We had the good fortune of connecting with Antho and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Antho, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I got into art via graffiti, which is inherently risky. At the time, I was really young and didn’t think about it too deeply. I just knew that I liked painting letters and it was really exciting to sneak out at night and do something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. Now, looking back, I know that that experience, having the passion and drive to risk your freedom for something that you love, has definitely shaped how I approach my art as a professional, and life, in general.
My technical training is not as an artist but as an historian. I earned my undergraduate and graduate degrees from UC Santa Cruz and San Francisco State University, both in History. I tried really hard to get a a decent paying job in my field of expertise but never got given the chance; I rarely even got called back for an interview. I ended up working at jobs over the years that I was “qualified” for but nothing that I truly wanted to be doing with my life. And to escape the inevitable depression that comes with such a lifestyle, I fell back on the thing that I’ve always loved to keep me sane–graffiti. By that time I had ventured into other forms of art but I realized that I had been marketing myself as an artist since I was a kid and that there were people out there who actually wanted to see the things that I make, and they would even pay for it.
A few years later I took the biggest risk of my life and and decided to say, “fuck it!”, and make being an artist my full time job. That was around 2018, and I haven’t looked back ever since. And I think it’s important to note that I feel the “happiest” that I’ve ever felt in my adult life. Don’t get me wrong, I have some bad days just like anyone else; but I can honestly say that I don’t feel like killing myself every time I go to work.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a spray paint artist. I make paintings and murals using techniques that I’ve learned as a graffiti writer. I’m not a traditionally trained artist so everything I know is self taught, with the help of mentors along the way. I love painting murals but I also acknowledge that not everyone has thousands of dollars to drop on a mural so I do a lot of relatively small scale canvas paintings with spray paint, too. I tell clients that, “I can paint anything!”. But on average, I’ve probably done more dog portraits than anything else. I ain’t mad at it.
I became a “professional” artist by, basically, failing at getting a good job for someone who’s trained as an Historian (whatever that is!?), and realizing that I could make just as much money, if not more, selling my art than I could working at a dead-end job. Was it easy? Naw! But I’ve been making it work for the past few years by challenging myself to become more skilled not just at painting but at other forms of art, too. Expanding my range of capabilities as an artist has been the key to my success.
One thing that you hear a lot as an artist is to, “find your niche, and stick to it.” But I think that’s terrible advice. I understand that the impulse stems from capitalism’s grip over every form of expression and the need to commodify and monetize art, but trying new things is how you become a better artist. For example, there was a period of time when I was very interested in becoming a comic book artist so I went to the library and got a bunch of books on how to do that, one of them being on how to do caricature drawings. Even though I didn’t seriously pursue the whole comic book artist thing, I learned so much from that book on how to capture someone’s likeness, and that ended up making me a better portrait artist now. So keep exploring and trying new things. Fuck the haters!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One of my favorite things to eat in LA is a pastrami sandwich at Johnnie’s Pastrami in Culver City. It’s expensive AF but worth it if you like a good pastrami sandwich like I do, super thinly sliced on a fluffy bun. It’s on Sepulveda and Washington next to that abomination of a taco shop, Tito’s Tacos. Those are the whitest tasting tacos you can get in LA. Trust me, if you want some white people shit, go to Johnnie’s, you won’t be disappointed!
Another one of my favorite spots to eat in LA is Mariscos 4 Vientos around Boyle Heights. But don’t go to the restaurant because you’ll never get a table, the place is always poppin’. Go to the truck out on the street and bring some folding chairs so you got someplace to sit and eat. I like the Tacos Dorados de Camaron, but everything they got is fire! CASH ONLY!!!
And call me cliche, but the Arts District is a pretty fun time. Arts District Brewing Company has a nice patio area that I’ve found myself on more than a few times. And if you’re feeling adventurous hit up El Pato after dark and see the real LA. If you don’t know, ask somebody!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First off, my family deserves the biggest shoutout in my story. I wouldn’t have the audacity to even try to be a professional artist if it weren’t for their unwavering support, both emotionally and financially, especially from my mom. She bailed me out of jail, helped me get through college without a ton of debt, and STILL supported my decision to do art full time.
When I was in the Bay working wack jobs trying to not be chronically depressed, my painting partners Vega and Duer really helped me rediscover my passion for art and they were pretty much my only real friends while I was in grad school.
My hometown graffiti crew, VOK, who all continue to inspire me with their work, as many of them have become professional artist in their own right.
The commercial mural work I did with ICU Art helped me learn how to put together big projects. It also put me in contact with Swank, who put me on game with how to use stencil caps. That really helped me take my art with spray paint to the next level.
And lastly, all the people throughout my life who’ve told me that my graff or art was dope. I wouldn’t really be an artist if people didn’t see and engage with my art; I’d just be some dude with a hobby that nobody cares about. So thank you to all of my clients, friends, family, and random strangers who’ve helped give me the confidence to do this thing that I love so much. You da real Allstars!