essential influence on Patrick’s artistic expressions, he has traded in his Montana cans for Windsor Newton University brushes. Influenced by city life and urban decay, Patrick seeks to bring supreme beauty to things that we might find flawed or broken.
â€œI wasnâ€™t about gangs, I was about art and producing it, but I can understand the complexities of street life and itâ€™s big in my subject matter.”
Format: You mention in your bio that your discovery of Hip-Hop at a young age is part of what inspired you to create art. In your opinion, what is it about Hip-Hop that often inspires young visual artists?
Patrick Martinez: I think itâ€™s the culture that inspires. The dance, song, and visual arts are strong in any culture, I think. I knew about all of the elements of Hip-Hop and that pumped me up but to be honest everyone around me was bombing, piecing, or gang banging. Some rapping and b-boys, but it wasnâ€™t on some wild style shit. I could look at an issue of Can Control for hours, picking apart characters and letters. Graffiti has a strong place with the youth. I think thatâ€™s why it appealed to me at an early age. Sketchbooks were not enough. The visual was always my language. I never talked much in school, only when I had to start speaking about my pieces.
Format: Did you have a tag as a youth? Do you still practice graffiti today?
Patrick Martinez: Yeah, I used to be into going to the yards and spending crazy hours there when I was younger. I was into bombing a little from time to timeâ€”freeway spots, roof tops nothing crazy. My brother was the â€˜let me get my name on everything in sightâ€™ type bomber. Then he started stealing, breaking into cars etc. He actually just got out of prison; he was the crazy one. I was more interested in drawing and painting. You can see some of that graffiti influence in my work, I think. I’m just into creating now. I don’t specifically use graff as my vehicle for expression anymore; I paint canvases and work with many different media but I do use graffiti in my art arsenal. I could never deny graff; it’s deep rooted. There are more serious graffiti artists out there, itâ€™s not a game in that scene, there is much discipline involved. Cats especially in Los Angeles are really doing it. Thinking back now, I had can control and I did decent work. But these dudes now are killing it; the work on the streets looks great. Iâ€™m always breaking my neck looking at beautiful work.
Format: Do you still enjoy Hip-Hop today? Who are some of your favorite Hip-Hop artists?
Patrick Martinez: I enjoy all types of music. In my car CD-player now (since I donâ€™t have an iPod) on heavy rotation: Little Brotherâ€™s Minstrel Show, Amy Winehouseâ€™s Frank album and the Back To Black album. J Dillaâ€™s The Shining album, some random mix tape and Arcade Fireâ€™s Funeral.
Format: How has the change in the style of Hip-Hop over the years affected your art?
Patrick Martinez: It didnâ€™t really change much about my art. Graffiti and Hip-Hop music are in my roots because it fueled me when I was coming up but I wouldnâ€™t say itâ€™s the main catalyst for my art-making now. When I do speak about Pop Culture or Hip-Hop, I find myself making fun of something or someone. I think the radio is garbage right now.
Format: How has your location on the West coast affected your art?
Patrick Martinez: I would say Pasadena was a great place to grow up in. I didnâ€™t grow up in the craziest part of â€˜Dena but there was drama almost always on my block. There were fights and shootings here and there, a strong gang presence with rival gangs, and all that drama. So I grew up with the knowledge of who was lame and who really knew what was up. I knew not to kick it hard with some of the gangsters that grew up on my block but I just kept it cool with them. I wasnâ€™t about gangs, I was about art and producing it, but I can understand the complexities of street life and itâ€™s big in my subject matter. My studio now is located on 6th St. in downtown Los Angeles in the â€˜artistsâ€™ districtâ€™ which sounds nice, but the next block over past Central is skid row, which isnâ€™t nice. That daily experience and coming into contact with different people/ personalities most definitely has an effect on my art.
Format: Can you cite any visual artists, past or present, that have strongly influenced you as an artist?
Patrick Martinez: The Spraycan Art book, subway art, comic books, animation, Wayne Thiebaud, Lucian Freud, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Futura, Jim Dine. Also the people I work with: Mr. Cartoon, LiL Lucky, Estevan Oriol, and Rob Abeyta.
Format: What drove you to pursue graphic design in school rather than fine art at first?
Patrick Martinez: I studied and majored in illustration along with taking classes in graphic design and fine art at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. The illustration program at Art Center offered representational painting and drawing which was big on concept. It just made sense to me. The Fine Art program was big on concept and applied theory so I was worried that I wouldnâ€™t be able to connect to the everyday person at the end of the program. I like to take action, so I always find myself speaking through my art, I didnâ€™t want to have to talk about my pieces too much to the viewer
Format: What is your favorite medium to work with and why?
Patrick Martinez: Iâ€™m all over the place. Neon, paint, paper bags, plastic army men, etc. I would say mainly acrylic paint, graphite, and mixed media, but itâ€™s tied with white paper and ink. When I paint, itâ€™s more about detail, energy, subtle changes in color, and complexities in color. Black ink on white paper is more direct and graphic for me. So it just depends on what mood Iâ€™m in or what solves the problem best. I also enjoyed the foam hands I just printed which were silkscreen on polyurethane foam.
Format: Can you talk a little bit about your landscape works? For example, the streetlight paintings? Patrick Martinez: I did these paintings years ago. It was a series I called â€˜Suspect Landscapes,â€™ meant to be landscape studies with weird unnatural elements invading it. In L.A, we always see the towers with satellites on the top of them but they try to dress them up and paint them like trees.
Format: Do you have any works that necessarily go together, that were shown together, or that are considered a series?
Patrick Martinez: Yeah I have some series of paintings. Iâ€™ll do a series if it calls for it, but other than that I draw, paint, then on to the next. Iâ€™m scattered and all over the place. You should see my studio. I don’t really think about them in relationship to my other pieces when I’m creating them, but when I step back and check the piece out I actually do think about how itâ€™s going look with the other pieces. At the end of the day, everything is one cohesive unit, whether itâ€™s a neon sign or a painting. The thought came from me and I think people can see that. I have scattered thoughts but all of them are relative, and thatâ€™s what my art will look like in a gallery context.
Format: Have you done any self-portraits?
Patrick Martinez: Yes, I have done maybe two. I actually did one that I’m ok with for the Scion Self-Portrait tour. It was fun looking in the mirror and painting myself. The light was always changing, so the color and value in the painting were as well. I think that kind of touch gave it a little more punch. No one wants to pose as a live model because people have shit to do, so I’m used to the photo reference. Painting or drawing from life is always refreshing.
Format: What are you working on now?
Patrick Martinez: Different landscapes of the city with my twist on them, along with portraits and other miscellaneous images. I have some shows planned this year so I definitely want to show all new art and ideas. Iâ€™m also working on designs for Stussy, Upper Playground, and working on the art direction for Estevan Oriolâ€™s first photography book entitled L.A. Woman.