Surfer Tyler Spangler lives with his wife in a trailer in Pacific Palisades, CA, where he churns out vivid digital collages and illustrations that pulse with color and energy, influenced by the fluorescent hues of candy and SoCal sunsets. The graphic designer recently told the Creator's Project that a professor once described his work as a "high school yearbook on acid," and that fantastic aesthetic has attracted commissions from the worlds of fashion, surfing, and music (including Outkast and Little Dragon). Looking through his portfolio (we only wish we had access to one of his limited edition, 440-page books of his art) and Instagram feed, it's easy to see why this prolific artist is so in demand.
We interviewed this countercultural artist (he once ran an underground punk venue until the cops shut it down) about his work and his seaside lifestyle.
How did being a surfer first start influencing your art?
Ever since I first started surfing, I would draw waves and bubbles all over the bottom of my surfboards. I had an infatuation with bubbles, ha ha.
What about running the punk venue, how did that music and space inform what you’ve created?
I wasn't making any money from art at that point. I was just using my art for flyers and decorations for the venue. I think the experience of creating the venue gave my artwork energy and honesty. It gave me the courage to pursue a career in art.
How did you break into doing artwork for bands, and what bands/artists have you worked with that you were most excited about?
There was this band that I was really into and I just asked them if they needed flyers done and they said sure. From there I just started doing different band flyers and contacting other bands and other bands contacted me. It just kind of snowballed. I am always stoked to do band artwork because I love music so much. I think the most surreal was Reagan Youth because I had listened to them so much before getting the chance to do some flyers for them.
How did you develop the color schemes for your work? What first attracted you to a brighter template?
I've always been drawn to really bright colors. I had experimented with different shades for a while but I think recently I have come to a distinct few. I think beach sunsets and candy have a big influence on that too.
How often are you creating new work? Do you have any goals as far as a certain number of pieces in any time frame?
I try to make new things every day. Sometimes this isn't possible because I am away from my computer or doing client work, in which case I will just make a couple pieces to make up for the loss. I try to focus on keeping my social media posts (two per day) sustainable.
What’s your process like when you’re creating one of your collages? Do you look for certain elements/facial expressions first?
I basically just make what I feel like. Sometimes I'm in the mood to make a crazy dense collage and other times it's just a calm cloud scene or a basic two-color pattern. Other times I will totally tear apart and distort people's faces. It really just comes down to what mood I am in.
How did you start turning your artwork into products? What’s your favorite product you’ve created?
Originally I would just get licenses by companies to make shirts and stuff like that but then I found Society6 which is a nice little site to make some side cash and allow people to own my art at a reasonable price. I have a really awesome shower curtain with a bright pink cloud pattern on it, which makes me smile every time I see it.
How has coming up in the Internet generation affected your work?
I guess the constant flow of new content and never ending scrolling has effected me in how I create. I try to keep up with the constant feed.
How do you deal with artist's block? Do you have any methods for getting past the moments when you’re too stuck in your own head?
I usually just watch a concert on YouTube or a surf video or just listen to music and zone out until I get inspired to make something. I think the hardest part is just to find that inspiration, but with enough digging through things that interest me, I doesn't usually take long.
Your books have all sold out, correct? When does the next one come out and how can people get one before they’re all gone?
I only printed one of each book, which I have sold. I am not sure when I will print any more. They are essentially chronological anthologies of my work. Each of them contains 440 pages of design. I am currently on book nine, which I am halfway finished with.
What new projects are you working on now?
I just finished a couple really big jobs so I am kind of detoxing and creating personal work. There are a couple things coming up though that I am not legally able to talk about, ha ha.
Follow Tyler Spangler on Instagram here.