Even if you don’t recognise the name, you would have encountered his work in some shape or form; Tyler Spangler is a Cali-native artist who rose to fame through his lurid, bold and vibrant pieces. As Jealous Gallery puts it, Tyler’s work focuses on the formalist relationship between images removed from their original context, while exploring the connotations of colour, form, and photography.
His work is the physical equivalent to a Flume song, sonically pleasing with a floating, comatose feeling. Tyler explains his style as “A grape flavoured Popsicle dipped in the ocean and placed on a rock to melt”. Whereas his lecturers and teachers could only describe it as looking like “a high school year book on acid”. Yet despite the substance influenced scenes, Tyler denies any involvement with the stuff and claims to be just “a bit obsessive”. Tyler’s work disseminates the world around him of surfing and west coast sunshine, but doesn’t stay ignorant by exploring the human condition and involving some significant political messages on gun control and mental health.
Tyler Spangler’s work caught my eye when I was around 15 years-old, my GCSE art teachers made us get a Pinterest account to ‘seek inspiration’, and upon scrolling aimlessly for what used to feel like hours, I came across his websites and social media pages which I later came to discover held 160k+ followers on his Instagram alone and double that on his Tumblr.
I was pretty captivated by the way that he plays with animation and colour, placing bright colours, psychedelic patterns and cartoons and intertwining it with black and white old photography combing two different forms of art, creating an outcome of colourful stimuli into the modern ‘gif’ age. This cool mix of old and new reminded me of a modern day Andy Warhol, even though my GCSE level attempts to recreate his art was beyond poor, he still saved me when I was feeling uninspired and landed me a decent grade, so I felt almost obliged to reach out- and you could have imagined my reaction once he responded (excited). That being said, here’s the exclusive chat I had with the artist, the first one I’ve ever interviewed too, and he did not disappoint.
Your work mostly involves rather random images taken out of context, where do you source them?
I source all of my imagery from royalty free sites such as flickr commons, library of congress, and sphere.
Describe your work using 3 adjectives.
Chaotic, calming, curious.
You originally got a BA in psychology, what made you decide to explore digital collage?
I originally made hand collages on my bedroom floor which was really fun. I began exploring digital collage soon after and fell in love with the immediate manipulations and availability of imagery.
What’s the design process like typically? How long does it take you to create a collage?
It varies drastically. Most of the time I will search for imagery with no intention in mind and I basically just wait for something to spark an idea. I am always listening to music while I work. I used to listen to a lot of Electric Wizard but I am mixing it up and listening to this really cool YouTube channel called Don’s Tunes which is basically just modern covers of old blues songs. I really like to listen to slow and emotional music when I work – I think it helps access subconscious ideas.
How do you keep coming up with fresh, new and original content?
I sort of force myself to make new stuff everyday. I have gotten to the point where I get anxious if I am on vacation or away and I wont be able to make something. In those cases I just make extra work or repost old pieces. I tend to look at a lot of my old pieces and try to reinterpret them if I am at a loss for ideas. It usually comes out different so I am not too worried about recycling ideas.
Do you ever get creators block? If so, how do you usually overcome it?
Probably about 40% of the time I sit down to work. I will just brute force myself through it and mix it with video games. I will start something then pause and play a video game or make food then come back to it. Temporarily taking a break is good.
You dropped out of the Art Centre College of Design, why was this? Do you think creatives can pursue their dream without getting a formal education?
I didn’t think the price justified what I was getting out of it. I didn’t want to begin my career in a financial hole in an industry where truth is subjective. Being in debt would force me to do work that I wasn’t interested in. I think it is definitely possible to be a creative without formal education but its definitely harder. You have to work your ass off, have something unique, and kinda get lucky.
How would you say your personality is reflected in your work?
I think it is a reflection of my introversion mixed with my curiosity for chaos. Originally I would interpret my emotions through imagery but recently I have started to experiment with typographic pieces. Its kind of cool to be a little more literal. I like to think I have a very playful and humorous personality and I think the colors and imagery I use reflect that.
What do you think are some of the most inspiring things happening in art currently?
I think its amazing how artists are making mental health more positive. Im not sure this is entirely new but I have been noticing more attention and acceptance of mental health issues in the art community. It is really fun to bring awareness to such an important cause.
Some of your more recent pieces was a graphic commentary on the state of gun laws in America, do you think art should be more political or should, just be? Especially during these particularly divisive and politically polarising times.
I think art can be whatever anyone wants it to be. Its hard not to be political with art as it is a reflection of the self and environment in which one lives. I am not a political person but I like to create what I feel and sometimes it just comes out.
How do you think the internet has affected graphic design? Has social media been used to your advantage?
In one sense it has homogenised style’s but it has also created a competitive environment where the most enticing work will rise to the surface. Staying prolific is rewarded with attention. Social media is the main reason I am able to freelance. I am quite an obsessive person and the efficiency of being able to send my portfolio to 50 companies in one day for free sure beats the old method of sending an expensive physical portfolio to a company and paying for postage. Social media has removed a lot of the risk.
You ran an illegal punk venue for 13 shows which eventually got shut down by the police, that’s pretty badass. Speak a little about that, what would the shows entail?
After I graduated from college I had no idea what I wanted. I just knew that I loved surfing, art, and music. I loved going to punk shows and made friends with one band in particular. There is never enough if any all ages venues in most cities. I thought it would be cool to take a stab at running a cool warehouse where bands could play regardless of age. So I basically took my savings and convinced a guy from craigslist to let me pay 3 months up front. Everything went fine up until the cops came after the third week. Shows were super fun. The first show everyone lit fireworks which was exhiliarting but almost gave me a heart attack at the thought of a fire. Another show resulted in someones leg going through the wall into the neighboring business. I had to apologize and haphazardly repair the wall myself. A lot of it was just empowerment of knowing that I created something out of nothing.
And lastly, what advice would you give to any struggling creative out there?
If you are truly passionate about working in a creative field, stay true to your own style and be honest. There is nothing worse then making a watered down version of someone else.
Keep up with Tyler and find him here;
Buy his prints– https://society6.com/tylerspangler/s?q=new
Buy his designs on shirts– https://tylerspangler.bigcartel.com/
All work copyright © Tyler Spangler