Tyler Spangler is a digital artist based in Seattle whose work plays with color and animation, often interposing bright color with aged black and white photos to create an eye-catching, pop-meets-surreal effect.
A former psychology student, Spangler’s digital collage work has won him an impressive roster of clients including Chanel, Instagram, Nike, and Starbucks.
He describes his way of working as “a bit obsessive”: at one point, he created as many as 2,000 pieces in a single year, and has created five 440-page books filled with his own designs. Check out Spangler’s latest projects on Creatively here.
What is the first creative project you remember?
My first creative project was when my friend let me draw on his surfboard. I used to draw on my surfboards in my garage with paint pens and bright colors. Eventually, all my friends would want me to draw on their surfboards. That encouraged me to believe other people liked my art and put an emphasis that there is something here to explore.
Describe your aesthetic in three words.
Bubblegum. Curious. Nervous.
What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?
I would say my most fulfilling collaboration was with Coach. I thought it was cool because it was two worlds coming together. If I listed brands I want to work with, Coach wouldn’t have necessarily been at the top because I always work with skate and surf brands and have a punk rock edge, but to work with a fashion company where my mom had their purses was amazing.
The coolest part was taking my grandma into a Coach store at a nearby mall. She’d go up to everyone there and say: “Did you know my grandson designed this wallpaper?” To see my grandma so proud was really important to me. She thought I was famous!
What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?
When I had to do figure drawing in art school, I was absolutely terrible at it. Somehow, all my models looked exactly the same. It was really discouraging looking at everyone’s pieces and to see everyone else’s figure drawings be meticulously crafted.
I’m not great at realistic interpretations, which is why I prefer working digitally. There’s less of a messy trail and it’s more straightforward. This experience taught me that you don’t have to be good at everything—or the traditional things teachers tell you in school to be good at—to become an artist. You don’t have to be good at multiple things. You can find one thing and be really good at it and go all in.
Do you think creativity is something you’re born with, or something you’re taught?
I think it’s a little bit of both. In psychology, everything is nature vs. nurture, genes vs. environment. Kids are always born curious and then through whatever path or environment, it either squashes that curiosity or encourages it. I have a four-year-old son and I always try to ask him: “What do you think?”
What’s the last dream you had?
I had a dream that I was getting shipped off somewhere to die––it was an ominous presence. In the dream, I’m being transported to this mysterious place with mysterious means to cease to exist. I woke up and I was like “Oh, I’m still here.” Maybe it’s my soul dying from the election. [Laughs]
One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?
“It made me smile.”
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