A ONE-EYED PUG IS SNIFFING MY CROTCH AS I WALK INTO ANTHONY’S HOME IN ORANGE, CALIFORNIA. HE TELLS ME HOW MR. PICKLES, CORNERS OF TABLES, CORNERS OF BOXES, AND HIS LEFT EYE DON’T GET ALONG TOO WELL.
His wife Jemma (the creative mind behind Pugs Not Drugs) is sitting on the couch, busy at work, on her iPad offering a warm welcome as she probably chops up a new slogan that goes something more along the lines of “Pugs Not Drugs... Or You Might Be Left With One Looker”.
The white walls of the living room jump out as soon as we step into his office, caddy cornered to Gemma’s space right next door. His developing ideas are scattered on the wall like pop art, stable by a strip of scotch tape that could be unknowingly holding the next piece. The desk below is a mess, but the flow of creativity is impossible to miss. Some boldly colored cut-outs and small vintage magazine snippets, each telling their own story, sit on top. He shows me the secret to his inspiration, a couple shelves full of magazines, yearbooks and novels that look as if he yanked them out of a time capsule that had sought refuge in his backyard. We grab a drink and he leads me through some sliding doors where I imagined I'd find 50 dug up holes and empty capsules everywhere, but to my surprise bumped into two mesh chairs and the perfect spot to catch up.
Thanks for hanging out today, Anthony. Let's get super cliche to start. How did all of this start and where was your creative side born?
I was born down in Johannesburg, South Africa before moving to England where I went to art school. I grew up doing photography, processing and developing stuff and we always had this rack of magazines in our house. Something about those magazines always got me. The glossiness with that authentic smell always kind of pulled me in... so from there, the photography and magazines kind of mixed together and I was just having fun pasting stuff and throwing paint all over it and just messing about. That's when it popped in my head: I can create something with this. I was always into drawing but I could never get that perfect circle, so this was a way for me to pull those images and create something on my own.
Absolutely, anyone who can freehand a perfect circle can f*ck off. Is there anyone from art school that inspired your work to get to where it is today?
For sure! Everyone’s personalities and outlooks were super inspiring. They would all be coming from a totally different background from me so they had a different way of looking at stuff so it drove me to see things in a different light.
This has been burning since I heard your accent, how much tea did you drink in Britain?
None haha! I actually was always against drinking tea and only started to get into it after moving to the states with stuff like Boba Tea... Your bog standard English tea is just like a bag and some milk and it becomes over-brewed... it’s just nasty.
I had to ask because I always have it pictured in my head that it's gotta be the best thing ever over there or something...
I wanted to touch on one thing with your pieces. I love how you have this old retro photo that kind of tells its own story against a bold, minimalistic background. Do you do that to kind of leave it up to interpretation for the viewer?
Absolutely! I used to make work which was a lot busier and it was always a challenge to kind of strip down as much as possible and have it still say something. So when you strip it down to just two elements, it’s really up to the details. It has to be the right image and the right color because they all read differently. So, it’s all of those little things that bring it together but I’m definitely always aware to leave space for the viewer to interpret their own thing. That, for me, is the best part. When someone looks at it and goes, you know, “Did you make this because of...” and they’ll have this story that hasn’t even crossed my mind, but I’m like sh*t that’s really interesting that they connected with my work in a totally different way than I had ever intended when I created it.
Two things: what do you love about the art world and what would you say is a downfall?
Just being an artist is great, to be able to make a living out of creating art is a dream. It’s incredible. To have the freedom, yeah, it just blows my mind. The downfall, on the other hand, is that there isn’t always that much freedom and sometimes there’s bullshit involved with a lot of bending over backwards... sometimes with illustration work, you’re working for a client, so you’re aware of what’s on the market. You make it work because you think it’s going to sell more. I’m bad with pricing, so I’ll always lean on the affordable side. It blows my mind sometimes when people are pricing their stuff and it sells for millions of dollars, because at that point, it’s kind of gone beyond the art and is purely business. For instance, you’ll see some amazing graffiti or something, and it’ll be fucking incredible! But there’s no money involved and could easily get destroyed the next day; then you see these paintings and people are bidding for millions and millions of dollars. It’s nuts!
Craziest experience you've had in the art world?
I got to meet Sharron Stone haha. We were at her and her sister's charity event and I got asked to produce a piece of artwork for the show and it made it to some fancy house in Marin county overlooking the ocean, it was nuts. People were dressed up and there were performers, it was so surreal. Sharon Stone comes out and thanks me for the artwork and I was like ‘Shit this is Sharon Stone this is fucking nuts!’. It was an awesome experience.
Favorite band right now?
The Idols, it’s a UK band. They just released their third album and I’ve just had it on repeat. A raw punk energy with a good message.
The best bar in Orange?
To be honest I don’t drink too much, but I’d have to say Provisions. I’ve been drinking less but more experimenting with what I drink. Central perks is this coffee brewed IPA that I’ve been liking. It’s like this coffee stout but it’s light, super summery. You’ve gotta check it out.
Great, Central Perks...we'll hit you up later for the advertising. So what's the next step for you and your art?
More! Just do more. I wanna do some more murals, I did one for Hurley that I really enjoyed so hopefully I’ll do something like that in the near future.
“...To Be able to have a living out of creating art is a dream,”
Appreciate you sitting down with us Anthony. You're the man and we'll definitely be keeping up with you! Keep killing it!