John Park merges classical and urban influences in his vibrant street art.
Whether you love fine art, street art, or both, you’ll love John Park’s paintings, both on canvases and on the streets of LA and cities across California. John was born in Korea, grew up in Ohio, and attended the Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied classical drawing, oil painting, sculpture, and anatomy. When he moved to Los Angeles, he says, his approach to art dramatically changed. In an interview, the hardworking artist shared how he found his distinctive, surreal style.
What first inspired you to bring art to the streets, and what keeps you going?
It was the scene itself that was the biggest inspiration. I was fortunate enough to link up with a couple of good art organizations around 2011 that found me my first walls in LA. What keeps me going is the knowledge that I’m an extremely lucky person to be adding to an art movement that I consider to be incredibly important to the world.
How did your move to Los Angeles affect you and your art?
Moving to Los Angeles had a profound effect on my art. When I was in art school, I concentrated on classical techniques within oil painting, figure drawing, and anatomy. At the time I considered those to be the only worthwhile pursuits within visual art. When I moved to LA and was exposed to what at the time was being called the “Low Brow” or “Pop Surrealist” movement, it completely reordered the way I looked at modern art and my relationship to it. When I saw how vibrant and expressive yet disciplined the work that was coming out of this movement was, I knew I had to be a part of it.
How does your sculpture background play into your street art?
I generally think of images in spatial terms rather than color terms. Deep down I think I’m more of a natural sculptor. I definitely use spatial awareness and sculptural forms in a lot of what I paint, and I’m hoping in the near future to start incorporating my sculptures into more of my public work directly.
View this post on Instagram
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your street art work?
The most challenging aspect has been adapting to the changing demands as I transition to larger and larger-scale projects. As the walls increase in size, simple logistics become a job in and of themselves. Keeping everything organized and straight can mean the difference between success and failure, and as the projects scale up, that becomes increasingly difficult.
The most rewarding aspect of doing public art is just being lucky enough to be given a wall to generate art that’s available to the public. I think it’s very important to have art that exists for the community with no barriers to entry. It’s an agreement you make with the neighborhood where you choose to make yourself available for their praise, their criticism, and even in some cases their physical vandalism. But it’s an opportunity to make a positive impact within a community, so the risk is worth it.
Aside from art, what are your everyday inspirations?
I’m very inspired by information. There are a lot of podcasts I like to listen to while I’m creating pieces of art. I think it’s amazing to be able to download interesting and useful information while creating. I also try to read as much as I can, and I even, on my bravest days, follow politics, although it usually leaves me regretting that decision. Ultimately, being an informed and critically-thinking person is essential to me to creating interesting art.
What’s one truth you’ve learned as an artist?
Whenever a client asks how long a piece is going to take, I formulate my best estimate, and then I tell them double that. I’ve found it’s very easy to be overly optimistic about what’s possible, and to do anything of quality always takes longer than you think.
Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know?
For all those aspiring and working artists out there, sweat equity is a real thing, and return on labor is nonlinear. (I believe the stat is 10% more work equals 40% more earning power.) It’s almost impossible to be the most talented artist in the room, but you can always will yourself to work harder than everyone else.