Half Empty, Since 1998

“No half-ass efforts.”

Commissioning Street Art: ESM Artificial

ESM Artificial, Wooster Collective. April 4th, 2004

Street art by ESM Artificial

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?

ESM ARTIFICIAL: I’d have to say for me it depends on who the company is, how organized they are with their spew when contacting me, their sincerity in handling what they want to say if I am speaking with them personally or on the phone, and a budget proposal and time constraints.

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

ESM ARTIFICIAL: It would be amazing to do work for Bape, Undercover, Supreme, Hertel’s Sausages, Coca-Cola, Nike, Vaughan Oliver, Medicom, Heinz, KitchenAid, MetRx, Bauer, Koho, Arturo Fuente, or Suzuki. Anyone or company who has a product that I personally love using would be great. It would make the project more worthwhile.

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

ESM ARTIFICIAL: A few commissions have been really sketchy from the get-go and it sounded like these companies wanted to jump on the graff/street art tip. They had no clue what they wanted other than that it had to look “drippy” or guerilla-art based. I ended up turning these down immediately as I had no real interest in doing them and they weren’t products that I would use personally.

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?

ESM ARTIFICIAL: The Arkitip/Phil Frost small beach ball thing is a hoot. I love the toys that Medicom does with artists, especially the jest, ssur and futura ones. More commercially speaking, the Nike/Undefeated billboard that Geoff McFetridge did was amazing.

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

ESM ARTIFICIAL: If you love the product or company, definitely go for it but if you don’t, I’d steer away from it … I personally feel that if I am into the project, my heart will be into it and my work for it will be full-ass. No half-ass efforts.

WOOSTER: When it comes to a commission, is it always about the money? Can a commission help a career in ways outside of money?

ESM ARTIFICIAL: A commission can absolutely help a career, but how much of yourself are you willing to give to something you don’t like or believe in? You want to do something to gain recognition or press, but is it really worth it if it’s this massive project that you don’t personally care about?

WOOSTER: Has you perspective on commissions changed over time?

ESM ARTIFICIAL: Of course as you get older, things like family and kids factor into the decisions. For example if I was into doing stuff for cigarettes or booze right now as a carefree single individual I might think that it’s okay, but if I had kids I might think about the message I was sending to them by getting involved with something that might be negative.


Commissioning Street Art

(Included in Half Empty #2)