Troy Lovegates wanders the world with eyes wide open absorbing his surrounding and soaking in inspiration, his brain firing with ideas faster than he can record them. We’re excited to be showing Lovegates latest body of work ‘Tales from the Riverbank’, opening Saturday, June 25th. Our interview with Lovegates covers the days before the internet, his creative process, and what the life of this artist looks like.
SH: What is the inspiration or narrative behind the latest body of work?
TL: It is hard to say, every little piece in the show is something different i think … trying to express one separate thing. I don’t really have a blanket inspiration or narrative. Consider the body a variation of all the trials and tribulations of the last 6 months.
SH: What does being an artist mean to you?
TL: Here in San Francisco it is very strange to be an artist. I work on an odd schedule comparatively to the 9-5ers, most of my days are searching for frames and wood and wandering. Looking for references and ideas out on the streets to incorporate into my work. To me wandering is a huge part of being an artist, just getting on the train to a different part of the bay area and wandering up mountains and thinking alot. I find that all the parks and hills and lakes and streets are dead in the day everyone is on a hard grind here to afford SF, so i experience a weird quiet shell of a city . Then i usually work all night, I don’t know i guess being an artist to me is thinking way-way too much.
SH: What is your favorite and least favorite aspects of being an artist?
TL: (favorite) Painting murals on the street is amazing because you meet people and they want to know what you are up to and engage with you and give you feed back …. painting in the studio can be a really lonely experience
Travelling for exhibitions and murals … new places … really the most inspiring thing is a fresh view and new faces and energy
I can and have moved anywhere as my work can be created wherever. It is not dependent on one-time zone or one office or city; therefore I have lived in Toronto, Montreal,Vancouver, Victoria, Berlin, Taipei, Buenos Aires and now San Francisco
(least favorite) Getting the funding to make the work you really want to be making. I find it hard to truly 100% concentrate on what I want to be doing as an artist because shit like rent, food and the money you need to make get in the way.
I spend so much time applying for grants and sketching proposals trying to get big projects on the go and 95% of the time it never comes to be. Actually, some of the drawings in this show are rejected murals.
SH: You have a lot of fun with patterns and color in your work? Do you map out how it will be first or just let it flow?
TL: In the last years a lot of my color drawings are like those ink splotch cards that you see in movies, look at this one what do you see? An axe murderer! And this one? A butterfly. I just splootch down some paint and fill in what I see in the various shapes; a lot of them come out just terrible so I leave them on the streets or on the train or wherever. Most of the time when I am doing patterns I just wing it, no outline no color palette, I like things looking off … while i admire the work of people such as say the Low Bros and their ability for perfection i am just way to messy and impatient to focus the way they do …
SH: What is your creative process?
TL: Oh man it is the dance of procrastination. I am the unfocused artist fighting to get something finished. I will have like 5 paintings or drawings on the go at once and be eating and texting and watching a movie and battling someone at scrabble, then take the dog for a walk, then back to painting and listening to a podcast and doing the laundry and scrolling Instagram. I really need a cabin in the woods to escape all the city out there dragging me away from my work
SH: How do you work through creative blocks and self-doubt?
TL: I have the opposite of a creative block I have too many ideas. Really, I am always thinking down the line to the next thing I want to do and I get really excited. I need to calm down and put in the work on my current painting before I can move on.
Self-doubt is a motivator for me. Nothing is ever good enough, and that propels me to do better or just do more and more until I get it right. But I never get it right and that is what keeps me on and on.
SH: What drew you to painting on trains? Do you have a good story to share from the yards?
TL: Way back in the early 1990s before smart phones and high speed internet, graffiti artists used to trade photos with each other through the mail. Someone gave me one address and when I wrote them they sent me more addresses in the package. Also in these letters would be photos of local graffiti, stickers and sketches of lettering etc. The names and dates of the artist would be written on the backs of the photos. I wasn’t really into painting trains at that time but had done a couple with some friends on nights we couldn’t find good walls. Anyways, this one friend of mine got a package from some writer in San Diego and it had a photo of one of my trains that I had painted in Toronto that he had photographed in Mexico. That was three time zones away and a 24 hour drive south in a country that at that point I had never set foot in. After that I almost only painted trains, the North American train system was like a giant bulky internet sending random messages out to who the hell knows where.
SH: Today it’s more common for street artists to be exhibited in galleries, but when you started there was still a push back. What was that transition like for you? How did you figure out how to translate what you were doing outside to indoors?
TL: I started scribbling on walls way back in 1988-89 it must be so different for a person starting today. People intentionally do street art now as a way to break into the gallery world or mural world. I never imagined I would have turned into an artist from skateboarding around and drawing on walls and trains. These days I try less and less to associate the two things together at all; art outside and art inside are two completely different beings. One is clandestine and quick and fleeting a lot of it is not documented and probably nobody even sees it or if they do, really cares. The other is super detailed and thought out and planned in a safe peaceful environment listening to music and relaxing for an intentional audience.
SH: What would be a perfect day in SF be like for you?
TL: Get up early take the train out to some random mountain, hike with the dog for a few hours perhaps find a train line or a random spot to draw on a bit. Come back down into the city and check some thrift stores on the way back to the train. Then meet up with the wife on the train back home and have dinner and work late into the night, possibly another night time adventure with the puppy. Maybe a beer up in the hills as the fog rolls in or a long bike ride somewhere? swimming? beach walk… San Francisco to me is all about the nature surrounding the city. There are so many different perfect days to have out there!
SH: Congratulations, you get to throw the most epic dinner party for 5 people dead or alive! (Loved ones get an automatic in) Who is on the guest list? What’s on the menu? And what would be your ice breaker question?
TL: Gosh, I think i would like to have dinner with New Order and Richard D James. Actually, I think I would like to get pissed with them. I think we would all forgo dinner as to let the alcohol go right to our heads. Just a night out on the town or something. I think my icebreaker would be wanting to know what music they are listening to these days and what are their favorite bands and groups of all time. Maybe they have some hidden gems that I know nothing about … ( i really need some new music)
Join us this Saturday, June 25th from 6-9pm for the opening of ‘Tales from the Riverbank’ in the Thinkspace Gallery project room. For more information on Troy Lovegates, please visit the Thinkspace Gallery website.