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Parra Interview

14 JAN 2009 | Posted By: Luke

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Parra Interview

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LL: Your typographic, illustrative style and use of colour palette is very reminiscent of 60s and 70s poster art and artists like Keith Haring. Do you look back to this era for inspiration?
Parra: No not really, I’ve heard it more that people compare me with names from the 60s I never heard of before, but thanks for the comparison. I think my main influence was late 80s, early 90s skateboarding graphics... but that’s influence. For inspiration, I look at all sorts of dumb stuff, the dumber the better. Humorous stuff gives me the most ideas.

LL: When did you first know that you could make a living from drawing? Did you ever have any formal training?
Parra: No formal training no... I think I knew when, very early in my ‘career’, an art director who hired me to do a job said to me that my style was kind of unique and stood out from the rest. It gave me a little confidence boost, and since then I never really worried about it anymore. OK I lie, of course I worry sometimes. The more ‘success’ I have the more afraid I get to lose it. Same goes for money by the way... or girlfriends. Hahaha.

LL: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Parra: Funny stuff basically, stupid situations, awkwardness, shame and sin... Sometimes I might pick up a comic, the ones I would read when I was a child, like Tin Tin.

LL: You’ve got to be one of the hardest working illustrators around, everywhere I look there’s a party poster, a new show and new t-shirt, do you ever stop drawing?
Parra: I do stop but it’s actually not that bad – I work relatively quickly so if I had to, I could produce two or three artworks a day. But come to think of it, I’m always working. Shit, my arm hurts...

LL: Having a father as an artist must have given you an early appreciation for art, design and colour. How much has your father influenced your work? What does he think of what you do now?
Parra: I really did not care too much about it at the time. When I was around ten, I was only interested in skateboarding, but being around him rubbed off a whole lot of aesthetics on me. For sure, colors and naked women. He really likes my work actually, really happy about that. I sometimes steal his drawings and make my own version of it. He has a great and crazy mind and draws amazing stuff – the other day I saw that he used type for the first time in a painting. I felt a bit proud...

LL: I’ve noticed that your Dad’s characters seem to have a shoe fetish like yours do. Has he borrowed this idea from you or is it the other way around?
Parra: Hahaha... I actually made that one up! He’s guilty for the overweight curvy ladies.

LL: The recurring characters in your drawings seem to be overtly deviant with everything from cross-dressing, beaked, aggro muscle men to voluptuous, horny and loose women. Where do your characters come from?
Parra: They are my versions of human beings without giving credit to humans. The beaked people are imitating the humans, making a spoof of them kind of (difficult question by the way).

LL: How did the idea for Rockwell clothing come about?
Parra:
Seriously, out of necessity. Around 2000 there weren’t that many nice brands around, especially not in Amsterdam, so I decided to create my own stuff. In the beginning just to give to friends who DJed and skaters and some music-related people. All those people made Rockwell what it is today... still very small... Hahahaha.

LL: I read somewhere that you used to be sponsored by Venture and Think in the 90s for skateboarding. Do you still skate?
Parra:
Yeah I do! Still love it. It hurts a bit more now, but I still get around...

LL: Do you think growing up as a skater, and being exposed to skate graphics and the innate irreverence of skate culture has helped to shape your style?
Parra:
Definitely, I was reading an old 1990 Thrasher the other day, and I really can’t describe the feeling of looking at those old pics and all those product ads. It all looked so lush and had such edge and humour. I really appreciate it much more now than I did back then when it was actually 1990, when I was just trying to land 360 flips. Now I can take a step back and see the sheer beauty of all that skateboarding brought me and to a lot of other people. I just watched Neil Blender and Lance Mountain’s parts in Ban This on YouTube, classic material.

LL: How important is a sense of humour in your work?
Parra: I think it’s on a good number one.

LL: Having Big Active as your agent and being part such an exclusive and selective pool of some of the best illustrative talents around must be great. How did you first hook up with Big Active and how important is having an agent for what you do?
Parra:
Big really helps me in getting good jobs and putting food on the table.By doing work with them I can fund my own art projects and stuff.It’s seriously a win-win situation, plus they are always there to give advice and guidance if I have a rough period sometimes.

Greg Burne, the man at Big who handles the illustrators, showed up at my very first solo expo in London a few hours before it opened. He stood there and took a look around, took me next door, ordered two Guinness pints and before I could say anything, I was on Big Active. A very sweet moment in my life. (www.bigactive.com)

LL: Since your Tits and Typo solo show at London’s Kemistry Gallery a few years ago you’ve had shows at international galleries like Reed Space, Hvw8 and Lazy Dog to name a few. How did your first show come about?
Parra:
Tits and Typo was actually the second one, the first one was called Stuff I Did for Friends and Less Than a Hundred Pounds – a long title but it featured stuff like flyers, music-related stuff, all sorts of stuff. I priced it super cheap, like £30 because I originally did all those jobs for free (or less that a £100) which makes no sense at all, but it was amazing. It was sold out in two days. I saw people buying four posters at a time – funny how people do buy stuff when it’s really cheap.

It was a nice fellow named Dan Witchell (www.proudcreative.com) who noticed my work online and asked me to do a show at the Kemistry Gallery. That was the first one and I really loved doing it. The opening was the best, good stuff until the beer ran out... I kind of see a trend going on there; it seems that most art show openings are about the free beers.

LL: A few years ago would you have ever have though that your drawings would take you around the world? Are you working on any new shows in the future?
Parra:
No man... I always hoped though! I’m now working on my second show in Paris at Lazydog (5th December opening, free beer, haha). Then in 2009 I’m doing another show at HVW8 gallery in Los Angeles around April, a show in Bern, Switzerland at the Milieu gallery probably, and I’m talking to a nice gallery in Tokyo.

LL: Do you still get a buzz from walking down the street and seeing a kid wearing your t-shirt or seeing a poster you’ve designed in the public sphere?
Parra:
Sometimes, definitely. But even more if I see it worn by somebody I would not have guessed would like it. I love it when I see girls with something I have made...

LL: You seem to have done commercial work for everyone from Ben & Jerry’s, Heineken and Volkswagen to Zoo York, Enjoi, Stones Throw and Nike. How do you find working as a commercial artist compared with the freedom of doing your own stuff?
Parra:
It can be a fucking drag but I’ve never really had problems, it’s very simple for the clients to see what I make. I don’t have to do other styles or cater to the clients’ needs too much. I’m spoiled... Haha.

LL: Music is obviously an important part of your life. What is Parra Soundsystem?
Parra:
Parra Soundsystem is group of five people – two DJs, two MCs and me. We rock parties. I also DJ sometimes but mostly what I do is the whole art direction.

It was born on my first expo in Paris at the Lazy Dog, somebody organised an afterparty in the highly hipstered-out club called Paris Paris, and I asked if I could arrange my own DJs, we decided it to call it Parra Soundsystem, and it stuck ever since.

Parra Soundsystem is DJ Mr. Wix, Tom Trago, MC Mo Chi and Gee (one of the owners of the Patta store) and me. Mostly it’s me and Gee hanging at the bar and the rest of the guys working their asses off. We’ve played various spots and countries, it’s very fun to do.

LL: How did your band Le Le come about? You released the album Flage earlier this year. How has it been received? Are you working on any new material?
Parra:
Working on the second album, The Douche Will Return. Le Le is three people – Faberyayo sings, me and Rimer produce, and I art direct also.

I knew Faberyayo for a while. He is also in a Dutch rap-electro trio which is quite famous in Netherlands called De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig. He wanted to do something else next to his rap stuff and I offered some beats. He liked ‘em so we biked to Rimer’s studio and recorded a track. We became all good friends and share a love of making funny music with champagne and panthers. (myspace.com/lelemusique)

LL: You more recently began to animate your characters like your work for the Le le Breakfast video. Is animation something you’re planning on doing more of in the future?
Parra:
I love to do it, but it’s so time consuming! I do it the old-fashioned way (like Walt Disney, but then really bad) but I wanna do more soon.

LL: What’s the general process for creating your pieces? Do you work from reference or does it all just flow naturally?
Parra:
It has to flow naturally, otherwise it’s not a good piece. It really depends how I feel, my emotions really influence my work... Weird thing is, when I’m a bit depressed I make really good work. I need a bit of drama, I think, to keep me going. Parra = short for Parranoid.

LL: What next for Parra?
Parra:
Keep up with my own tempo!

Check out our Parra gallery for more.
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Comments on this Post
There are "9" comment(s) on "Parra Interview"

Respect NOTORIOUSJAY
was an awsome read. nice interview LL:. P.s Luke Lucas interviewed a producer of Le Le for LifeLounge.
NOTORIOUSJAY  -  5 years ago
Reply  |  Report
Respect Katie
What do you mean, Jay?
Katie  -  5 years ago
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Respect NOTORIOUSJAY
no not J's. 2 doors down. Lots of L's.
NOTORIOUSJAY  -  5 years ago
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Respect Katie
Oh! Sorry, the hamsters in my mind tank are clearly on sedatives.
Katie  -  5 years ago
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Respect Luke
L's everywhere
Luke  -  5 years ago
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Respect freeak
That exchange took me 5 reads to get. Maybe I do have the brain of Year Three-er-er?
freeak  -  5 years ago
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New Lounger 564017E7
Shameless plug: You can buy Parra (Rockwell) clothing at ThreadsOrDead.com.au
564017E7  -  5 years ago
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Senior Member 61B82C38
and u call that shameless plugging....you just plugged ThreadsOrDead,com.au.....now thats a plug!
61B82C38  -  5 years ago
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Senior Member 61B82C38
A plug very Bert Good Morning Australia Style....ok finished my bitchin'
61B82C38  -  5 years ago
Reply  |  Report

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