Okay, I’ve been sitting on this one for way too long. Originally slated for my zine-in-progress, “Fractal Pterodactyl,” this interview with my man Sean Walling (a.k.a. SIR ONE) is over a year old. What it lacks in timeliness it makes up for in pretty pictures.
I’ve known Sean for over a decade, and in that time, I have watched his art move from high-risk situations involving walls and billboards to the comforts of his home on sick-ass canvasses — without losing a bit of its edge, impact, or street-wise steez. Sean and I also skate together once or twice a week (sometimes more; we go as often as we can get our old asses out there), and have an age-old, on-going pool battle that’s seen green felt in three different states (so far).Enough. Here’s my Q&A with one of my main sources of inspiration and one of my best friends to boot.
Roy Christopher: How did you get involved in doing graffiti in the first place?
Sean Walling: Hmm..well…as long as I can remember I’ve been infatuated with the markings I would see on urban walls, whenever I would visit a city as a kid in the back of the car with my parents or whatever I was always rubbernecking to see the colors and characters and such… This was well before I even knew what exactly i was looking for…I had no idea about the existence of hip hop, graffiti’s relevance towards that and such. I just knew that it was images I wanted to know more about and maybe someday create….then fast forward a few years and I came across Henry Chalfant’s book Spray Can Art…(Thank god for Henry as almost every artist I’ve seen interviewed at least mentions this book as being pivotal for them).As soon as I saw it I KNEW that was what I wanted to do… Now, of course at the time I was about as far as physically possible from the NYC subways and such…. I was living in quite literally the middle of nowhere, in a pretty much redneck zone… So, I was very sheltered as far as resources to learn from and other like-minded folks to bounce ideas off of.
RC: What caused the switch from bombing walls to painting canvases?
SW: I wouldn’t say there was a definitive thought out switch in my mind, but I can say this (and as hotly debated as the topic is, and will always be, whether people who make similar choices aren’t ‘keeping it real’ or they are sellouts, I simply cant care how my personal decisions are viewed by others), around the mid to late 90’s I had seen my fair share of arrests and general legal complications. These ‘complications’ coupled with the ever-present feeling that by constantly looking over my shoulder to avoid being nabbed while painting, ultimately I was never creating artwork I was TRULY and utterly happy with when done, led me to want to explore other similar, yet more satisfying forms of art.
RC: How do you get a new piece going? What’s the process?
SW: Well… I derive inspiration from a myriad of different sources. Basically I visually ingest tons and tons of imagery, everything from album cover art, magazines, traditional animation, motion graphics, traditional graphic design, photography, etc. I glean bits and pieces and ideas that I feel I want to incorporate into an idea of my own and then I just let it all marinate in my head for an undetermined amount of time… I also collect a physical file of scraps of paper with ideas jotted down, or thought provoking images I can refer back to when the time comes to start a new project.
RC: Many people lose sight of the things they love when the need to work sets in. How do you balance making a living with your passions?
SW: That’s an interesting question in general, but also a very pertinent one for me at this very moment. Although in a perfect world, I wouldn’t go to an ‘office’ at 7:02 AM each and every morning chasing the almighty dollar, I would be free to pursue endeavors that I found creative and challenging and such. Unfortunately I don’t live in this utopian world yet. In answer to your question, I deal with it the best I can. I dream about melding the two together. That’s what keeps me driven to keep doing more stuff and better stuff, and to keep networking rather than holing up in my studio and completely shutting out the world.
RC: You’ve been skating for a grip now. What keeps you on your board?
SW: I think it’s so highly engrained in me from doing it for the vast majority of my life I can’t quit if I wanted to… No..no..jokes… I love the lifestyle. I love that it CAN be such an individualistic endeavor that no two people do it exactly the same (regardless of the legions of style drones these days). I like the feeling of exhilaration. I like the feeling of sitting around afterwards covered in dirt and sweat and swapping stories and jokes with my friends.
I like the fact that if I’m feeling really angry about something I can go skate and attack shit and it’s really cathartic for me.
I also like the fact I’ve recently got the chance to live out a childhood dream and design graphics for skateboard companies. Nothing feels as good as rolling down the street on a skateboard designed by me and built and shaped by some of my best friends!
RC: What do you like to do besides skateboarding and painting?
SW: Oh man, I have so many hobbies and so little time! Photography is something I enjoy a bunch, as well as shooting and editing video.
I got really into flying sport kites for a few years (even on a competitive level!)… You’d be crazy surprised at how technical and precise that sport is, much like some sorts of skating, you can do MAD tricks with ’em once you learn it…
I got into mini-moto racing for a minute. you know the little itsy bitsy motorcycles you saw EVERYWHERE for a while… As ridiculous as a grown man looks on one of those things, you just have to try it to understand how much fun it can be… Of course I had to give my bike a custom paint job though!!
Let’s see… I’m pretty into the outdoors and stuff, so I try to do as much hiking, camping, and fishing as time allows… That stuff really can help clear out all the BS life throws at you. I like traveling quite a bit, always planning the next big trip it seems. I like hanging out with my girlfriend and being nerds, playing with the dog and stuff.
RC: Anything else you’d like to mention here?
SW: I always thought I’d want to have a huge ‘shout outs’ deal some time, but right now it doesn’t seem nearly as cool.
I got vast, huge amounts of love for many, and I’ll rest assured that each and every one of them knows it.