Half Empty, Since 1998

“That’s not selling out to me. That’s doing paid work so I can spend all day drawing and painting. That’s cool.”

Commissioning Street Art: PMH

PMH, Wooster Collective. April 4th, 2004

Street art by PMH

Street art by PMH

Street art by PMH

Street art by PMH

Street art by PMH

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?

PMH: It depends on a lot of aspects. Obviously every now and again there are dream commissions that you just say “yes” to immediately. On the flip-side you have crummy ones which you politely decline. I tend to weigh up if it appeals to me instantly. Does it just feel right? I always go with my instincts. What’s the company like? Are they shady? Will I get messed around? Is the commission itself cool? Am I doing something that I really like and would like to spend time and a lot of effort on?

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

PMH: Hell yeah! Personally I’d love to work for Supreme, Medicom or some record labels … there’s so many. Also I’d love to work with anyone who digs my stuff (brown nose that I am!)

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

PMH: No, I’ve turned down propositions from scary transvestites but that’s another interview altogether …

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?

PMH: I liked the Calvin Klein bottles with Espo, Futura and Delta, and I love the Sony capsules toys … at the moment there’s loads of projects coming out and its hard to take it all in. But the projects that shine most are ones where the artists have given the green light to let loose and do whatever they do well, which is art. There’s nothing I hate more than corporate bullshit – you can spot shit projects from a mile off and throw spikey rocks at them because you can tell when “the suits” have hired artists to gain some street cred, then pressured them into toning stuff down or made them do something that’s not them, not their style. It’s not the artists’ fault. I think blame falls mainly on the clueless companies who have no idea what they’re doing and just end up with the most mediocre shit.

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

PMH: It’s always a buzz to know that someone likes your work enough to put money into it, but be careful and don’t be a sucker! Get legal on that contract and don’t be a chump! Get a lawyer to read it and explain to you EXACTLY what you’re signing … Also be 100% happy with it. Be proud of it, honestly. Sometimes you won’t be that happy with things but try to hit the mark as close as possible. Oh yeah and until its done DON’T BELIEVE A WORD. So many time things have changed past deadlines to point of anger. Until you have that contract signed and/or the product is in your hands expect the unexpected, anytime.

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

PMH: It’s never about money to me. Call that a cliched answer, but it’s the truth. The moment I go money grabbing, shoot me and spit on my grave! Money is cool and I would love to have enough paying work to sustain myself doing this full time. I’d love that. That’s not selling out to me. That’s doing paid work so I can spend all day drawing and painting. That’s cool. What I’m not down with is when money starts shadowing artists thoughts and they start altering things because they know it’ll sell. Rather than doing what they would like, which is probably something different. And then end up buying tons of cars and making wack work … that’s horse shit. The trick is to work inside the system and develop as an artist. To me it’s about how cool the commission is … give me a small job of making a super cool toy or doing some dope t-shirt over some lucrative well paid advert for socks.

Of course a commission can help outside of money. when people see it and like it, that’s good promotion. But if you do cack, people will know you suck.

WOOSTER: Has you perspective on commissions changed over time?

PMH: Yes and No. I’ve seen examples of how artists completely dick out since they start making money, kinda’ like Gollum in Lord of the Rings – it’s corruptive and turns you into a skinny, pale hobbit slave! But I’ve also seen and admired artists who produce good work constantly for commissions and can make a living from this game. They can quit their crummy day jobs and work on super cool projects full time and spend their days making great stuff without ever compromising one ideal, without screwing up their work, and who still make crazy stuff that always improves and changes … that is who I’d like to be, doing cool stuff fulltime. For that you gots to take the commissions, its just that age old trick of picking the right ones … but to do that you gots to get them, and to do that you gots to get noticed, and to do THAT get on the street and make the world more interesting!

Commissioning Street Art

(Included in Half Empty #2)