The epitome of a true artist, Andy Howell has been holding it down since the 80’s. With a strong upbringing in the subcultures of skateboarding and graffiti, Andy continues to push the envelope of the contemporary art world. Founding ARTSPROJEKT in 2008, we catch up with the passionate multi-faceted Andy Howell, gaining a better perspective of ARTSPROJEKT and how it came about.
What ultimately made you decide to pursue ARTSPROJEKT as more then just a good idea?
ARTSPROJEKT has been forming in my mind for many years, it’s only recently that the technology has caught up to the idea. Throughout my career as an artist, my passion has been to bring artists together for collabs, exhibitions, brands, etc. I have always pushed to bring together the community of our art and design culture to work (and play) together. I also saw the need to manage and represent artists to private collectors, galleries, museums, and corporate clients, so I incorporated that into the idea. I realized I have always been moving toward a social and commerce platform that could support a global creative community, allow everyone to benefit not only from the creative collaboration and cross-pollination, but also monetize their ideas and art through relevant products which translate directly into income for the people who create them. The flexibility of new web technologies makes it easier for all of us to find each other, and now through ARTSPROJEKT really connect, collaborate, share ideas, sell original art and products, and most importantly, own everything we create.
I saw my friends in the music industry go through the ringer before they figured out how to own all their own publishing and merchandising. I learned the strategies they used, which complimented what I was creating with ARTSPROJEKT. That has always been a challenge for fine artists and commercial artists, so I structured ARTSPROJEKT to reward the artists and brands who collaborate by sharing revenue in a way that scales with the success of the product itself. For over twenty years I have been manifesting ideas as products in every market segment – from the most cutting edge boutiques to mass, and across product platforms from boards to shoes, to art prints, to home essentials to jewelry.
Always with the challenge of pushing an idea from my mind through an archaic system of manufacturing, inventory, distribution, wholesale, and finally retail, every step of the way meeting a different gatekeeper with a different agenda and a different set of rules. As an artist and entrepreneur, the challenge was always to navigate those waters, get the most product out there, and maintain the integrity of the original idea. There were times when out of the hundreds of ideas only a handful ever saw the light of day at retail, and my creative vision was inevitably compromised.
The ARTSPROJEKT platform forges a direct link between the artist, brand and consumer that cuts through the red tape of the system, and allows the creative mind to manifest ideas as products instantaneously. Create a piece of art or design in a lucid 2 a.m. creative session, it can be published online for sale as any number of products in minutes, be selling immediately worldwide, manufactured to order in the afternoon, and picked up by an overnight shipper in the evening. 24-48 hours after the synapse of an idea in the artist’s mind, consumers are holding the finished product. The artist or brand (or both in the event of a collaboration) decides the markup over an ARTSPROJEKT base price, and adds that to a healthy royalty, effectively determining their own revenue structure according to the demand they can drive. Combine that with the ability to network with other artists and brands, exhibit and sell original art, and create collabs with major media brands, all leading toward the cultural experience of creating relationships and products – it’s pretty powerful. When something hits, everyone involved gets paid.
Andy Howell & Dallas Austin
How did you develop your relationship with Lil’ Jon? When did you approach him to become a part of ARTSPROJEKT?
I started a hip hop group called Ma$$ Prophets in 1991-92, and I heard Lil Jon was starting to DJ. We all used to skate together at Piedmont Park in Atlanta on Sundays, and Jon was around that scene because he skated a lot back then. We started talking, and before we knew it he was sampling beats and scratching “There go the dreadlock man…” into one of our songs. Around that time Dallas (Austin) and I became friends and he brought us into his studio and started introducing us to other groups and producers to make an album. The Ma$$ Prophets crew was mogulin’ up, but things didn’t really move as fast as we were used to, there was a lot of hanging out involved, and back then virtually impossible to publish your own music. So I bailed out and moved out to Cali. Jon started Black Market Entertainment with his buddy Rob (McDowell), and started working with groups on the east side of ATL. I didn’t talk to him much for a while, but we had mutual friends so I always heard what he was up to and vice versa. Jon took his skate influences and created that dirty south Crunk music, and I ended up in southern California doing Element, Sophisto, etc. Flash forward some years later I started looking him up again, and we connected on ARTSPROJEKT over Tequila shots. He’s still got a skate core in him, and that DIY vibe, and once he cracked the entertainment code he’s had his hands in so many projects it ridiculous. ARTSPROJEKT was a good match for not only his personal Lil Jon stuff, but his emerging artists and properties as well.
From a business perspective, how will ARTSPROJEKT benefit budding artists and help them handle the economics of being a successful artist?
Some of this is referenced in the answer to the first question, so I’ll paraphrase by saying that as we curate the platform and invite or accept applications from these artists and brands, they become part of the community, and are free to explore that in whatever way works for them. Through curated online and physical exhibitions, as well as collaborations, we integrate the artists into the global creative community in a way that creates not only monetary but experiential value. Since I have worn the hat of an athlete, artist, entrepreneur, brand founder, agency director, curator, graphic and product designer, author, publisher, and collaborator, I holistically incorporate all of these elements into the ARTSPROJEKT platform. And with the kind of creative, engineering, and business mind I am working with, I am able to realize ideas faster than I ever have before.
ARTSPROJEKT artist Alex Pardee
Artwork of Andy Howell
Following your work, we could say your art style brings endless versatility with seemingly no boundaries, what is the ultimate inspiration behind your pieces and how would you categorize your style?
Though I am mostly known for a graphic line that originated in graffiti and carried through early nineties skateboarding to now, I actually consider most things in life to be an art, and thus would say I am a conceptual artist with practical application. The inspiration behind everything I do is perception. I am always watching, evaluating, dismantling and reconstructing everything I see. There are extended alternate realities going on regularly. I just kind of gaze off into space and the entire story or image or idea continues and evolves in my mind. The rest of the time I am creating ways to manifest those ideas into the physical world. The medium, technique, surface, or final form is irrelevant, because I feel the integrity of the idea itself is the true art. The rest is semantics.
Working alongside Zazzle, you have developed a pretty awesome system of creating boards on demand. How did that vision come about?
As I mentioned earlier I am working with some of the most amazing minds I have ever met on all things Artsprojekt, and our creation of the patent-pending technology we are using to create the gyclee skate decks is a great example. It’s truly incredible to work with people who can engineer absolutely anything that we come up with. We started by adding some of my elements and relationships into the engineering mix, outlined a set of goals based around the creation of made to order high end skateboards, then we went through about 20 ways to do it that didn’t work before we finally connected one that did. Not only did it work, but it exceeded anything that had ever been done in the skateboard industry as far as I knew, which I wasn’t really expecting. When I started to share it with other industry heads, there was an overwhelming sense that this could be the future of skateboard graphics, which has been amazing. I’m honored to work with such an amazing group of people.
We want to thank you for your time Andy and wish you the best of luck with ARTSPROJEKT. Are there any last words or advice for aspiring artists looking to get recognized?
You’ll always be “aspiring” if you are a true artist, and that is the greatest thing. You are tapped in to the universal mind. Picture yourself exactly where you think you want to be and you will get there, but you will find as an ironic reality that by being an artist “where you want to be” will always be changing. That’s the natural flow. Challenge yourself to follow your inspiration and passion unconditionally, and the life of art will simply be the art of life. And if you slow your mind enough to be truly lucid and look into a child’s eyes when he is experiencing something for the first time (at least this go round), and you will see yourself at that exact age moving effortlessly in a perfect circle. Don’t worry, or you’ll create lack. It’s Carpe Diem, not Carpe Moneta.
Oh yeah, and *always leave your mark*.
Interview: Luis Ruano