You may see him in a gallery, on the street, or in your house (if you own one of his customs of course!) So we caught up with Riot68 and got to know what hes been upto latly.
Alright Riot, set the scene and tell everyone a little about yourself.
Ok the hard part; what do you want to know? I’m 32, born and living in Nottinghamshire in England and I’m married to a most gorgeous woman. I work for myself as an artist and designer, doing everything from artwork for corporate print companies to running arts courses for ‘disengaged’ young people and a lot of stuff in-between. Other than that I guess you’ll find out in the questions below…
Why the name Riot68?
Ok, let’s see… I used to write under a few other names back when I started in 89-90, always loved the combination of letters and numbers and I always remembered one of the first graff pieces that I saw which was called ‘riot 68’. Riot seems appropriate for my attitude and 68 was the number of the house I grew up in so there you have it, I did a few pieces around that name and it stuck.
The first piece I saw of yours was fresh lime and this looked like it had a graffiti influence. But lately you seem to be doing something different. Which do you prefer?
Influence and inspiration come from a lot of places for me, some I recognise and some I don’t, I guess you don’t always know where an idea or theme comes from. I think there’s always a little bit of Graff in there, but also some of the model making I used to do as a kid and that my dad did too, I think that is showing through recently. As for which I prefer I really don’t know, it’s all just one big thing in my head, however if you made me chose I’d have to say graff. Recently I’m finding toy shapes more restricting than blank walls or canvasses due to their pre-suggesting shapes. Probably why I’m doing more model based customs and keeping the graff for canvasses and walls.
What are your inspirations for your customs and art?
The young people I work with give me a lot of inspiration and motivation to create as does my wife and the fact that we have a good life together. Inspiration comes from a lot of places and I guess without really analysing everything you never know about a lot of it. There are certainly other artists that inspire me too, there are a whole load of people I trade stickers and art with around the world and many of them are a great inspiration, they put in a lot of hard work and time creating stuff and getting it up in the streets. I think anyone who puts real time and effort into their art is an inspiration even if you don’t particularly like the art itself. It certainly pushes me to do more and try harder.
You did a piece for our ‘Gee Whizz’ show back in April 2006, do you find it easier to do a custom based on a theme, or just whatever comes to your head?
Mostly I find it easier to work to a brief, sometimes I find that frustrating with the restrictions so I like to go freestyle too. I always like to have an aim even if it’s not specifically about the art. For instance a friend asking me to paint them a canvas, not telling me what to put on it, just that I need to produce one, get’s me motivated more than just doing it off my own back. I think I have a good mix with design work, youth work and art that balances everything out, keeps me happy.
My favourite custom by you is ‘Deep Sea’ could you explain the process behind that?
It’s an old skool model making exercise like the robots I used to make out of old toys and stuff and then paint when I was a kid, it was something I had wanted to try out on a new toy for a while. Trexi was perfect for it as it’s plastic rather than vinyl and easier to glue, it also has all the separate parts. I had the head waiting here for a while; it’s actually an old I-Mac speaker pod that I got from a clear out at the University. Threw it all together with a few bits and bobs, primed it and then sprayed it copper. There are a couple of paint techniques I used to use as a kid on there with some details and a little hand painting and there you have it. He’s now living in Nashville Tennessee.
You had work featured in ‘Dot Dot Dash’ did you expect your work to be featured in a huge book such as that?
Of course, they had already contacted me about it, haha, seriously; not really, it was a surprise to get the email from the editor asking me to submit photos. At that point I still didn’t know I’d be in, they only selected about 250 artists I think from all the submissions. I have a lot of books from DGV filled with some great artists and designers, so it was a real honour to be included.
What’s your favourite platform to custom?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I like to paint on most things so I don’t really have a favourite, maybe Munny because it’s all ready to go and a nice plain shape. I like the 10” Teddy Troops but the shape already suggests a bear. 3” Trexi’s are really hard to get on with.
Peanut Butter or Jelly?
Don’t do peanut butter so jelly, although I am guessing that this is American based, thus jelly being jam. I’d still have to go for jelly, although I would much prefer jelly than jam, especially lime, yum.
The general VA question… If you could have any Inspector Gadget, gadget what would it be?
Haha, my mother-in-law has a nickname for everyone and mine is inspector gadget because I like gadgets. I’ve always thought invisibility would be good, but I don’t know if that’s an inspector gadget thing? Maybe the helicopter hat thing would be cool.
Do you feel you have a style to your customs and graffiti?
I hope so; style is what it’s all about. I don’t like to do the same thing all the time so I am constantly trying new designs, characters, materials and techniques, maybe because of this you can’t always tell something is by riot68. Some people have said they can see it, so maybe it’s a question to ask others? It’s really hard to see your own work from a distance when you know it so well.
How did you first find out about the vinyl toy world?
Always collected toys and action figures, probably never stopped from being a kid. I have a whole load of McFarlane stuff and Star Wars, and of course quite a bit of Lego. First ‘designer toy’ I bought was a couple of Qee on my second trip to Hong Kong, which was about 4 years ago now. I’d seen bits of things around then too and started to do some research into the whole scene. A few more trips to Hong Kong and a lot of time on the net, along with my wife collecting Blythe, we now have a house full of toys.
Who are your favourite designers/artists?
Always been a big fan of Jamie Reid and people like Mark Ryden and David Hess have always inspired me. If you count film directors then I have a whole heap, visually you can’t beat a bit of Argento. Most of the toys stuff I collect is by graff artists, I don’t really go for the cute side like Tado or Ledbetter etc. As for graff Cope2 is the man, great pieces, still bombing and in a world of elitist mentalities a great attitude too.
Old skool inspiration like Dondi and Seen and got to love The Chrome Angels, Mode2’s characters are still up there with the best, TCA were my main early influence. I like lots of the European stuff more now, some that come to mind are Hick HGF, Fybe SD and Aroe NT but there are too many to mention. I do really like the crossover stuff done by 123Klan’s Scien and Klor, their graff style lends itself to graphic design so well and vice versa, speaking of 123K amazing pieces by Reso too. Many of the ‘smaller’ people I trade stickers and art with are so cool and so good at what they do, a lot to mention but they’ll know who they are.
Have you ever thought about producing your own platform for a toy?
Yeah I have thought about making some up for my Eville characters, those white guys with the orange eyes that I have all the stickers for, although now I have so many characters popping out everyday I don’t quite know. Maybe when I get a bigger house and some space I can handle having mess in.
You are constantly banging out new characters, which is your favourite?
I’d like to think they are lovingly created, but hey I think along with everyone else right now I’d have to say Grumpy, he looks great on a sticker and 6 foot tall on a wall. Although I have a few I like that have never been seen yet and my wife’s favourite is the Doc.
You’ve done many shows and exhibitions, such as Munny Shot and Uberbot, what’s it like being able to have your work at exhibitions, especially along side really well known artists / designers?
Always an honour, I’ve been really lucky and had some great people invite me to be in their shows and there’s a few more to come. It’s weird seeing pictures of your stuff in places abroad with folks looking at them, but I’m glad the toys get to travel and that people get to enjoy them.
Do you get many commissions for doing customs? Do they give you what they want, or tell you to replicate one you have already done?
I have been lucky enough to be asked to do quite a few commissions, toys and canvasses. Mostly what will happen is that someone has seen something of mine they like and they want something in the same kind of style, usually with a twist like the Phoenix Ice Hockey Dunny. I’d just like to take this opportunity to say thanks to all those people who have one of my customs or artwork and if you have any pics of them in your collections I’d love to see them and catch up.
Your background is graffiti right? So how did that come along?
I started seeing things back in 1989 when I was fifteen, I liked the look of the art and got hold of a couple of books and started sketching. People really liked the stuff and soon kids at school were paying me to scribble on their books, that led to a few of them convincing their parents to let me paint walls in their houses. After that I did quite a lot of these, chilling on a Sunday and painting, even the school paid me to paint a bank of lockers in the sixth form room. After a few years it kind of fizzled out, what with leaving school and working etc, I still used to do some stuff, backdrops for friends who Dj’d and I always used to sketch. A few years ago I was asked to work with some young people on a graff project and I picked it all back up, now I do a lot of youth work and it’s got me doing my own stuff again.
Would you say your customs and artworks are quite inspired from your graffiti art?
I would say a lot of my art is very graff inspired, although graff nowadays is very diverse too. I think a lot of other forms of art and design have influenced graff including the toy scene so those lines are really blurred. There’s still nothing like painting walls.
And finally what’s the future got in hold for you?
Who knows? I’m happy doing what I’m doing, my graphics and art business is supporting us ok and I love doing all the arts work with young people, hopefully I can keep doing more of that. I have started to do more canvasses so I’d like to continue with that and maybe have a show. Keep on with the toys, washing my car, travelling and being happy I guess. I’m also trying to convince some landowner to give me my own legal wall so I can sit back on a summers day and paint without having to climb fences, get caught on thorns or get stones in my shoes! I’m also on for trading more stickers and art with all these great people around the globe, thanks go out to them for all the ups and thanks to VA for the interview, it’s good to have a think about yourself once in a while…