Art just speaks to you. Its impact is different for everybody, of course, but I've learned so much about design and the creative process from three artists whose work inspires me. They are more than just gifted individuals I revere for their artistic talent – I feel very grateful to call each one a friend.
There is something about Ralph Steadman’s illustrations that speaks to a generation. I was introduced to Ralph and his work via Sal Viscuso, an actor friend of mine who was selling the first hundred issues of Rolling Stone magazine.
I wanted to have all the covers framed and put up at the Spot Welders campus because we were doing so many of those music videos at the time, and I always felt – and still do – that Rolling Stone is the authoritative medium representing everything that is Rock & Roll. Looking at those first covers, those I was most drawn to were all the work of Ralph Steadman.
Paint and ink fly, a few more marks here and a few more splotches there and another masterpiece comes together right before your eyes.
We became friends a few weeks later when Sal introduced us at a book signing, and a meaningful and mutually inspirational friendship developed. Years ago, and pre-Netflix, I got Ralph interested in the idea of creating an animated TV series. He was very keen but the project never got beyond a few tipsy evenings at the Inverness Inn. In that spirit, I love Ralph's collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson – those darkly funny and surreal pieces absolutely defined gonzo journalism, and Bats Over Barstow and Lizard Lounge hang in my office today.
That’s what Ralph does really well: it’s a little unscripted, a little unorthodox. Anything goes.
I admire the freeform-ness of Ralph's work. It’s very similar to the film and music video world: you’ve got performance, you’ve got concept, and somehow you merge the two into one. Ralph kind of wings it, but brings it into a cohesive whole that just makes sense. I’ve been able to watch him paint in his home studio in Kent, England; he just starts splattering things around and smudging things with his hands. Paint and ink fly, a few more marks here and a few more splotches there and another masterpiece comes together right before your eyes. It’s a wild approach to the creative process and it reminds me of what we do as editors. Of course, our projects are storyboarded and the directors and agencies we work with have a very specific vision, but the footage always comes together in a unique way. And that’s what Ralph does really well: it’s a little unscripted, a little unorthodox. Anything goes.
Roy is a genius whose design aesthetic has informed every decision I've made since we first met. He started his career as a conceptual artist, but has evolved into a true renaissance man: he is a sculptor, architect, designer and furniture maker. In fact, when Spot Welders first started, Roy owned a store in Hollywood called Domestic Furniture Co.
His work is inspired by the American vernacular but he takes it to the next level through an unwavering minimalism, an almost Pioneer Simplicity.
I had already seen a few of his pieces at friends’ houses and was intrigued by his work, so I made a trip to the shop and we became friends. Working with Roy over the years, his influence has made itself felt in every aspect of my environment: he made a lot of the furniture at Spot Welders; he did the design and architecture at our old post house, Sea Level, and at a satellite office at Zoetrope in San Francisco; he even designed a house I owned in Santa Monica, as well as the home of Spot Welders editor and founding partner Robert Duffy.
Roy's artistic style is very simple, but completely distinctive.
Roy's artistic style is very simple, but completely distinctive. He’s got his palette and his little tool kit – the colours, shapes, and materials he likes to use together. His work is inspired by the American vernacular but he takes it to the next level through an unwavering minimalism, an almost Pioneer Simplicity, taking classic functional symbols and stripping them to their essence: a doorknob, a plank – these things reach aesthetic perfection in his hands, where he might take a simple Shaker form and tweak the proportion, or paint it in an unexpected but newly essential colour.
Ray Kappe, to this day, at 91 years old, still hand draws all of his blueprints. He’s actually an old school designer. He doesn’t use CAD machines. He's incredible – he is often mentioned in the same breath as Frank Gehry, Richard Neutra, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Ray is one of the greatest architects of our time.
He is all about modern simplicity, comfort, and sustainability, and that ties back to the editorial process.
I’ve been obsessed with architecture my whole life. It involves a careful balance of the beauty of visual art with the necessity for functional design. Ever since I moved to Southern California I started coming across Ray’s homes at open houses, got to know some of his properties, and finally got a chance to meet the man behind so many of the impressive dwellings I admired.
If you’ve ever walked through one of his homes, you know that his designs are special. Everything is right where it is supposed to be. I eventually got the chance to design a few projects with him and see how he works, and Ray is one of the most soft-spoken, non-egocentric men and gentlest souls I have ever met. He designed a few of the editing bays at Spot Welders and he is all about modern simplicity, comfort, and sustainability, and that ties back to the editorial process. Those are our values, not just in the work we do but in how we treat our clients, who ultimately become some of our closest friends.
What stands out about all of these artists is how very organic they are. They turn what's necessary into what's beautiful, and they make it look effortless, while improving on every detail. Every project I’ve ever done with Ralph, Roy, or Ray – we'd discuss a concept and then they would come back with a little twist or something that hadn’t even crossed my mind, making the project infinitely better.
[These artists] turn what's necessary into what's beautiful, and they make it look effortless, while improving on every detail.
That's why they have inspired me so much, and moved me to invite all three of them to participate in creating our Spot Welders campus. As editors, we try to advance the art form, and I've been unbelievably lucky to learn from these great, visionary artists. By incorporating those ideas, that ethos, into our workplace, I hope to inspire a new generation of people from all over: the directors, writers, and artists we collaborate with every day.