I would like to open this by thanking Huck Gee for sitting down and taking the time to do an interview with us considering we are just starting out on our journey of covering urban vinyl toys and networking to reach as many artists as we can. So, without further ado, I bring you Huck Gee.
Urban Vinyl Daily: Would you mind telling us a little background about yourself ?
Huck Gee:I’m based out of San Francisco. I’ve been drawing my entire life but it wasn’t until my introduction with graffiti in my teens that I became really passionate about art and design. It’s been a natural evolution ever since. Over the last 20 years I’ve enjoyed many disciplines from graffiti to character design and illustration to sculpting and toy design.
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?
Huck Gee:I’ve been doing some sort of character design my entire life. From army men and D&D characters in my childhood, blossoming into graffiti sidekicks, flier designs, and eventually deeper illustration and 3d toy designs. They’ve constantly evolved, picking up different styles along the way. But that being said, I’m never quite sure what’s going to come out when I put pencil to paper.
UVD: How did the “Skullhead” design come about?
Huck Gee:Skullhead began as a stylized pirate’s flag, a pop culture Jolly Roger. It sat on my art table for months before I decided to give him a body and a story beneath him. And then he took on a life of his own…
UVD: I have noticed in multiple designs specific references to Eastern culture. What from those cultures that has impressed you since it seems to appear in a fair amount of your designs (i.e. ninjas, geishas and other recognizable figures)?
Huck Gee:From an early childhood, like many kids, I was fascinated with samurai, ninja, throwing stars, katanas and such. And when I hit my early teens I was lucky to discover the early introductions of anime into US culture, Robotech and Akira to start. For whatever the reason, Japanese fashion and pop culture always struck a chord with me when I was young, and the older I got the more my appetite evolved, absorbing the tales of Musashi, Akira Kurosawa’s films, the lore of the geisha, sushi!! I ate up all elements of Japan: the car culture, JDM, bosozoku, dekotoru, illustration styles, Sanrio, manga and on and on and on. It always fascinates me. Still does to this day. But the more I travelled the more I began digging into other Asian cultures, China, Hong Kong, Cambodia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, and on and on. I’m lucky to have travelled and experienced the places I have, and the history and culture of each constantly fascinates me. I kinda blend it all into whatever I’m currently working on now. I don’t really have a choice though, that’s my steez.
UVD: I have noticed on the Dunny 2010, Dunny 2Tone, and Yoka series 1 handprint wings on their back? If anything, what are these meant to symbolize?
Huck Gee:They’re part of Skullhead’s back story. He was an Angel of Death. But now he has broken wings. The man upstairs tore them off in a fit of anger and Skullhead eventually sewed them back on. But they never worked quite right again. Understandably so.
UVD: Would you mind telling us a little about the figures that came out in 2005 for Barney’s New York, and how that collaboration came about?
Huck Gee:A bit of luck, to be honest. I had shown my Skullhead 12” figure design to Paul Budnitz about 2 years prior to the Barney’s release. The Skullhead figure was already in the works, on the project calendar. I had done the initial character illustrations and 1:1 scale sculpt. And then Barneys came along and talked with Kidrobot, wanted to work on some sort of crossover project with their pool of talent. I had been a bit of a fashion whore at one point in my life and leaped at the opportunity to work with Jil Sander and Mark Jacobs. Those were my first “toys”, and they took an eternity to launch. 2 years in total. Welcome to the wonderfully slow world of toy design.
UVD: I also noticed that your 2007 “Hello my name is” 8” Dunny is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and that you have had pieces come across the selling block at Christie’s Auction House. Would you mind telling us, first off how it feels to be in such publically recognized places, and second if you would mind telling us about any other experiences that compare with those two?
Huck Gee:Both accomplishments are still kinda surreal. I never aspired to be an artist, let alone considered being in the MOMA or have a selection in a Christie’s auction. I’ll get back to you when they do eventually sink in… or perhaps they never will. I suppose how I make art or illustrate isn’t going to be affected by an award or an accomplishment. I just want to keep making cool stuffs.
UVD: How did the collaboration with Ken Block and DC shoes come about, and what was the end result from the collaboration?
Huck Gee:Ken Block gave me a call one day. Back when he was still with Subaru. Ken and DC Shoes wanted to do something different, bring in an artist for collaboration on Ken’s branding and the livery for his rally car. Being that I’m a hardcore Subaru geek, rally fan, and artist (at least that’s what they keep telling me), I was a bit of a natural fit.
It ended up being just another maddening, head bashing on wall, design gig though. I respect Ken and the Monster team and all their future endeavors but we’ve since gone in different directions.
UVD: For Buff Monster’s “The Monster Within” showcase, I noticed that you had contributions to the gallery. How was it working with him and designing the piece for the showcase?
Huck Gee:Fun! I knew exactly what I wanted to do the moment I was invited to be in the show. That little critter was just the right size to be a head on a 12” figure and I couldn’t resist doing an interpretation of Buff himself for his own show. He’s a real good guy, he tracked me down at SDCC after the show to thank me for being involved. That’s good peeps right there.
UVD: Out of curiosity, what is the overall time from thought in your head to product in a box on some of your limited number customs such as the Pit Fighter, La Muerte, and SGT. Hicks figures? I ask since I am completely amazed by your customs and just the amount of detail in them.
Huck Gee:I’ve knocked out one or two of those creations in a week or so. But there’s a couple of the larger pieces that sucked up 2 months or more. Casting can be such a fickle bitch.
UVD: Who have been your creative influences over the years that helped influence your work?
Huck Gee:I’m gonna list some peers here. The larger art domain has way too many influences to list. Michael Lau, Jason Siu, and Eric So, for my first glimpses into the wonderful world of toy art. Paul Budnitz, because I have never seen such genius up close and with so much passion. Furi Furi, for blowing my mind with that Japanese pop character design steez. Kozik, the cranky bastard, for showing that you can take one design and hammer it to death and people will love it, no matter how many variations or colorways you release. Joe Ledbetter, for perfecting that thick black outline style. Sket and MAD, for never getting too old to tag shit.
UVD: Are there any future projects that you wish to discuss for the reader to keep their eyes open for in the upcoming future?
Huck Gee:Gold Life. Coming back, big and beautiful this year.
UVD: What would your encouragements/suggestions be for artists/designers that are either just starting out or who are trying to get themselves noticed?
Huck Gee:Hard work, hard work, hard work. Just keep doing what you love, the rest will follow.
UVD: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Are there any parting words you wish to say to the reader?
Huck Gee:“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” –F.Bueller
Thank you again for your time. It is greatly appreciated.