Urban Vinyl Daily: Would you mind telling us a little background about yourself (i.e. where your general base of operation is, when you started designing, and how you first started out)?
THARP: I was born and raised in central Ohio and currently call Columbus home. I have doodled for as long as I can remember. My first job (at 14) was in a screen printing shop cleaning films and doing some very basic design work. It was a a fun job that taught me that you can actually get paid to draw- I knew then that I’d found my career path!
After high school I attended Columbus College of Art & Design, then took a corporate design job at a major retailer. When I got home from my day gig, I would work late into the night chasing my dreams. It was no easy task working full-time and only getting 3-4 hours of sleep a night. After spending six years in the corporate world, I decided to take the leap and pursue my passion for illustration and brand development full-time. That was six years ago, and there have been some challenges along the way, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I kinda stumbled my way into the world of vinyls. A friend had bought me a couple of blank Munnys that I had in my studio for a couple years before I remembered I had them. One day, when I was playing around with painting on different objects, I saw them on the shelf and thought I’d give it a go. It was a total blast and I have created several more since then.
UVD: Would you mind telling us about some of the designs that you came up with when you were first starting out and how designs have progressed over the years?
THARP: I am still relatively new to this, so I don’t have a long history in the vinyl world. My first designs were basically just the first thought that popped into my head, and then I’d build on them from there. I’m a constant doodler and I like to work by starting with a central shape and then filling in the blanks around it. I usually start with a theme, then let that theme guide the direction of the art. I also like to limit my color palette to 3-4 colors. The more seasoned I’ve become, the easier it is to look at a sketch or a previous piece I created and determine what it is that that I did/didn’t like about the last design. The sketch I start with almost never matches the final design, which is why I prefer now to just jump in, start working and let the piece begin to take shape.
UVD: What are some things that influence you and your work? Is there any artist’s work that inspired you and your style early on in your career? Are there any artists on your radar currently that have amazed you with the product they are putting out?
THARP: Tex Avery and Hanna-Barbera were big influences when I was a kid, and still are now. I love the idea that anything can be goofy and fun. The beauty about cartooning is that most anything is acceptable and there really is no such thing as a wrong answer. Being new to the vinyl world, I am still being opened up to some great artists. I really dig what Gary Ham & Scott Tolleson are putting out there. Daniel Davis at Steamcrow does some awesome stuff, too. Guess it is that goofy quality that I dig. Unfortunately, I have been so busy that I don’t have as much time to check out other artists’ work as I’d like. It usually happens when I’m in a show with them or if I catch a post on twitter. Ask me a year from now, I’m sure the list will grow.
UVD: With receiving your BFA from CCAD, what was your first gig with your newfangled degree?
THARP: I was hired my junior year in college at a major retailer. I started out as a production artist, then was hired as a package designer during my senior year of college. I learned a ton about brand building and had great directors that really allowed me to explore the limits.
UVD: With several group shows under your belt where you have submitted pieces of art, how do you go about preparing for the show and going from “blank canvas” to finished product?
THARP: I guess I’ve been pretty fortunate because I haven’t submitted any pieces; I’ve always been contacted by the people putting on the shows who have asked if I wanted to participate. I wouldn’t even know how to submit to shows or where to begin. Maybe one of your readers can give me some pointers
As far as moving to a final product, I try to find out if there is a theme to the show I’m attending. Since I’ve been asked to join, I try to stick as close to that theme as possible. I will hammer out a couple sketches to see if I like where it’s headed, which I usually don’t, then I’ll just go straight to the piece. There is something really cool about the possibility of screwing up a piece and then having the challenge of working with that mistake- it stays true to what makes a great doodle.
UVD: I have noticed that you even have some times of live painting demonstrations such as Rock on the Range. Which atmosphere do you prefer for making your art “come alive”( Whether people walking along and congratulating or throwing tomatoes, or do you like the solitude of your studio)?
THARP: It really depends on what I’m working on. In public, I enjoy talking to people and seeing the reaction to the work. It is always fun meeting with the kids that see the work and talking about how they want to draw when they get older. It reminds me of being a kid, plus kids are open to chasing their dreams. I think as we get older, we let too many “things” get in our way. To a kid though life is completely open, they can truly be whatever they want to be.
In my studio, I really enjoy throwing on some tunes and getting lost in the work, especially when I’m tackling a new project or using a medium that I haven’t worked with much. I like knowing that I can toss aside something I’ve really screwed up and I’m the only one that knows. What’s funny is that I always revisit the “screw ups” and they often turn into the coolest pieces I’ve done.
UVD: If you ultimately had to choose, do you prefer the flat surface that paper offers or the rounded surfaces of a figure when designing/creating a piece?
THARP: Tough question. I love working with both and they each have their benefits, but since I have to make a choice, I like painting on 3D objects. I think it brings the doodle to life. I like the challenge of making it look like a constant doodle wrapping around a 3D object.
UVD: Would you like to offer any insight on how you incorporate so many designs/figures in to you custom pieces yet make everything so distinct and not dominate any one part of the piece?
THARP: It’s all about balance and color. I find what I want to be the dominant part and use the blank spaces around it to balance out the piece. Usually what I do on one side I do on the other. It’s fun to not just make a shape a color but to also make that shape a character. I think that also helps to balance it out. A lot of people have told me that they see the characters first before they see it’s a mask or the eyes of the whole figure- that’s when I know I got it right. The challenge I love is to try to make a character and still incorporate it into the doodle. That was the goal for the pieces for SDCC.
UVD: Are there any future projects that you wish to discuss for the reader to keep their eyes open for in the upcoming future?
THARP: There are always things going on, but there are a couple things people should be on the look out for. I am currently developing brands at my new job. The brands are: Zombuddiez, Smööch, ZoomiPop!, and Mythfits. We had a great showing at SDCC and we’ll be following it up at the MAGIC apparel trade show in Vegas later this month. We’re currently developing a line of tees, hoodies, vinyls, plush, and a variety of stationery.
I am constantly painting and doodling so my personal site is probably the best place to stay up to date on what I’m doing. I’m currently painting a valve cover for a car, which is one of the last things I thought I would ever paint. Cool project though!
UVD: What would your encouragements/suggestions be for artists/designers that are either just starting out or who are trying to get themselves noticed?
THARP: There are a couple things.
• It’s totally cliché, but- practice, practice, practice! You will never get better if you think what you are doing today is your best work. There is always room for improvement.
• Be prepared to fail. Not everyone is going to like what you do. I have been failing and getting back up for years. For me, the pursuit of my dream far outweighs any possibility of giving up.
• Be a good listener and objectively hear what those who don’t like your work have to say. And make sure you’re grateful to those who are supportive and do like your work. Life has many twists and turns, so stay open to the people you meet and the opportunities that may arise from a seemingly chance encounter.
• Be a good person- no one wants to help an a$$hole!
• Finally, make sure you fully understand a contract before you sign it. If you don’t understand what you’re signing, hiring a good lawyer can be money well spent!