Photos: Greg Straight (pimp leather jacket) being interviewed by Elliot in the studio library.
How and when did you become interested in art?
From year dot really. I can’t remember not drawing! I’d spend hours sketching space ships and army soldiers, monsters and cars. It was like a bit of an obsession, a healthy one and I just had to fill every sheet of paper in the house with some crazy scribble.
My father was a graphic designer so there was always access to different pens, brushes, art books and paper stocks. Growing up I loved spending time in the art room, my only other passion at school was surfing Takapuna stormies and rolling around the bright lights of Glenfield on my Edwards Samurai skateboard!
Yeah nothing beats a Taka stormy, is it true you did some work for Huffer, how did that come about?
I was always a big Huffer fan so when I came back from living in London (about 5 years ago) I thought I’d get in touch and submit some graphics. Dan really liked my style of illustration and they used about 8 or 9 across a couple of seasons. They were super clean, quite hard edged images, bright, colourful and simple. I did the record with the hand, the grizzly bear face, the magpies and the spag bol logo ones and was asked to draw up some artwork to use on their ‘Made from New Zealand’ campaign thingy that went to L.A.
Can you pass on any advice for others pursuing a similar career?
I don’t really feel I’m at that stage yet, I think I’m about half way there. Saying that it does feel like my career has started to take off, so I’m heading in the right direction. I still have a full time job but there are some really exciting projects in the pipeline. I have started thinking BIG!
What I would say is keep doing it. Don’t stop and work hard. Someone once said if you want to be the best, work 3 times harder than anyone else and I think that’s true. It’s easy to make excuses. I have 2 kids Chloe 4 and Leo who is 9 months, so I’m busy with the family in the morning and at night, during the day I am at work and after 8 I work on new illustrations and freelance work. Pretty much all the work on my website (www.gregstraight.com) has been produced after normal working hours. I could easily watch TV after a day in the office but I’m feeling focused, I want to turn all my rough sketches into completed artworks.
When it comes to advice everyone’s got some, some good and some bad, you need to listen to the right people and make up your own mind. Drawing is key, never stop jotting down ideas and try and stay as original as possible.
Oh and never trust a skinny designer!
Who are your favourite artists and designers?
There quite a few. Recently I started a Cargocollective website and started following some other illustrators, not in a creepy I’m going through your garbage late at night, stalking you on facebook sort of way more a mutual respect like what you are doing sort of way. Fernando Volken Togni, Mauro Gatti and Malika Favre all do mind blowing work, lots of it and its outstanding.
I’ve been a big fan of Mike Perry for a while now, since his book ‘Hand Job, A Catalog of Type’ came out. The mans a creative god. He produces so much work its enough to make you faint. I recently bought a small limited edition screen print from him and a couple of his Zines. Pretty bloody cool.
Another designer/illustrator who I have a lot of respect for and recent met is Eleanor Grosch. Her site is super slick and her nature inspired prints are both minimal and beautiful. I have 3 of her screen prints on my wall, my favourite is a Cobra in gold ink on a black base. Rock n Roll.
Last year when I produced the downloadable desktops for Microsoft I started looking at other artists working in a similar way or on a similar theme, this is when I was first indroduced to the granddaddy of illustration Charley Harper. I have his book Charley Harper An Illustrated Life, it’s a big book and totally inspiring. The dude was producing modernist artworks back in the late 40s that would look fresh produced today. Check his work out its damn good.
NZ wise I like what Cut Collective and Flox are doing and I’m always interested in what Dick Frizzell and Paul Hartigan are working on, both make great work.
What are you currently working on? Anything exciting you’d like to share?
I’ve just completed 4 illustrations for Auckland Zoo raising awareness about Palm Oil, a repeat print for Adidas for the rugby World Cup, a series of mobile phone and laptop skins for Fuji (you can check them out at www.wrappz.co.nz) these are currently sold online but will soon go into stores nationwide and then be available internationally.
Westpac have just released a new Eftpos card with my Tui at dusk on the front, I am stoked because it has my website on the back, over 1 million will be made over 5 years. AirNZ have just featured me in their June edition of KiaOra magazine with a 3 page article and my Neon Tiki on the cover.
Last week I got some more retailers for my artwork Auckland Airport (Artport), Hamilton, New Plymouth, Nelson and Queenstown have now come onboard and Repetitive Beats is available from Conch records in Ponsonby Road. I have been asked to have 3 new exhibitions in the next 6 months.
I have a meeting with 2Degrees this Friday with Fuji about creating a custom image for their stores and have been put forward for the cover of an international fashion magazine, fingers crossed because if that one comes through the milky bars are on me!
So busy times for sure. I am also just about to develop a bunch of New Zealand inspired screen prints and bring to life some crazy characters as large digital prints and stickers.
So not much then, next question… What are your 10 favourite things?
1 – My wife Hannah, daughter Chloe and son Leo (is that 3?)
2 – Friends
3 – My Mike Perry screen print
4 – Clean white paper and nice black pens
5 – Surfing in good waves
6 – www.ffffound.com
7 – Art & Design books/magazine
8 – Chilly flakes and any kind of curry
9 – The Mighty Boosh & The Office
10 – Coffee
Thanks Greg, been a pleasure talking to you as always. I bet our readers will really dig getting to hear what its like pursuing a creative career in Aotearoa, from the horses mouth. We will have to catch up again in a few months to see how your going with all those projects. Check out Greg Straights limited edition prints.
Photo: Some past, recent and new work…
Photo: Repetitive Beats, Limited Edition of 100, signed and numbered.