SS // All right. Here we go. This is your very first interview. Let's kick it off by telling the audience a little about yourself.
SHPLINTON: I grew up in South Central LA with my siblings, Mom and Dad.
What was it like growing up in South Central?
[South Central] definitely [had] it's own issues. Mainly danger. I was able to avoid this most of the time and I look back on this era being pretty peaceful and cool. I feel like a lot of my childhood friends and I never understood [punk behavior] that comes with living in South Central. I was more quiet [and] I wouldn't say a lot which probably kept me out of trouble.
So, when did you start first getting into art.
I have been drawing my whole life, and it was maybe the first thing I actually think I actually did right. There was this kid in my second and third grade class who was teaching me how to draw. He was a really good artist. I mean, they were Looney Tunes characters. But he showed me a lot about getting proportions right which I thought was pretty wild especially since he was so young.
What were some of your first gigs in LA?
Most of the first things I did in LA were local gallery shows. I worked with a bunch of underground venues doing pop-ups. Mostly in DTLA and Venice.
When did you start considering landing on a signature style? How does that happen?
I would always get frustrated trying to recreate other peoples [art work], so I would just start off using other people's art as a base and then veer off into my own [style].
Is that how you eventually came up with those Alien-esque pieces that you do?
Yeah kind of -- I just I cracked that style while practicing. I get inspired by things with dimensions. Those triangles I do, I think of them as if I’m writing the outlines of someone’s consciousnesses. I like the breathing of watercolours and stuff that’s psychedelic.
“It bothers me that a lot of artists don't have phases [of different work anymore] and everybody gets stuck in doing one thing […] Fuck that.”
So it was just a creative release, you weren’t starting to sell them or anything?
I was under the impression that art wasn't a realistic thing as far as making a career out of it. I kept doing it because it was a good pastime. I proudly lost so many doodles and drawings that I cooked up in church.
Yeah. Bible study on Saturday, during the week… A lot of times I’d get bored. Like you were just talking about [art being a creative release, just a hobby]. I’d think “This is just super boring.” So, I'd hop from adventure to adventure in my head and I’d be drawing most of the time. That's where I was getting the most of my practice.
Any tips for someone trying to get their own style going? What did you do?
First off, you cannot stop. Just don’t stop. While I was going to school, I was trying to develop a style of my own. So, I would ride my bike like six miles to the fucking Barnes and Nobles at the fucking mall. I would pick up a bunch of books. And I would just post up. All goddamn day. And I would drink chai lattes. Fucking espresso. I’d lay out a spot for me to sit. And then I would go pick up books I have. Stacks and stacks of books. And I would just sit in the fucking bookshop all goddamn day. I was desperately trying out new styles and making them my own. Taking cues from shit I liked, stuff I didn’t. And went from there.
How’d you take it to the next level [a career]?
Well, I love art. And I had a professor in Junior College who he asked me something along the lines of, if you love art so much like why are you studying this? I didn’t realize I could still make a living and have a career in the arts. Even if you're not necessarily taking over a gallery. I could do graphic design… I was just out of touch. But we talked for hours. I unplugged and marinated it on that for a while. And then I think a couple days later I changed my major. And that was pretty much it.
So you have a bunch of different styles that are somehow all cohesive. Do you still feel like you want to branch out?
I'm actually starting to hate my older pieces. I see them and think, that’s done with. I love them for the time and place that they represent. But I enjoy doing more stuff. It bothers me that a lot of artists don't have phases and everybody gets stuck in doing one thing and then they just do that. Fuck that. I want to do be able to have a style - do it for however many years until I’m tired of it - and then do something fresher. That’s something one of my professors told me. He warned me that when I was developing my “triangle style” [see image right] that I don't get caught here. He said if [a signature that specific] becomes too engrained in your work, and that’s all you can do, you're stuck, and then you can’t do shit else. Then, your fucking passion becomes a prison. He's right as rain.
Can you tell our readers a little about the recent collaboration you did with TOMS End Gun Violence Together campaign?
I was asked to do a mural at the TOMS HQ in December. It was a blast. It took me 4 days and I live-streamed it on Instagram. I’m very excited to have been apart of something so positive. The team behind the #EndGunViolenceTogether campaign has been doing stellar outreach and I think we'll all get to see a lot more positive societal changes because of them moving forward.
What are you doing now and what are you currently exposing in your work?
At the moment I’m working on a lot of commissioned artwork and creating a new body of work that centers around women of color. There’s a lack in diversity in the art space, I feel. I’m also exploring new methods of abstract painting.
Do you ever do live events?
I do a lot of live art events, mainly during the summer. I've done live art for TOMS, BET, Google and various other charities and organizations.
What's important to you?
The most important thing for me is to be as honest as possible with myself. Always remembering why I do what I do and making sure to stay constantly inspired. I hope that by doing that I can inspire someone else.
What's next for Shplinton?
Im currently working on three major projects. The main one being my cross country bike trip from NY to LA for Inner City Arts Organization. We’re currently doing outreach for sponsorship. The goal of the trip is to create more support for inner city communities and inspire creativity within our youth.
Shplinton is residing in Los Angeles. If you would like to enquire about commission work or bookings, you can contact him at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or simply slide into his DM’s.
This month’s issue is a little different, as we’re featuring, no, not a photographer, but an artist who sketches, paints, and creates with his hands. Say hi to Shplinton. Quentin Thomas, if we’re being formal. I first met Quentin years ago at a small Aussie-owned shop in Venice. He was dropping off a jacket that he’d custom-made for one of the owners. Its back was covered in paint, fabric, and heart-felt soul. Shplinton’s unique expression of artwork is eye-catching. It awakens your senses and when you see a piece in person, you can literally feel his passion under each brush stroke or ink mark. Born in South Central LA, he’s gone from shy kid who doodled in the Bibles at church, to a professional artisté whose now collaborating with TOMS, restaurants, live painting events at the Ace Hotel, eventually a bike ride across the country to sponsor inner city kids who love art… All while being one of the most humble people you’ll ever meet. Welcome to Shplinton’s world, read our (in person!) interview today.
— Gaelan Simpson, Managing Editor SSR
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037 - GETTING THE GRAM TOGETHER WITH BRANDY PHAM OF PLANOLY
This episode is all about the gram. We sit down with Brandy Pham, Founder of everyone's favorite Instagram planning tool - Planoly. Listen in as Brandy chats through the beginnings of Planoly, and the five ways a brand (or person) should consider using social to establish a story + setting for themselves.
— SESSIONS by Matte Black