In this edition of our Artist Spotlight, we share our recent interview with Tyler Wallach aka CLOUDZ, a talented up and coming sticker artist who recently moved from Texas to the city that never sleeps –The Big Apple– and found out when he started drawing, his array of talents and where he’s slapped his signature ‘Hello My Name Is’ stickers.
So you were born in Texas…where exactly?
I was born in the suburbs of Northwest Houston, Harris County to be precise, Houston is so big that we have to go by counties. Maybe some Texas sized perspective: I graduated with about 850 other kids in my senior class. I visited NYC once when I was 18 years old and could never shake it.
When did you first start drawing?
I first started drawing in elementary school, Mrs. Post, she was the sweetest art teacher a kid could ever have. I know it sounds cheesy, but she would constantly tell us “Whatever you do, don’t erase anything, let your mistakes be the windows to your new ideas” – we were forced to create a new idea with any stray mark or first draft disaster. She would literally remove erasers from ALL of the pencils in the classroom. We weren’t allowed to erase then, and I never started. I don’t consider anything I do ‘sketching’ or ‘doodling’ I don’t doodle, I draw with intent, I press hard on the page and rarely have any editing to do other than coloring.
Do you have any formal art school training?
I actually do, but mostly in Musical Theater. I graduated from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas (It’s in-between San Antonio and Austin) The school is nationally recognized for it’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre under the direction of Broadway actress, Kaitlin Hopkins. I trained in all aspects of theatre, dance and music – but not so much ‘fine art’. Everything I do in web-design, photoshop & illustrator is self taught. My only formal class was my senior year of college, I took a ScreenPrinting course and it changed my life forever. It’s what prompted the creation of CLOUDZ.
Printmaking was the perfect outlet for me when Theater was just too much to handle. In my print class, I could put on my ipod and get in my ‘factory mode’ – I’m a huge Warhol fan and I always imagine what it must have been like in his ‘factory’ when he was hardest at work, I like to think I get into a similar mindset when I’m trying to finish 50 hand-made ”HELLO MY NAME IS..” stickers to put out that night.
How long have you lived in NY? What do you love about it most?
I’ve been living here for about 8 months. I love the diversity in ALL aspects – people, food, theater, art, good, bad….it’s ALL here. It’s a difficult and somewhat expensive transition coming from the meat happy – green lands of Texas to the boxed in concrete circus that is Manhattan.
Has it influenced your art in any way?
When I come home from work there is ALWAYS someone or something I saw that I could like to add to a drawing. I generally draw the most when I am at my most emotional, I think it brings out the stranger and dramatic ideas. My greatest, overall inspirations are Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Lady Gaga – and I know that can be a cliche, but being a young gay man of 23, living in Manhattan in 2011, how can you not realize the voice of a generation when you hear it?
Keith for his message of love. Warhol for his color and celebrity. Gaga & Warhol’s inspiration from New York speaks to me on a level that I totally understand – the fight for artistic freedom and sexual freedom is something powerful. New York is incredible because it’s true: anyone can be a star, including Tyler Wallach.
I personally find your illustrations to be a cross between Keith Haring vs the illustrators who draw the Adult Swim animated series Super Jail. Where do you gain your influence?
I’m in love with Keith Haring for many, many reasons. I feel the greatest connection with his work because I started drawing cloudz about 2 years ago and I didn’t know that all those ‘squiggle men’ I’d seen my whole life in school hallways or blood-drive t-shirts were KH. I didn’t put it all together until I moved to NYC and was led to watch THE UNIVERSE OF KEITH HARING, an incredible documentary on Netflix Instant Watch. As far as Adult Swim, I’ve never heard or seen Super Jail, I actually don’t have a TV in my apartment but I will check it out.
Did you always draw these crazy characters? Or did it morph from a different style?
It has always been these crazy characters. I remember the day I sat down in class to figure out what I could start drawing that would “be a theme for the entire class and the entire semester, think of something that represents you and what you want to do with you life, draw something in the medium that you are comfortable with and inspired by!” – - so I decided that I would just use the idea of Tyler being a CLOUD – always moving, always changing, when you look at clouds, everybody see’s something different and special – they morph, they are ever-changing, they are moody, bright white, dark grey, they cry, the shine – - – and I figured, as a person, as an actor, as an artist: I do all of those things. Then started trying things out, and an hour later I put together my first pieces of what would be my first run on the screen.
Why the drippyness and colorful upchuck depictions?
The drippiness is something I’ve always been obsessed with. Even when I was younger, if it were ever appropriate, I would draw droplets of water or tears coming from someone’s eyes for no reason. The colorful barfing…I can’t say much for that – maybe it’s from some wild hangovers I had in college? If anything, it’s for the look of ‘movement’ in a static drawing, thats VERY VERY important to me and anything I draw. I want it to look captured, as if someone came into my mind and took a picture.
Do you illustrate for a living?
I don’t actually – that would be awesome though – I consider myself, as I was told by one of my professors: “Tyler, have you ever heard the expression: Jack of all trades but master of none? That might be you?” and I couldn’t help but agree. I can’t exactly create and code Facebook.combut I have managed to create, pay for, design, and build 4 successful websites and blogs. My graphic design work is represented on multiple popular blogs – my drawings hang in homes and on public walls in over 10 states and 4 countries and I’m a damn good actor. I can run a lighting board for theatre, design and create sound cues – sew a hem, sing a song, do a dance – I’m a clown, I’ve done shakespeare. *If anything, I’m an actor for a living, and one of the characters I play is an artist.
I personally pay attention to the street art in the city, especially the seemingly random stickers, stuck everywhere from street signs, to building facades, to fire pumps. What made you decide to throw up stickers around town? For folks like me who pay attention? Have you gained recognition through this?
Exactly! I started paying attention. I started to realize that there were people out there who collectively payed attention to the BACK of the stop sign, and who threw up a sticker or tag – I started to learn tags, become familiar with everyone’s work in the city and where people slap. I actually have gained recognition! And much to my surprise – one night I was frustrated with the limits of my work and all the public tagging I had done, I was in the world of “WELL NOW WHAT!?” I spent hours in the snow putting up art that I realized nobody would ever see, so I started emailing street art blogs asking if they would be nice enough to help me out and spread the love of TY and CLOUDZ, one blog replied quickly with “Yeah man, thanks for the email, we already posted about you 2 months ago.”
WTF I was shocked, my heart raced, I clicked the link provided by BrooklynStreetArt.com: http://www.brooklynstreetart.com/theblog/?p=17951 and there they were. In all their glory. HELLO MY NAME IS TY featured on one of New York’s most prominent street artistry blogs. I posted the link anywhere and everywhere I could, sent it to friends, sent it to other blogs – and believe it or not, everything changed after that. Others websites like StreetArtStickers.com and BombIt.com were taking pictures of my stickers and posting them online. It hasn’t stopped.
Tagging up the city, in whatever fashion, be it with spray paint, stencil, or stickers is obviously something one needs to keep under the radar. Do you find it easy? Ie: no one pays attention…etc.
No, it’s not easy. I’ve gotten in trouble with NYPD in the past, nothing serious, but it could have been serious. Personally, in my craft right now, I do NOT use spray paint, it doesn’t appeal to me at all. I only sticker and wheat-paste. You can get arrested for putting up ANYTHING that defaces public property – every time you tag it’s a huge risk, but it’s always worth it. It’s a rush, taking back the land that belongs to me! I don’t remember ANYONE asking me if I wanted to turn the corner and look at a huge ugly ad for vodka or trump when I walk down 7th avenue – so screw off and give me my space to push my agenda down your throat.
Where in the city are the best places to see your stickers?
West Village, SOHO, Chinatown, Washington Square, East Village, and 159-168 area in the Heights.
What are your thoughts about the street art community in NYC?
It’s very hidden but very welcoming, the generous people who take time to walk around the usual hot-spots and photograph the constant waves of new work being pasted over old work – sadly I’ve yet to meet anyone in person, all out identities mainly exist on the internet, i guess it’s safer that way? Some people are REALLY extreme about hiding their identity but I am WAYYYYY too vain to hide!
It is hard to grasp the size of your pieces? What is the largest illustration you have ever done? Have you ever thought of do a large scale piece?
The largest piece I’ve done is drawing on newsprint with a magnum sharpie, those were probably all 5ft by 4ft – most of my work is 11×17 inches or smaller stickers. It’s subtle and colorful – but because it can be subtle is size, it lasts longer than bigger statement pieces that are torn down within hours. Banksy can’t even work anymore without a friggin’ wall being torn down to auction it off for 10 trillion. My work is still unimportant enough to last on walls, windows, streetposts, trucks, doors, bathrooms….some of the stickers I put up when I first moved here are still up and running.
Who are your favorite artists?
Keith Haring. Andy Warhol. Roy Liechtenstein. Al Hirschfeld. Jon Burgerman. Simone Legno. Lisa Frank.
If you could spend the day with any artist, alive or deceased, who would it be and what would you hope to gain from the experience?
Keith Haring – I want to know everything about the technical aspect of his art down to the type of brush and paint he uses, how he created so much work so fast, and in SUCH a massive worldly scale. I would ask him if there was anything I could do with my cloudz to help him on his mission, and if he could collaborate with me. He was able to share his message with millions, and still does. That appeals greatly to me. I hope I get the opportunity to paint a large scale mural one day somewhere special in New York City – something tells me I still have a few more dues to pay to ol’ New York but I’ll pay em’ – gladly.
Tyler has recently submitted a drawing into the H&M ‘Your Art Here’ T-shirt competition, with hopes of winning and having his design showcased at the flagship 5th Avenue store in New York City and have the shirt sold in stores across the US. His entry, ‘CLOUDZ’ is currently in 1st place with over 870 votes!! The competition ends on May 25th so check out his design at Your Art Here and vote.
Visit Wallach’s website CLOUDZ to see more of his work, his personal page Tyler Wallach or check out his blog page Glitter Horse. And of course, if you happen to live in the city, keep an eye out for his stickers.