Observer: Teruo Artistry and Timothy Watters | Digital Artists
From left to right: Deep Watters, Bryan Murphy, Prophet and Timothy Teruo Watters.
Photography by Scott Hankinson.
We sat down with the artist behind our Toro y Moi cover image, Timothy Watters, and the Teruo Artistry crew to discuss art, internet, and ancient inspiration.
What’s’ your AMMO?
Timothy Watters: My daily inspiration is to never stop, to never peak—to always create something from nothing. Routine can be very boring and I want no part of that. I have struggled my whole life with insomnia and so I constantly look for things to do so I don’t fall asleep. That’s why I love bright colors, strong presentation, bold layout and details! Also, I like to keep the company of other artists so you can experience their view of the world and be inspired to share your own view…
Your work has a detail oriented feeling with a street artist edge, how did you find such a great medium between the two styles? Has art always been your passion?
T: As a kid, I was always drawing in my sketchbook or writing short stories—I was always creating. I found out early on, that when I don’t create something, I don’t feel right or balanced. I’m also very observant which further fueled my creativity as I was more aware of the smaller details and soon found a big appreciation for those details. And fortunately, like a lot of great things, my style was completely by accident and just naturally evolved to where it is now. My grandfather just told me to put paint to canvas and see where it takes me. I think my art reflects my old school training and fascination with new school flavor.
When creating, what is usually in the background? Do you have a playlist? What’s ` the scenery?
T: Right now I have the glamorous art studio located downstairs in the garage! I open up the doors for some fresh air and natural light and dive right in. Of course, I have to move some boxes around or the many works in progress first before I can begin (just like everyone else). I used to watch movies when I painted, but now I throw on iTunes and let the random shuffle mix rock. But, when I do paint a particular music artist I will only listen to their music while I paint, so I get in the proper state of mind. If you’re downstairs, you will hear everything from Beethoven to Tupac to Red Hot Chili Peppers to Michael Jackson to the Temptations. I love music to death and will only paint when music is playing…
In every painting that I create, I always try something new, whether that is a different color scheme, different layout or different technique, and recently I started creating very specific backgrounds. When you use lines, it tends to flatten the image and so I am in a constant evolution of trying to create more depth. The background in my painting is very specific to each piece—if it’s a person, the background has imagery related to them like a skyline of their hometown. The background is always very planned out and is used as the secondary level of interpretation to either enhance the primary or to create a conflicting juxtaposition. The only thing I really freestyle is the color scheme.
In the generation of “NOW” where do you see the art world headed? And where will your art fit-in in the science fictional future that is ahead of us?
T: Unfortunately, I see the art world heading toward less emphasis on the actual art and more emphasis on the story of the artist or the circumstances of the art. Don’t get me wrong, I think the background of anybody affects what you do and can lend itself to adding more value or appreciation, but when it determines whether you like something then it is ridiculous. I watched that Top Chef type show for artists, and the judges changed their opinion of an art piece based on the explanation of the artist. If you look at the past century or so, you can see the technical quality of the art declining. Hopefully, there will be a revival of some sort with an appreciation of the old school, and I will be there!
Are you inspired by other artist? If so who & why?
T: Despite the look of my style, I am a huge fan of the old school. I grew up watching my grandfather paint beautiful impressionistic paintings of old Europe, flowers and boat scenes, so my appreciation for the past masters was built in. The impressionistic style was based in large part on depicting modern everyday life scenes and that simplicity always felt natural to me. The artwork was the art, not the story of the artist or the political message. I love artists like Van Gogh, Monet and Maurice Denis, but at the same time I get inspiration from Justin Bua, Shepard Fairey. I have exceptional love for the old Japanese Ukiyo-e artists like Hokusai, Hiroshige and Kuniyoshi for their interpretation and expression of everyday scenes and their use of lines and patterns.
How did you build your clientele?
T: When my grandfather passed away, we found hundreds and hundreds of paintings in his garage and shed that no one really ever saw. At the end of the day, I am just like him, I create art just for myself, to enrich my soul, but on the other hand, I want to share that enrichment with other people. I give away a lot of my original art to people that really love particular pieces and give away posters and prints of my art to more casual fans. I firmly believe in paying it forward and simply just having your art seen helps build your fan base and clientele.
How would you promote and sell your work if the Internet never existed?
T: It’s crazy to think about doing anything without the Internet these days, but if it didn’t exist, I would continue to paint the artists and icons that inspire me as well as be hitting the pavement going to every gallery to get my art up in there. I am currently working on some regional work and some collaborations with charities in order to kill two birds with one stone—give back and get exposure.
When is comes to Teruo Artistry where did the name Teruo come from and how has the name influenced the work on the Artistry?
T: The name TERUO comes from Brian’s and my grandfather, Teruo Iyama, who after being incarcerated in the WWII Japanese-American concentration camps and kicked out on the streets became a successful artist and entreprenuer. Teruo was a true renaissance man and personifies the American Dream, perserverance and creativity – we named the company after Teruo in hopes to both honor and emulate his greatness. Teruo’s influence is everywhere in the artistry as he taught me how to paint and create – also, Teruo is my middle name.
There’s Teruo Artistry and there’s Teruo Creative, which is the branding side of things. What type of projects have been produced under the Creative?
T: Teruo Creative has worked with artists such as Snoop Dogg, OneRepublic, The Game, DJ Skee, etc. and brands like Karmaloop, Warner Bros. and Clear Channel. We’ve designed websites, logos, album covers, marketing materials, etc. – We designed Snoop’s latest mixtape, The Game’s previous 2 Mixtapes, Matt Alonzo’s website, 98.7’s logo/corporate identity, etc.
Three of you went to the same school, was there always a creative connection? How did you all come together?
T: My brother and I were always creative – and we knew we wanted to work together somehow. In college we came up with the idea for Teruo Artistry clothing and from there it’s manifested into an entire lifestyle brand. Adding Murph and Prophet were a no-brainer as they are family and bring so much to the table.
There’s a lot of spiritual innuedos mixed with a street influence. What is the underlying correlation?
T: The emergence of the verge culture is a blessing as it gives the ability for us to express ourselves exactly the way we are—mixed. We believe in art in its purest form and thus try to convey that in all of our pieces. Given our generation and the current climate, we are products of the street and create art for and from the street. So naturally, our aesthetic will always have a street influence.
When thinking of the art world and the current internet “boom” where do you see the art world going? Will everything eventually go “viral” or “digital”?
T: As the digital world grows and takes center stage, more and more will be viral, but it is a double edged sword. Many more people have access to art and the displaying of their art (which is awesome), but at the same time there is no gatekeeper so the quality of art decreases (much like talent when there are expansion teams in professional sports). I believe, like everything else, there is always an equal and opposite reaction, so as much as the world goes digital and viral, there will be a growing sentiment for the old ways of art.
Deep – Who have you produced for and if there was someone you wanted to work with that you haven’t who would it be?
Brian “Deep” Watters: I have produced for Too Short, Mac Dre, Clyde Carson, Six Reasons, Jessi Malay, DJ Skee to name a few – I’d love to work with Eminem. I really wish I’d had the opportunity to work with 2Pac… I like working with artists that are passionate and strike up emotion in their music.
Prophet – With such a “street” background do you find it complex to produce for commercial artists like Paula Deanda and Hilary Duff?
Mika “Prophet” Guillory: Yes. Very Complex. My background was strictly underground and gully. It was even tough to embrace R&B when I was coming up through the ranks let alone POP Music. My fear of losing my invisible “street cred” was in the back of my mind with every line I wrote. After moving to Los Angeles and leaving the Golden gate in my rear view I got a more global picture of the musical landscape. I started working with other Artists from all over the world, from Trance to Rock. So when the opportunity for “Hillary Duff” came up through the relationships I had cultivated, I realized that the game had changed and the terrain of music was completely different. The lines between genres were blurred now. The biggest growth I’ve done as an artist is to accept all aspects of my art form and to not let my “Hood that I grew up in” mentality narrow my view on what is acceptable for me as an artist. Since I embraced this I have created some of the most boundary free music in my career and no longer do I fear what I may write.
What projects are Teruo Creative working on currently?
T: Teruo Creative is currently working on some new projects with DJ Skee and Skee.TV/Karmaloop. We got some really cool things coming down the pipeline as well that we can’t mention just yet!
What’s next for the team?
T: We’re going to continue to create and build on all fronts – art, music, fashion, branding and lifestyle. There are a number of projects, lines, albums, etc. that we are finalizing. Should be an exciting year!
For more from Teruo Artistry go to, www.teruo.com.
For more from Timothy Watters go to, www.timothywatters.com.