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Solve interview

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Swivel your hips says:

I can't even express the thoughts and feelings I have had over the last few days. Over the last couple years I have spent more time with Brendan than anyone else in my life. We worked together, we drank together, we went to school together, we even watched like every Mythbusters together (he loved that show). I can really say that he was my best friend. How we ever shared that little studio space without strangling each other I'll never understand.

Before I go any further I just want to thank everyone for their kind words. All of Chicago will miss him, not just the residents but the street signs, lampposts, buff brown walls, and everything else that could be painted or pasted. I know Brendan is somewhere so happy that everyone cared about him so much. I imagine him laughing his big laugh when he thinks of someone putting up a SOLVE sticker for him. He finally got those sticker minions! And its all of us!

There is so much I learned about this amazing person and amazing artist over the years. Unfortunatley I am far from an eloquent writer, and I could never do him justice with anything I could say or write. So I am posting an interview of Brendan done for a street art book I was working on. Hopefully just reading his thoughts and opinions can speak for him in a way I never could.

So, for the record, what is your street art name?

B: Solve!

What do you think of the
Chicago street art culture?

B: Well, I think that it’s not huge, and there’s a lot that’s sort of a lot that’s focused in a certain neighborhood, also because the buff is sort of the weakest there, stuff stays the longest. People take the effort to make “street art things” tend to put it there so it will last longer. It’s unfortunate, because the whole city deserves the opportunity for street art.

You’re an equal opportunity artist, huh?

B: Yeah, equal opportunity street artist. I think the overabundance of the scribbly scrawls, they have their place. But I’m not so much for them, I mean they’re just not my thing.

Scribbley scrawls? Are you referring to tags?

B: I’m referring to bad tags, I think. It’s kind of hard to describe verbally, but pretty easy to show visually.

Why do you think there are so many
bad scribblys out there?

B: You know, I just think it’s kind of a call, or whatever,
for a kid, a lot of them high school age, I think. It’s just kind of a call for attention. “I exist.” You know? They live in such a huge kind of city, and they feel like such an insignificant part, so they feel the need to show that they exist somehow. And that’s kind of how it goes, and there’s no artistic… well, I guess there is obviously intrinsically art behind it, because it’s making an art thing, it’s still an art form. But it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as I would like it to be.

What’s your typical medium?

B: When I started doing “street art”, the definition of street art where it’s graffiti in a non-traditional form, it was just little stickers here and there, and that was a few years ago now. And then I started doing stencils, I was doing this little two-color stencil guy, and I was doing him for quite awhile, and then I got kind of sick of spray paint fumes, and the illegality of carrying cans around, not to mention the difficulty in obtaining them, and their cost. They’re pretty expensive for a poor artist type. So then I started doing paste-ups, and stuff. I was stenciling on paper, and then pasting the paper up. So then I could do more intricate stencils, like four-color stencils, and not have to carry around a big ridiculous bag of stencils. And also, I could do larger size stencily things. But then I learned how to screen print, and started doing a lot of screen-printing, and now I use various mediums, but it almost always ends up being a paste-up. When it starts getting cold out I do more boards, because my paste doesn’t work

What message do you want your art to portray?

B: Well, each kind of image or piece I do tends to have a different message, I guess. A lot of the messages aren’t very direct, I try to be sort of esoteric and leave it open to interpretation. The messages are usually taken from stuff I see around, like in the news or my perceptions of the world, some problem that I perceive, and I usually make a thing about that. I don’t have any answers, I don’t think any of my pieces give an answer, they just present a problem, I guess. I also was doing those polka dot box things for awhile, which I should do more of, but haven’t done in awhile, they’re just so ridiculous. I love the idea of this completely ridiculous thing in the middle of the city. Because the city is so serious, people are going and doing their business, and you have to rush from here to there… I think it’s kind of a stop and smell the flowers thing, like hopefully people will stop and
get a smile out of it.

Do you wanna tell me more about those boxes?

B: They’re street lighting boxes, is what they are. You probably have a picture of them. They’re little boxes on a pole, and they control when the lights go. It started one day when there was one at the end of my alleyway that I had done some paste-ups on, and Swiv had done some paste-ups on, and I had put some stickers on, and they had been half peeled off, and there was a bunch of tags on it, and it was starting to look really… bad. And I had to walk by it every day on my way out, and one day I was like “ok, that’s enough”, and I just decided to go paint over it. So I painted it this bright green color, and I thought it was kind of boring, I wanted to add something to it. So what’s a pattern that doesn’t really carry any meaning or weight behind it? Polka dots! So I polka-dotted some pink polka dots on it, and I was like “wow, this is really cool!” Then I went out, I think that same day, and painted another one. And it just went from there, I just started going out and painting them here and there.

What would you say is your main
motivation for doing street art?

B: You know…. I just do it. I don’t know why. There’s not really any financial gain, there’s no mainstream logical reason why anyone would do street art or graffiti. I think it kind of was, I’ve always done art, I’ve always been kind of an artist, I think it’s just one of those things you’re kind of born with. And then, I just got frustrated trying find shows, and trying to find a place that will show your work, and whatever, dealing with the whole scene. So then it’s like, whatever, I’ll just put it out here for people to enjoy. I don’t really care. Just a way to put it out there so people can see it, as opposed to having a lot of artists who just have a bunch of paintings and stuff in their closet, you know, or in storage. It’s like, what’s the point? So, might as well just put it out there. I guess that’s the main motivation, just to get it out. I guess it’s kind of a creative outlet for me, and then hopefully other people can get some enjoyment out of it.

Where and when did you get your start?
You gave us a brief history, did you wanna
go more into that?

B: Well, when I was in high school and middle school I was one of those kids doing the scribbly scrawls, that was awhile back. I’m getting a little older now. But it just kind of evolved. I was getting kind of sick of that, it wasn’t going anywhere, but I still had that drive to put stuff out, I guess. And it just built and built and built, until now it’s a pretty sophisticated operation, in my opinion. I’ve got a giant room strictly devoted to making art. I’ve got tons of screens. It just kind of happened, I guess. Started doing little stickers, and it just builds. It’s kind of like an addiction, in a way. Whenever you start drinking, or whatever, and you build up that tolerance, and that little bit just doesn’t do it for you any more so you gotta go to a bigger dosage. And then that’s just how it is, you keep getting bigger and bigger and better. That’s kind of the hope too. You know, if you get bored with it, it starts to get stale, then you’ll probably stop doing it. So you gotta keep going, you know?

Would you say that street art
is the biggest part of your life?

B: No….. Um, no, I wouldn’t. It’s a pretty big hobby, I guess. A devoted hobby. I do a lot. I’m in school right now, about to graduate. Not employed yet, but hopefully I will be employed full time, soon. I WILL be employed full time. I mean, I got a life. Going out with friends, drinking, Design. So no, my life doesn’t revolve around street art right now. But it is a big part.

But you’re not ok with your life revolving around it?

B: I don’t think it’s a good idea. Basing your life upon street art. I think, maybe for some people it’s fine. For me, I don’t know if it’s really what I want to base my life on. Maybe, who knows? Like I said, if it keeps getting bigger and bigger, and growing and growing, we’ll see five years down the road what’s happening.

Where do your see your work
five years down the road?

B: I have no idea. I’d like to travel around and do it elsewhere. You know, get out of Chicago and go around the country, or around the world. Europe, and whatnot. It’d be nice to expand the territory, I guess. Bigger and better, you know? That’s my hope. Get bigger and better. They don’t necessarily go hand in hand, but you know…


Where do you see the future of street art as a whole? Not just yours, but Chicago and beyond?

B: You know, it seems to be getting harder and harder every year to keep up with the buff. More and more money is being devoted to it. More and more of a government crackdown, which is ridiculous when most of the populace, and maybe it’s my small view of things, but most of the populace that I know is like “oh, it’s cool”, you know? But then the government, or whatever, is very very intolerant. And that seems to be the case just about everywhere. It’s unfortunate. I think all art and creativity as a whole has a very very low in our society, which is disappointing and unfortunate. You know, school programs getting cut, and all that kind of stuff. No one seems to think that having an original thought is worth a penny in our society, which is too bad. For me it seems to have kind of a bleak future, I guess. But it will always be there, it’s not going anywhere, that’s for sure. Like I said, it’s kind of like an addiction, and there’s always gonna be addicts.

And that’s all you think street artists are, addicts?


B: No, I mean that’s just an analogy. I’m not saying all street artists are addicts, like these crazy, art-crazed fiends going out and robbing stores for supplies and stuff. Looking at it through this mainstream, idle viewpoint, it’s really kind of an odd thing. You have this drive to go out and spend quite a lot of time, and financial resources to do this
seemingly pointless pursuit. And it’s not really benefiting you. To the government, it’s detrimental to society… It’s all just an analogy, though I’m sure if you went by the psychological definition of what an addict is, and went through a checklist, a lot of street artists would
probably meet the criteria.

So stepping back to your name, how did you choose it, and is there a specific meaning?

B: Well, like I said before, a lot of my work is based on issues. Not necessarily political, but political, social, or things I see around me and whatever I think about from time to time. My viewpoints on the world, and problems I perceive. I guess the best way for me to answer the question is when people come up to me and ask what “Solve” is, I say “I don’t know.” Because it’s a very personal thing. What do you have to solve? I think if everyone went out and solved something, today, be it the drippy faucet in their kitchen, or the immense national debt, the world would be a better place.

So, what would you solve in your life?

B: For me, I think my biggest problem right now is… Well, I need a job. That’s one thing I need to solve. But, I think my over-analyticalness, like I always read too much into things. I dunno, that’s getting kind of deep and personal I think.

(mutual laughter)

A lot of street artists have rules and regulations they put on themselves. Is anything is sacred? Do you have a code that you live by as a street artist?

B: A little bit. No places of worship, I avoid those. I don’t like doing houses, or cars. Real personal possessions of people. I don’t really like going inside, like bar bathrooms and stuff like that, though it’s been known to happen from time to time. I’d rather hit a large corporation, as opposed to a small mom and pop shop, because I try to support those. But at the same time, if the spot’s sweet… that’s how it’s got to be. I like abandoned buildings a lot. Like board ups, and construction sites, that type of stuff. Government property. The main things, like no places of worship, peoples house and cars, or schools.

How do you feel about people
making money over street art?

B: How they’re doing is amazing to me. I don’t know how you sell your street art. I guess books and stuff.

Well, for instance, there’s Banksy, and Buff Monster in California does a good job.

B: He’s not really making money directly off his street art though, is he? He’s not actually selling his street art, he’s selling his name.

Yeah, they’re selling their image. But they’re selling products directly linked to their street art.

B: Whatever. More power to them. I don’t care, with
the stipulation that as long as they don’t start doing
it strictly for financial gain, because then I think it
loses a lot of it’s potency. Just like anything, everything loses it’s potency when it’s strictly for money. Banksy almost always has very direct political messages, which I think is a really good thing. I think it’s fine, go ahead, good for you. Everyone needs to make money, it helps the wheels go round.

So, as an artist, I assume you do
street and gallery work?

B: I do a show here and there.

Do you try to separate your gallery persona and your street persona? Or are they the same?

B: It’s a hard battle. I have had kind of a hard time with that, like “what do I sign this with?” It’s just kind of tricky to figure out. What do I do, do I separate them both, and make them both work separately? It doesn’t seem like it would work that well. It seems like it would be better if I just one of them, and made them work together. United we conquer, divided we fall. It’s an ongoing internal argument. I’m not really sure where I’m at with it. I like my name, and my real name. I like my street name too, my pseudonym, so to speak. I think the way I was doing it was there were sort of two veins of work. The one with my real name was more conceptual, and deep. That kind of “fine” art thing, where as the Solve stuff is more off the cuff. “This could be cool, let’s do it!” But now, the line is definitely blurring, and it’s becoming one in the same. Whatever, I’m ok with them blurring, whatever. The only thing that concerns me is the legality of the thing, where I don’t want to go to jail.

Is that a considerable fear for you?

B: It is a worry, I always think about it. You have to think about the consequences. I have to be willing to accept them. You can’t be like “Well, my art is street art, it’s not graffiti! It’s not breaking any laws!” You just kind of have to accept the fact that what you’re doing is illegal, and you’re wrong. You gotta watch your ass, and hope you don’t get caught.

What would you say if they made it legal?

B: I don’t ever see that happening, but if they did I almost think that a lot of street art would come to an end. No, it wouldn’t come to that. It would be the same. It would be like if they legalized marijuana, soccer moms aren’t gonna go out and start smoking it, or if they legalized heroin, business men aren’t going to go out and start shooting heroin. They legalize street art, DMV workers aren’t gonna go start doing it. The legalize street art, Daley ain’t gonna start pastin things up. So I don’t think a lot would change. I wonder if there’d be more beefs cause space would run out. If there’s no one buffin it, there’s no new canvases.

Last, but not least, what is your favorite color?

B: I like em all, but I think I’ve always like blues a lot. It’s a very personal color. Real, like electric, bright and vibrant, real deep like, dark blue.
2:44PM, 17 June 2008 PDT (permalink)

acoustic rice [deleted] says:

a beautiful interview and a beautiful artist.
ages ago (permalink)

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its sad to know he wanted to do so much in life still and it was just abruptly ended
ages ago (permalink)

groovy weight [deleted] says:

nice interview.

seems that he was one of real good guys...

much love and respect.
Originally posted ages ago. (permalink)
groovy weight edited this topic ages ago.

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Bonus Saves says:

so glad i got to read this... thanks man.
ages ago (permalink)

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Mama Sass says:

Thank you so much for posting this.

Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss. He sounded like a lovely fellow.
ages ago (permalink)

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aubnonymous. says:

This was great to read. Thanks for sharing, Swiv.
ages ago (permalink)

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he is a vibrant blue
ages ago (permalink)

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Swivel your hips says:

for close friends and such I also have an mp3 of the interview. Its really nice to hear his voice and his laugh.
ages ago (permalink)

acoustic rice [deleted] says:

i want it on my ipod swiv
ages ago (permalink)

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