Interview with Mike Giant on skateboarding, being color blind and Rebel8. Get up!
So how did you discover graffiti and the name Giant?
I was introduced to graffiti writing culture through the "Subway Art" book. A kid in a high school math class had it. Then I found it at a local bookstore and would dig through it whenever I had the chance.
A few years later, in '89, I saw some guys spraypainting in a concrete ditch that I skated at a lot. They painted during the middle of the afternoon. So the next day I went back to the same spot and painted some stuff. It was terrible, but I was hooked.
After painting for a month or so, at the same skate spot, I fell down really hard and a friend said that I went down like a giant. Something clicked, and that's been my tag ever since.
Photo & Video by Agency Charles
You're colorblind and yet you still went out and painted. What motivated you so much?
The colorblindness had nothing to do with my motivation for painting, it just affected my aesthetic. I was motivated by the guys I painted with. They were the kings of my town. To be down with them I had to paint as much as them, and we all stayed busy.
Did you have any mentors when you started painting? What was the biggest lesson you took from them?
I learned letter styles from Agree from Brooklyn and I learned how to paint from Doc from Venice Beach. They schooled me in all the fundamentals. I am forever indebted to them. May they both rest in peace.
Photo by Brock Brake (San Francisco)
Photo by Erich Lehman (San Diego)
What did you do differently than other writers when you started?
I did lots of characters with my pieces. I rarely did them alone, but sometimes a character can add a lot of flavor to a nice piece. I hated getting props for my characters though. I always wanted people to like my letters first.
How often do you go out and paint now? Are you permission walls only? Do people approach you or do you ever contact them to paint a wall?
I paint when I feel like it, maybe 6 times a year. It depends. I paint more when I travel. Here at home I stick to legal walls or commissions. Spraypaint makes me really sick so I'm playing with some new mediums on public walls.
Where do you get you get your paint from? Do you have a favorite brand & cap combo?
My friends at Montana, Ironlak and All City keep me supplied. It's sweet. My favorite combo is a can of early 90s Krylon semi-flat black with a NY fat cap in it.
Both Photos by Steve Rotman (San Francisco)
Have you ever caught beef for being an out of town painter living in San Francisco?
No, this whole city is made of outsiders. Meeting a born and bred San Franciscan is pretty rare. But I think the influx of outsiders has always been a great part of the street scene here. I love to see all the different names in different styles from different places. It's great. I think you just have to prove yourself on these streets to get props, it doesn't matter where you're coming from. But to be really known, you have to stick around for a long time.
Do you prefer working with cans out on the streets or sharpies in the studio?
Sharpies inside, for sure! Spraycans are such a pain in the ass.
Are there any artists whose work you're really stoked on right now? Have you bought any work lately?
I just bought a photo from KC Ortiz at a show at Guerrero Gallery. I picked up a Ted Pushinsky photo at the same gallery last year.
I've been pumped on Joe King's work lately. Ewok's pieces have been off the hook lately. Musically, I've been hooked on the Metalheadz podcasts.
Photos by Brock Brake
It's my exclusive clothing brand. We put out a new collection every season. If you see my shit on a t-shirt, it's REBEL8 or a piece from one of our collaborative projects. But look closely. They are counterfeit brands out there making money by intentionally copying my drawings. Don't fall for that shit. Real recognize real.
How important is collaboration to you?
I think it's super important. It can be a great opportunity to see your own work in a different light. I think it loosens your art process up some too, which is good.
Do you have any upcoming plans to collaborate with anyone outside of Rebel8?
Not at the moment. REBEL8 keeps me pretty focused.
At the Rebel 8 Headquarters.
You openly blog about your passion of bikes, religion and marijuana. How do these things influence your work? What kind of work do you think you would be making without them?
Well, I think those things are great influences on my work, but I could do without them at the same time. I don't need a bike. I could walk or skate. I already don't need religion. That's why I like Buddhism. It's a way of understanding things. Not a religion. And the weed? I could quit the weed. Sometimes I get sick of it. Either way, I would draw. I don't think that would change at all.
Do you have any daily rituals?
Drawing, drinking, eating, smoking, shitting, pissing, showering, walking, yoga and meditation. I think that's it.
I've noticed you on a skateboard more on your blog. How long have you been skating?
What's your board setup? Where's your favorite place to skateboard?
I've got about 8 decks ready to ride in my studio right now. My current favorite setup is a 12" wide Dogtown Pig re-issue with Indy 215s on 1/2" risers and OJs. I like riding it in the bowl at Potrero Park. It's the shit.
Boards by Mike Giant, Photo by ItsumiMax
How has graffiti changed since you started painting in '89? Did you think this is how life was going to be when you were growing up in New Mexico?
I don't think graffiti has changed that much since '89. You'll still go to jail if they catch you doing it. The general public and the cops hate tagging, and that's the fundamentals as far as real graffiti writers are concerned. I don't think that will ever change.
And I had no idea what the future held for me. I still don't know. I just roll with shit and take advantage of the right opportunities as they arise.
So what's coming up for Giant? Any upcoming shows or trips?
I'll be in LA May 15th for a show at the Pasadena MOCA. I don't have anything planned after that. I'm chillin'...
Interview by Brock Brake