THH70 was born in human form in 1970 in Los Angeles, California, but the persona of his nom de plume was conceived in 1994 as a stage name for his other career as a recording artist. He is now an accomplished visual artist, with his works in private and corporate collections on every continent. Since 2000, he has sold over 1300 original mixed media pieces, and his website—www.thh70online.com—continues to receive thousands of hits per month. To date, THH70 has shown in solo and group shows in galleries and museums across the United States and the Caribbean, and has appeared in print and online publications worldwide.
I met urban contemporary artist THH70 in 2008 right around the time when I was growing weary of my stencil art and my creative process was becoming stagnant. I was looking for something different as well as ways to take my career to the next level. THH70 became my mentor first and one of my closest friends soon after. If it wasn’t for THH70, I’d still be making the same old art and selling it “Exclusively” on the Dallas market. I owe much of the creative growth, success and accomplishments that I’ve experienced over the last couple of years to THH70. I figured since I’m featuring some of my favorite contemporary artists and art galleries, why not ask THH70 some of the questions that for some odd reason….I have never asked.
ckirk: I don’t think I’ve ever asked you this question, but I’m curious…coming from a background in music and marketing, what made you decide to try your hand at visual art?
THH70: I started making music when I was 12 years old and continued non-stop well into my 20’s. Along the way, I did everything from being a tour keyboardist for a Billboard Top 10 artist to getting a multi-album record deal with a project that me and a good friend of mine put together. But, I’d always been into the visual arts and drew constantly as a kid. In the late 1990’s, I started collecting artwork on a pretty decent scale and it got me back into wanting to create art on the visual level. To me, art is art, whether you’re making music or painting. Essentially, all you’re doing is using different tools to get your point across. So, in 1999, I starting building my art career. I still work on music from time to time and I have plans to begin work on a new album by the end of this year. As far as the Marketing goes, I’ve always been the little entrepreneur, and when I went to college, I got a formal education in Business and Marketing because art is great on the creative side, but unless you have the tools to set what you create in motion, it’s going to put a damper on just how far you can take it.
ckirk: You are a marketing guru no doubt. Any tips for artists who are not so savvy in this department?
THH70: Learn. Educate yourself. Embrace that the art business is just that — it’s the end result of both a creative process as well as a business process. Don’t rely on others to know how to sell your work better than yourself. There is no better commodity than information and knowledge about the logistics of the inner workings of the business you’re in (in this case, art). Read books about business management and/or marketing. Take a college course. Or, if possible, align yourself with a mentor to “show you the ropes”. Not to do it FOR you, obviously, but to give you a shove in the right direction. Like the old saying goes, “Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever”. After all these years, I’m still learning. There’s always someone who knows more than you do. But, the trick is to keep learning and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. And make sure your business practices always honor and pay respect to the work you create.
ckirk: Clever strangely poetic text plays an important part in your work. What draws you to use word play in every piece you do?
THH70: I think words have this innate beauty in how they’re put together. How words that seemingly have no business being next to each other can create an entirely new emotion, vision, or message. The first time I was introduced to that was in the “cut up” poetry by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. It makes the brain work harder, to extract new meanings and new perceptions. And then, when you place them next to some sort of imagery, color palette, and texture, it takes on this whole other life. I tend to utilize words or sayings that lean to the more tongue in cheek. I’ve always been fascinated with the double entendre. Some of the text I use can get downright perverse or sexual in nature, but that’s just me having fun with the work. Humor is important to me in the scope of my creations, as well as in my everyday life. Anyone that knows me can tell you I’m a complete buffoon!
ckirk: You know as well as I do that for a person to be a successful working artist..they have to have a little sand, be able adapt, overcome and have loads of drive. Is there any advice you might offer to young artists that wants make the jump to full-time artist?
THH70: It’s a scary thing to become a full-time artist. Even though I’ve been selling my work for 10 years, I went full-time and gave up the day job about 5 years ago. So, sure, there’s that fear when you’re trying to make that decision. But, there comes a time when you have to decide whether you’re going to give it your all and not let other things get in the way. You need to make a conscious choice to build your art, build your career, and establish a brand. It’s a hard road, but the bottom line is you’ll never know what the possibilities are unless you try.
ckirk: The backgrounds in your art are so heavily layered with every color seemingly set in the right order and position. Can you describe your thought process during this stage of creating a piece?
THH70: It really depends on the piece. I used to start with the background and work from there: background, foreground, text. Over the last year, I’ve switched it up and work on the foreground first and get it to a point where the direction is more clear. Then I start layering the background in. I think I work this way now because there’s more of a focus on the imagery and it’s dimension. I’m a huge believer that art, no matter what style, has to have some semblance of balance and it has to make sense. So, even though my work has a very raw feeling to it and it seems very loose, a lot of thought actually goes into the balance of the work: what the color palette is, the positioning of the colors, the distress and color bleeds, the placement of the imagery, and how to blend it together so that — to me, at least — it flows together and one aspect doesn’t seem heavier than another. I look at every painting as a scale, I guess. One side, one element, one aspect, has to be balanced with the other.
ckirk: Your work started almost purely text-based on abstract expressionist style backdrops, then you added stencils into the mix. I remember a brief period where you experimented with transfer prints and over the last year you have started to render minimally colored figures into your compositions. What’s the next step you hope to reach in your art?
THH70: Well, I’ve recently started experimenting with watercolors. Not to do pieces in watercolors only, but to add a combination of looseness to images, as well as a softer gradient of color application. A lot of artists think that mixing watercolors with acrylics, enamels, and other media is sacrilege, but I mean, come on, have you SEEN my work? Ha! I subscribe to the theory that you use whatever works and to not follow the rules, but to make your own to see your vision through. So, I’ve been really excited to start implementing the addition of watercolors as another layer in my work. So far, I’ve been really happy with the smaller pieces I’ve been doing with it, and I’m about to start using this new technique in larger works. The exploration and discovery of new ways to manipulate a certain medium is always the exciting part to me. It just adds another tool into the arsenal.
ckirk: I know you’ve booked some shows on your exhibit calendar recently. Where are some of the places that you’ll be exhibiting in the future?
THH70: I’ve got some irons in the fire at the moment; places I’d like to show, pieces I’d like to exhibit. It’s nice to be able to really invest some time and thought into where I’m going to strike next, as I choose to not have tons of shows all the time. Doing a few shows per year with some strong pieces intrigues me more than showing every month and getting burnt out. I have a wonderfully supportive collector base, so I’m selling work year-round through my website and via commissioned work, which, in turn, makes the occasion of physically showing my pieces in galleries that much more special. By only showing in a few galleries a year, it retains it’s luster and excitement to me, and I hope also to those that enjoy my work.
That being said, at the moment, I have two shows confirmed in the future that I can speak of with certainty: one coming up in November 2010 at Art Asylum Boston in Boston, MA and next year in May 2011, I have a solo show at Screaming Sky Gallery in Portland, OR. But, events are always being added, so the best way to keep up with me and what I’m doing is to check out my website at www.thh70online.com. I can also be found on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
To see more of THH70’s art and to keep up with upcoming news and events, please visit his website
Stay tuned for more interviews with my favorite contemporary artists and art galleries around the world.
Until next time,