Friday, April 7, 2006
Man One is a graffiti artist based in Los Angeles, where he owns a gallery and shop. He has worked for Coca-Cola, Nike, Electronic Arts, Sony and Disney. His artwork has appeared in more than 20 exhibitions worldwide and has been displayed in several museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
Q: Did you set out to make your art your profession, or did that happen naturally?
A: It kind of happened naturally. I had been drawing since I was a little kid. While in high school I got immersed into graffiti art, and that opened the door to my creativity. I also knew I wanted to go to college, but I didn't know what to major in. One of my high school professors said to look at my report cards and do whatever I constantly got A's in. That was art and Spanish. So I double-majored in those subjects in college. I graduated from Loyola Marymount University (in Los Angeles) with a degree but completely ill prepared to enter the art world. So I began freelancing and doing mural work. Luckily, it eventually paid off.
How did you build your business, your brand?
Most of my work happened by word of mouth, so my business grew slowly.
That is, until the Internet really blew up and I started figuring out how much of a marketing tool a Web site could really be. Now I own several sites, including my recently launched http://manonedesign.com/ that is pushing "Graffiti For Brands."
As a freelancer, you essentially need to apply for jobs constantly. What strategies do you have for selling?
I look for opportunities. Some are presented to me, others I take by force, but I'm always on the lookout for that small opportunity to present itself. I also have become very comfortable making my opinions known as well as being available to the press. Many artists shy away from the media. I think it's an excellent way to get yourself known, and it's a lot cheaper than advertising.
What role did college play for you?
It taught me discipline, work ethic and some design principles, but most importantly it taught me that not everybody with a title knows more than you.
How did you make the transition from college to work life?
My wake-up call was finding myself living in my parents' house one year after graduating and broke as hell. So I figured I needed to become a man and start making bold decisions and follow my dreams immediately. So my first step was to marry my high school sweetheart. Nothing gives you a good kick in the [butt] every morning like the way a loving wife can. My wife and kids are still my biggest inspiration.
What rewards do you find in your work?
The greatest reward is having someone be affected by my work or tell me I'm their role model. I find that surreal but very gratifying at the same time.
How important is it to you that your work is personally rewarding?
I am just now entering the stage in my life where I'm discovering that work can actually be rewarding. During the first stage of my artist career, I couldn't be that picky about the work I was doing.
It was more important to just be working than looking for personal rewards. I always thought that having paid work as an artist was a reward in itself.
If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?
Professional goalkeeper and member of the U.S. World Cup team!
I tried out for the U.S. Olympic soccer team in my youth. I played Division I ball in college, and I got as far as semi-pro soccer but never got paid to play. That would've been a dream come true.
What's the biggest financial mistake you made?
Getting a cellphone in the mid-'90s. I spent thousands of dollars on those giant radio receivers, roaming charges and those ridiculous monthly plans. For what? Just to be able to call my wife from the road and tell her I loved her. I should've just wrote her a letter.
-- David Murray