Tyler Spangler makes something new every day.
And for the Southern California-based artist, that means crafting distorted portraits and neon-colored phrases inspired by all things cool: punk flyers, surf culture and the squiggly patterns of the 90s. His hustle doesn’t go unnoticed, resulting in the creation of upwards of 6,000 personal artworks over the years and garnering the attention of clients including Chanel, Hermès and Nike. We caught up with Tyler to learn more about his candy-colored universe, which, fittingly, is fueled by lots and lots of candy.
Your works are trippy to say the least. Does your background in psychology influence them at all?
Growing up I was always the class clown. I always wanted to make people laugh and disrupt the class. I think my main intent is to draw someone’s attention and transfer them into a different world where they can forget about their problems, even for a little while. I’ve always been shy and introspective and I think those qualities attracted me to studying psychology.
They’re also insanely colorful. What draws you toward these neon hues and patterns?
I grew up by the beach in Orange County, surfing, watching cartoons and playing video games. I was in elementary school during the mid 90s and abrasive patterns were the norm – it is kind of ingrained in me.
Can you walk us through your creative process?
First, I have to figure out what I want to listen to. If I am feeling like I need to be around “people” I will play The Office episodes on Netflix. If I want to get into a trans-like state and make some surreal pieces I will put on Electric Wizard. If I want to pump out a lot of quick and poppy pieces I will play some 80s punk like Black Flag or the Rodney on the Roq Vol 1. Once I’ve decided on a soundtrack I will browse through some of my old work and get some ideas. Usually this sparks something that I can use to get the ball rolling. I will try to make about 3 different pieces in a sitting. I use every design that I make – I don’t scrap anything. This is why some pieces are better than others.
That explains how you’ve produced over 6,000 personal artworks in addition to your client projects since 2010! How do you keep the creativity flowing and live by your mantra to “make something new every day” when you’re just not feeling it?
The days when you’re “not feeling it” are the days you make your best work. You are typically tired, annoyed, feeling some negative emotions. These are the perfect ingredients for making artwork that people can relate to. I try to examine my mood and think about how I can translate it into a piece of art.
How would you describe your work and what do you hope viewers take away from it?
A rainbow flavored popsicle dipping in the ocean and placed on a rock to melt. I just love making work that I want to see in the world (or online). When I worked at a surf shop a lot of the clothing was lacking color. I wanted to make everything neon and bright and fun. I think thats what inspired me to make art for surf and skate companies.
I want people to laugh, feel good, feel confused and want to go out and make their own art!
You are a self-described introvert. Are people surprised to find that out after viewing your works? How do you think that nature translates into your works?
Definitely. You would think I’m some outgoing and loud person in real life but I’m quite the opposite. I have to understand everything in a room before I feel comfortable to “come out of my shell.” My work is an ongoing experimentation that hopefully never finds an answer.
Your CV says you ran an underground punk venue for 13 shows before it got shut down by the police. Do tell!
I did! I was booking shows for local punk bands for a while and there were only like two places that were all age venues and it was hard to get gigs there because they usually required ticket sales or another method which was hard for kids to satisfy. I would always think how awesome it would be to rent a crappy warehouse space for bands to just let loose and play whatever they wanted without the annoyance of a venue owner demanding profits. I scoured Craigslist for a space in an industrial area that was small enough to be affordable and intimate but big enough to fit enough people. I had accrued a small savings account from working at a surf shop and living at home and I convinced the landlord to let me pay three months upfront since I didn’t have any credit or references. He was under the impression I was using it for band practice, which was true in a sense. I bought a cheap PA system, mic and mic stand, and filled the place with spray painted tarps and other random artwork I had made.
The first show was packed because everyone was just so stoked about the idea of having a cheap and discreet spot to see some live music. I had booked my friend’s band and a couple others that I really liked. We had the “brilliant” idea to dance around with sparklers and mosh like lunatics which resulted in someone jumping off a couch and drop kicking a hole through the wall. I worked the door with my girlfriend, made sure not too many things were getting destroyed and designed and booked all the shows. It lasted for three weeks and eventually got shut down when the police arrived because of noise complaints.
Has the punk scene influenced your work in any way? Where else do you find inspiration?
It gave me inspiration and confidence to to pursue art as a career. I didn’t have any artist role models in my life and had no idea how to make a living from art. Punk to me is doing what you want without needing permission from anyone or caring what anyone else thinks. It really gave me motivation to put myself out there and continue to experiment.
I get a ton of inspiration from surfing. I love the unpredictable and raw energy of the ocean – it forces you to act on your feet and trust your instincts.
You’ve created a number of 400+ page books filled with your designs and client work. What motivated you to compile your digital works into a tangible object?
My initial intent was to have something that I could hold. It’s hard to visualize 400 individual pieces of artwork when they are in a digital folder on your computer. Once you see and feel the weight of that much artwork in the real world it’s really powerful. The same is true with all the Society6 products.
What’s a dream project you’d like to tackle in the future?
I want to hire a mural painter to paint one of my designs on a pier.