Artists of Theory - Garrett Moore
It's been on a long hiatus, but the "Artists of Theory" series is finally back! The brainchild of photographer and skate journalist Isaac Mckay Randozzi, AOT focuses in on one unique artist across the 2,500 mile expanse of the decaying American landscape, who embodies the true spirit of creativity that turns skateboarding from sport to art. This time around Issac has chosen an underground artist from the Denver skate scene, Garrett Moore. We'll now let Isaac take it from here...
Backtail, photo by Alec Chuvarsky
In the rough and dust strewn streets of the not so square state of Colorado the creative fires burn in the most humble of places. There are those that still recall VHS memories and local skate camps that helped make those coals of stoke burn deep and true. Garrett is one of those kids that grew up in an atmosphere of encouragement and perseverance. While humble, his work ethic and constant search for the next thing that will become something, not to the art world, not to the skate world - but to him and his growth. He embodies one of the simplest and most pure things of creativity. The pursuit of the act itself. His action of going down random alleys to find the wooden detritus of urban life and then turning that into a medium for his work. And what of his work? That's up to you, but for me it evokes smiles and muffled chuckles on the way to work while browsing his Instagram account. The joy expressed in his art would make for an amazing animated short on Sesame Street. But here and there you see a mild adult edge at times. His long time collaboration with Emage skate shop in Denver has helped grow and cultivate the creative expression that has come out of those doors over the years. A familial enclave that has been a home for creatives and talented skaters like Kyler Garrison, Colton Abernathy and Alec Chuvarsky just to name a few. The shared joys of skating and creating have created a mutual stoke machine where each part stokes the other and passes that to the next.
While the future is unknown it's not hard to envision an elder Garrett wandering the streets of Denver looking in the back alleys with a notebook in his back pocket, a couple of markers in his jacket searching for a good material to paint, and maybe a nice bank to wall.
Interview and photos by Isaac McKay-Randozzi, art images provided by artist.
What’s your name, how old are you and where do you live?
My name is Garrett Moore. I just turned 29, and I live and work in Denver, Colorado.
How old were you when you started skating?
I was 8 I think when I started. I’ve been skating for 21 years now. I did the math on my birthday this year and yeah its been 21 years. Sounds so crazy.
So what was your first board?
I had a Walmart board to start with, some weird metallic skull board, and then I got a World Industries board from Tony Mellick at Brothers Boards in Aurora. It had a graphic with Flame Boy in the cockpit of a plane. I don’t remember what kind of wheels I had but I had some raw hanger Grind Kings with a blue baseplate, those were my shit.
When did art get into the picture?
Maybe before I found skating, but I think I’ve always been inspired by art through skate and bmx magazines and shit like that. As far as I can remember back I’ve been drawing on stuff, drawing on homemade ramps when we had them, and grip tape art too. My dad was really cool about making us stencils of any logo we wanted to put on our grip tape. So I’d watch him draw stuff and I’d ask him to put his handwriting on our boards because his handwriting was so much better than mine. As far as being more serious about making stuff for myself I guess, through high school to now.
Do you have pretty good art classes in high school?
Definitely. I was in an IB art class it’s like a college level art class that's two years long. We had a great teacher, shout out Mrs. Brown! You had to keep track of everything you made in that time period and have a final show at the end. That class and Brown really inspired me and one of my good friends, Alex. She was really awesome to us and she is why I always have a sketchbook with me. Even now, I always end up pulling things from my sketchbooks to paint or use later. But she taught us so much cool shit. Super grateful to be in her class.
Did you pursue any further art education at all?
I did not, formally. I started working right out of high school. A lot of my friends were all making art at the time too. We had a cool community to bounce off of and more or less learned from each others experiences. I wanted to go to school but more-so to use all the art resources. But I guess we just never stopped making art and skating and then sort of making stuff for Brendan [Emage skate shop owner] was a first big opportunity of mine.
So were you working there when you started doing art for them?
No, not at first, I was just in the shop all the time after The Denver Shop closed down. I was living down here so I would go to Emage all the time and my buddy Joey was working there at the time and so was Alec [Chuvarsky]. One Summer I just asked Brendan like, yo can I make some stuff for the shop? We made a few things together; did a logo and made a board graphic, and I’ve had a hand in the graphics ever since. It worked perfectly because we were already hanging out a bunch. I think 2013 or 2014 is when all that started. We’d meet up and talk about what we want to make. Asking ourselves, what do we want to wear or what do we want to skate. It’s all based off of that, having fun and including our friends who are all so creative as well. Colt [Abernaty] and Kyler [Garrison], Whitney have all done graphics. My wife, Gaia, she’s done a series of boards and Brendan even let us have a few art shows and shit like that down there. I did work there eventually, for a couple years. It just kinda happened naturally.
You screen print a lot of your own stuff. Has that been helpful to do products for the shop, like those 50 tote bags you did?
Yeah, that was a random project. We had a bunch of extra tote bags to print on but I messed up a few of the prints and decided to draw a layer of stuff all over them as well. I’ve always wanted to learn how to print full scale by myself and I’m still not close, haha. It took forever to get dialed doing it in my house, but I mean, it’s still not perfect by any means. Sometimes I’ll do a random batch of like 10 shirts or something and sell them on IG. It’s still wild to me that people want em.
It doesn’t seem like the shop is sitting on a lot of back stock so people are buying what you all are doing. Have you done any other work for shops or companies?
Yeah! a few local Colorado shops: The Denver Shop, Curbside, and BC. I’ve done some Vans promo stuff in the past and got to do a Emage x Girl board graphic that really I'm proud of. Lots of graphics or logos for friends’ brands or other people with companies reaching out over the years stuff like that.
Do you do trades at places you would go to anyway?
Yeah, sometimes! Especially for food I’d be buying anyway! Like my local coffee shop Middle State that I'm at pretty much everyday. Most of the time I want someone to have my art more than I want to keep it myself. Recently I made a gift for Ninja ramen and they ended up using the drawing as a logo for their new truck. I love when people are stoked on it you know? That still feels crazy to me. But Im getting older at the same time and we all have bills to pay, haha.
Isn’t it the completion of the process, getting rid of it?
Exactly, and most of the time if I have something for too long I end up giving it away just so someone else who might appreciate it can have it and be stoked on it.
One thing I’ve noticed throughout your work is there isn’t any pointed negativity in it. It’s all really positive and not offensive, there are no edges, and approachable from many angles. Is that your natural style or is that part of your intent?
I think it has become the intention of it, after so many years. Initially not really though, I just like making art in many forms and I don't think it needs to be so serious. So I want it to feel more playful and light hearted. It's more about the process of it for me. And in that process sometimes I’ll write or draw a reminder of sorts. Life's short, I think we all could use more reminders of that.
Was your first art show at Emage? Where was the first place you hung your work?
I think the first real-ish show we had was at the Aurora shop with my dude Whitney Wells in 2013. We had a joint show called Blockheads and made a curb themed zine around our work in the show. But We’ve had a few art shows at Emage for sure. Group shows and board graphic releases stuff like that.
What gets you stoked when you have to spend a lot of time in the studio? What sort of sensory input gets your flow going?
Music, I always have music on in the studio or the house in general most of the time. I like to listen to something while I’m working on things. Also inside jokes or just funny stuff that happens when were out skating, stuff like that…I find myself scrolling my phone for inspiration mostly my own camera roll more than anything. Like what can I refine, kind of treating it like a sketchbook in a way, using a photo I took of something or my own drawings I make on pallets or whatever. I still really like flipping through magazines and print too though. I try to doodle something in the sketchbook everyday.
Do you think that’s also a way so you don’t repeat yourself?
Sometimes, but sometimes I’ll use that to repeat something that I want to do better. I’ll see a drawing I made and think, I should have done this. And I can go and redo it. Having a quick photo of something helps me go back and do it better.
Did you watch VHS tapes when you were 8?
Yeah, the first skate video I ever got that was issue 50 of 411. It was Jamie Thomas issue and I think I got it from a skate camp I attended, so I was probably like 10 or something. I played that all the time, but yeah I did have some VHS tapes, I watched the Sandlot everyday as a kid.
With this interview is a full length part that recently came out. Is this your first full part?
Kind of I guess my first solo part. I shared a part in Stakes is High, a Denver Shop video, a few other local videos and more recently Me and Valen shared a part in Colton’s video Daisy.
How long have you been filming this part for?
Since like April I think. We started filming together for a video he put out last spring Called Baba’s Alley . Kevin [Ruonavar] and I would just film everyday after work. Tried to skate everyday and it worked out pretty well. He asked me if I wanted to film something and we filmed until he moved to Oakland, CA in August. We just used that chunk of time to film a bunch and I was stoked and honored to do that. It was just a nice summer and we enjoyed that shit.
What’s coming up for you? Any art shows?
Yeah, this True show coming up at Trve Brewing. It’s called the Number of the Beast. Everybody makes 4x6 inch blocks and the aim is to have 666 on the wall at the opening. It’s cash and carry so it gets kind of wild, everybody is reaching over each other when the bell gets rung. It’s a pretty crazy show. More shop stuff, always working on Emage stuff. Just making art and try to film a bunch more! I have a VX but rarely use it so I’d like to make a bunch of edits for fun. We’ll see what happens, shit kinda tends to just happen and I love that about it.
After last year, I had a lot of shows and I was kind of feeling just burnt. I got to recoup and get the spark again when we went to Europe and that was so sick to be able to take everything in for a bit. It was nice to have something new to work from by being out and about and sparking other creativity.
Have you seen that lost and found page that I do, where I hide the boards? Have you seen that?
That’s on Instagram? Where you hide a painted object, what is that about and how did it come about?
I’ve been doing that since probably 2011. I was working at the shop for a long time so I would always have access to broken tails so I would paint on them and doodle shit on them and then I’d hide it and take a picture on Instagram with cross streets and have people go grab them. I’m almost at 100, I have done 99 I’m kinda putting it off all summer because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Maybe hide a full board. Free art if you want it! scavenger hunt style.
Do you prefer to use found objects versus canvases?
Totally, I just prefer to work on wood. I don’t really like working on canvas. I would always ride my bike home from work and surf alleys and try to find something and even if I didn’t bring it home, just doodle on it and leave it there. I work at a warehouse so I’ll use pallets sometimes, just tear them apart and paint them. It’s probably a product of skateboarding. I just fuck with wood, it looks cool. Haha.
It’s cool looking negative space.
Yeah, exactly. Search and see what inspires you and then you’re like, damn that has potential for something cool and you use that. It’s kind of like skating in a way. I don’t like spending money to get an idea out, you can make stuff with what you have.
What’s your fascination with Bobby Digital?
My older brother is super big on Wu-Tang so subsequently I became a big fan of Wu-Tang and the RZA as Bobby Digital, that first album, that character… he was creating something for fun. I love that album. anything Wu-tang has always been an inspiration! It’s just cool to me! [Laughter]
I’ve read his book so many times. I love all that shit.
Do you think doing stuff in the digital realm makes it more of a job?
Sometimes, but it is a great tool to bring ideas to life! It’s a cool feeling when a digital design becomes something tangible. A shirt, or a board graphic, whatever. Also I think the digital realm really pushed me for a while, and thats how I got comfortable with Illustrator.
I used to use instagram as a daily prompt just to make something. A drawing, painting or something digital. But I'm not really doing that anymore cause it is a lot of work. Haha.
Did you teach yourself Photoshop and Illustrator? Take any classes?
I took a digital class while I was doing that two-year program. I had a third class that was just all on Photoshop. I learned how to use the basics and then I got Illustrator right of high school and learned it myself. I mostly use Illustrator. It’s crazy to think how far technology has come already! I’ll draw a lot on my phone recently. There’s all sorts of Adobe apps and that’s nice to have that in your pocket so you can throw it on your computer later to refine it.
Is the Illustrator and Photoshop use an extension of what you are already doing or does it feel like a different discipline?
At first it felt like it was a different discipline, but it’s like any other medium. It took me so long to figure that out, like you can get from A to B in so many different ways. I think I’ve finally found my own way to make it feel like everything else I make.
While not looking to make art a full time job, what would you like to do with it over the years? Continue on your current path? Do more murals?
Yeah, I think my goal is to just keep going! Make as much art as possible and I’m excited to see whatever comes along with that. Hopefully lots more graphics and opportunities to work with some more skate brands would be a dream! Im down to do more murals if they come up, but that’s not my main priority.
What is your version of “success”?
I think being happy is success to me. Small things in life make me happy. I like skating with my friends, spending time with my wife, and drawing. Pretty simple, as long as I have that I’m happy/successful.
What’s your favorite Muppet?
What’s the homie that plays the drums?
I'd like to thank you Isaac! Gaia, my lovely wife, Brendan Riemers and everyone at Emage, Kevin Ruonavar, Alec Chuvarsky, Valen Sabin. Colton Abernathy, Grant Thomas, Kyler Garrison. Everyone at Middlestate coffee, And anyone who has asked me to make a logo or graphic, paintings, or included me in art shows over the years! Thanks for looking!