Tell us a bit about your background, and the disciplines and media your work comprises. Like most kids, I started drawing and painting around the age of four or five. I can remember building and painting clay dinosaur sculptures in the 2nd grade with my classmates; handprint paintings were one of my favorites. Later in the 5th grade, I graduated to drawings of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle characters. I was skateboarding a lot more those days- my dad taught me how to skateboard. I grew up in the small town of La Verne just east of Los Angeles, one of those perfectly groomed suburban neighborhoods. My High school art teacher and parents were always very supportive of my interests, and I had a lot of friends who enjoyed drawing and painting. My high school art teacher pushed me creatively and technically; he urged me to follow my art interests and to pursue studies at an art college.
I eventually studied art and design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. I learned a lot about image making and met a lot of really amazing instructors and artists over the next three years. While attending art school, I met Justin Krietemyer. We immediately worked well with each other, and before we knew it, we were working on commissioned assignments, art shows and websites together. It made sense for Justin and I to keep working together on projects, so upon graduation we decided to launch National Forest, a design firm that would exploit our individual talents and our collaborative chemistry. Over the last three years we’ve completed projects for traditional print campaigns, advertising, product design, interior design, art direction and web design.
Aside from National Forest we still find time to work on printmaking and personal art projects. I am constantly trying to find that impossible balance between making personal artwork and client driven work.
What kind of messages do you infuse in your personal work beyond visual interest? Beyond visual interests, I enjoy creating objects that other human beings can relate to- not quite nostalgic, but closer to a personal photograph or memory. I’ve always felt a stronger connection to tangible, printed objects, so that’s what I like to make. Most of the ideas for my personal works are created from past experiences and childhood memories. But I prefer creative freedom in my personal work so the concepts and ideas are different from piece to piece. I feel like my process is very intuitive, so many of the meanings or messages are often revealed after the piece is created.
When creating personal works, I like to keep most of my ideas fairly subtle or ambiguous; I think it’s important to let the viewer make their own assumptions about messages and meanings within a body of work. Another person’s interpretation, according to his or her own experiences, is very interesting and significant to me.
Would you share some artists, authors, movements, places, ideas that you’ve found influential? I just recently took a three-week trip with my brother to Japan and Thailand. I couldn’t believe what we experienced in that short of time. I am so used to working and living in Los Angeles that the entire experience became a genuine culture shock. Transportation alone was extremely different: elephant back, tuk tuk, long boat, speedboat, train, plane, etc. Both Japan and The Kingdom of Thailand are absolutely beautiful countries to say the least, and there is something very inspiring about interacting with a culture on the opposite side of the planet. Japanese printmaking and Asian art have always been of serious interest to me; while in Japan, I discovered a brilliant artisan by the name of Kiyoshi Awazu. I also very much enjoy the complete works of Mr. Tadanori Yokoo.
Although I appreciate many different artists, movements, etc, I always seem to fall back on the timeless- John Steinbeck, Ed Emberly, Paul Rand, Ken Kesey, Neil Young, Little Brown and Company, Saul Steinberg, Bruno Munari, The Eames. To me these artists and their art bridge time.
Can you let us know what you’re working on currently? I am currently finishing up a series of concert posters for the “Be The Riottt” music festival in San Francisco, working on several t-shirt graphics and one all-over pattern design for “Sixpack France.” I’m also working on a couple of artist series T-shirt graphics for Stones Throw Records, a limited-run letterpress print produced by DWRI Letterpress and concepting for a 3-D art/object/wooden/toy/thing with Android8. Justin and I are curating a 12 man poster print show, and working on several new poster prints along with re-printing a couple of older ones. I just finished the artwork for my “Threadless select” t-shirt graphic that is due out anytime now, finished a board series for Burton a while back that’s out this winter, and my contribution to Faesthetic just dropped. I am painting on some wooden objects at home for the hell of it, trying to learn how to cook a little better this month, trying to ride my bicycle more often and buying a drum set for the 3rd time. I’m also adding learning Spanish to my “to-do list”…
About Steven Harrington
Steven Harrington lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Aside from owning and operating National Forest Design with fellow artist Justin Krietemeyer, he still finds time to work on both commissioned and self-inspired art projects of his own. Influenced by images, fashion and graphics discovered in Time Life Encyclopedias from 1965-1972, thrift stores, and The Moody Blues, his art might be termed contextual objectivism. That is, he views each piece he creates as a tangible object that is part and parcel of a larger context; the object helps define the context and the context helps define the object. Whatever feel or meaning the observer takes away from the piece belongs to the observer. Nothing is shoved down his or her throat. Discovery is the key. Some of his most recent projects include a four board series for Burton snowboards, contributions to the French clothing line Sixpack, and a series of silkscreen prints based on the idea of “community.” He has exhibited work in Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Montreal, Tokyo, Melbourne and Barcelona.