An interview with Teddy Kelly

By On June 11, 2012 In Art, Editor's picks, Interview

© Teddy Kelly

Teddy Kelly is a fine artist, illustrator, and art director for Ambiguous Clothing. And he flows seamlessly between all of his multiple responsibilities with incredible style, zero-pretension, and ultimate joy. I met up with Teddy at the Ambiguous headquarters, where he has several large-scale murals on the warehouse walls and incredible prints all around his desk. I really respect how he’s found a way to seamlessly blend his influences from the world of skateboarding to the traditional art of his hometown in Mexico into his own unique style. And once you see one of his characters, they never leave your mind.

 

© Teddy Kelly

Where are you from?

Originally I’m from Mazatlan in Mexico, but I was born in the United States.

© Teddy Kelly

Were there any cool skate shops where you grew up?

There was one particular skate shop / skate park where we were able to buy stuff that they brought in from the US. It’s where I started my passion for skateboard graphics — specifically after seeing the work of Jim Phillips and PusHead’s Zorlac imagery. Luckily, I also got to see even more counter-culture graphics during summer trips to visit family in California and Arizona.

© Teddy Kelly

Did you go to college?

Yes, but I only took art classes because I wasn’t really good at the other stuff and I just wanted to do art anyways. And while I was at San Diego City College I met my teacher/mentor, Charles Glaubitz. I interned with him, learned the trades, and had my first international experience by helping him paint a big mural in Madrid for the Arco Festival. After that, I sent my own work for a portfolio review by the AIGA and got a mention of honor. So, from that point on, I was ready to start doing my own since.

© Teddy Kelly

Did you start working right away?

Yes, I did. But like anything else it was hard at the beginning. So, I just really focused on developing my style. I was living by the beach at that time too, so I did a lot of surfing, skateboarding, and having fun. And I was making my living through freelance work, so it was a little unstable at first, but it didn’t take long to get my momentum going and it’s been a snowball effect ever since.

© Teddy Kelly

How is it working at Ambiguous?

It’s been great! I had the opportunity to do some freelance gigs for them prior to working in-house. So, right after that I was hired on and have worked my way up within the company. It’s been 3 years since I started and I have learned so much about the ins and outs of the action-sports industry. Also, being the creative mind behind the art program has opened lots of doors for me. I’ve done art shows all around the world and experienced all these different cultures, which have helped me grow both as an artist and a person. So, I’m very happy to be part of the Ambig family.

© Teddy Kelly

What is the Human Pyramids Collective about?

The Human Pyramids is a group of creative minds that come together to support, respect, and collaborate with one another. I was asked to be part of the collective by my friend Hovin Wang. One day we were talking about doing all of these projects and he mentioned The Human Pyramids and what he had in mind for it. I was thinking about doing something similar at that time too, so I thought it was a perfect opportunity to join forces with someone like him. We approach the project with both a business and creative mindset that helps us stay organized and relevant, in order to achieve all of our dreams of traveling and doing art for the rest of our lives.

© Teddy Kelly

What draws you to the colors red and black?

They are just 2 of my favorite colors.

© Teddy Kelly

How do your lines come out so clean?

Ever since I started painting, I’ve noticed that I have really clean lines. I think it comes from my love of really simple Disney characters. And I enjoy my process of sketching out an idea first, tracing it on the computer to give the effect of perfect lines, and then finishing it off with the challenge of making the artwork look as clean as I can.

© Teddy Kelly

Have you noticed any cool art coming out of Mazatlan — your hometown?

There’s a lot of talent there. But unfortunately, the lack of education, exposure to the arts, and in most cases, the economic situation in my country makes it really hard for kids to just go for it. Also, in my culture there, art is not seen as a good career move, but rather a bohemian past time. However, now with the internet, kids have more access to all of these things that used to be really hard to find — like all the skateboard graphics we’d have to wait months for to even see. So, the Internet has actually activated a movement that did not exist when I lived there, which is pretty incredible.

© Teddy Kelly

Do you get excited when you see people wearing shirts you’ve designed?

I used to think it was the best thing ever to see people wearing my stuff. It really does feel good. But after a while, my priorities have changed and my ego has gone or transformed into focusing on deeper things than just doing art for t-shirts.

© Teddy Kelly

Have you seen people copy some of your characters?

I’ve seen some, but not much, and I don’t really mind either way. I mean, in college they used to call me Teddy Rose Garcia because I’ve always been a fan of Camille Rose Garcia’s work. And I actually started painting by trying to imitate her stuff. Although, eventually I grew and with that my style evolved. So, I guess it’s  part of the process of learning painting techniques by copying others in the beginning. Everyone is an influence of everyone.

© Teddy Kelly

www.danielrolnik.com




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