Half Empty, Since 1998

“Can I do this project in a way that meets the clients demands, doesn’t compromise my creative values, and still comes in on or under budget?”

Commissioning Street Art: Andy Howell

Andy Howell, Wooster Collective. April 4th, 2004

Andy Howell in the studio

Andy Howell in the studio

Art by Andy Howell

Art by Andy Howell

Art by Andy Howell

WOOSTER COLLECTIVE: So what’s been your criteria for taking on a commission? What elements need to be in place before you’ll commit to a project?

ANDY HOWELL: Generally the order of my criteria goes: 1. Challenge: If there is a good challenge, I am usually gonna take it. 2. $$$: The money being right don’t hurt neither. 3. People: The vibe I get from the people is important. I am always up to collaborate with good folks. Sometimes the negative side of this criteria becomes more important than the money. If this is the situation, I either take the money all up front or decline. 4. Public Impressions: I once did an illustration package for a Happy Meal for peanuts because it went out to 75 million kids in 5 weeks. I guess that’s the desire to get up coming back through.

WOOSTER: So are there brands that you would love to work with?

HOWELL: At this point I am open to creating and building sub brands or new brands for major labels. Who knows, soon maybe my own new brands!

WOOSTER: Have you ever turned down a commission? What were the circumstances?

HOWELL: I’ve been approached many times by brands that didn’t fit my criteria, so I’ve usually passed them on to newer designers or friends who might fit the projects better. In recent years that has mostly been snowboard and skate companies, and some entertainment stuff with low budgets. I never leave an inquiry hanging though, I usually have someone who can do it for them.

WOOSTER: As an artist, looking at work that has been done recently, are there examples where you thought a commission worked really well? Examples where it didn’t?

HOWELL: I also liked the Calvin Klein bottles. There’s also the Haze’s Dunks, that Casio magazine that Stecyk does. Tommy Gs music commissions have been great. There really are a lot, maybe even too many. But I guess we’ll know that if the bottom falls out. For now it’s cool to see the creatives out there literally guiding our everyday culture.

WOOSTER: What advice would you give to other artists who are approached by brands for commissions?

HOWELL: Look for projects that you care about and will enjoy, because a long commission for great money can really suck if it creates no inspiration for you. Get an attorney who also specializes in entertainment law and speaks your language.

WOOSTER: Has you perspective on commissions changed over time?

HOWELL: I try to look at each job creatively and decide if it will be a regression or a growth process. A drawn out project that doesn’t push me can be more detrimental, so I only take the regression ones if they are quick and bring good money. There is sometimes a fear of selling out. I hear people talk about it, and I can say from experience that any job is selling out. Commerce is all about selling out. The personal ethical question for each individual is “Can I do this project in a way that meets the clients demands, doesn’t compromise my creative values, and still comes in on or under budget?” For me if the project has met my other criteria, this question has pretty much already been answered. Red flags do pop up in my head from time to time about a brand/client project, and I generally choose to listen to them.


Commissioning Street Art

(Included in Half Empty #2)