The Wolf's Head Interview with Graphic Designer Brendan Lee
When people get your artwork permanently etched into their skin, it’s safe to say you’re on to something. Considering that at the time of this writing, I have two of Brendan Lee’s works tattooed on me, it’s safe to say I’m a fan. The first time i came into contact with Brendan’s artwork was sometime in late 2013. I found his instagram page through 2Tone’s page, and immediately hit the “Follow” button.
I was blown away by how simple and direct his work was, while undeniably conveying an intelligence and razor-sharp wit rarely seen so consistently. With topics ranging from societal issues to the code of the streets, from fatherhood to plain old silliness, Brendan’s one-of-a-kind style has seen him collaborate with companies such as 5Boro NYC, Stock Mfg Co, Lurk Hard, BrownCardigan, and emerging streetwear giants Born X Raised.
I recently had the opportunity to chop it up with Brendan. What follows are the results:
Wolf’s Head: First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. The other fellas here at the shop are big fans of your work as well. Let’s start with a little background: Where you’re from, where you’re at, all that jazz.
Yo, thanks man! My name is Brendan Lee, I currently stay in San Jose Califas. I have been in San Jose for more than half my life, and it’s where I am raising my kids, so I guess it's home.
Wolf’s Head: Who or what first got you into drawing/painting/art in general?
I always liked to draw. My uncle used to paint these hype native american chief heads in oil paint. Growing up in Phoenix in the 80’s that aesthetic was a big part of what I was seeing. My grandma used to sell Navajo jewelry and Hopi Kachina at the swap meet in Phoenix. Anything else, I had to go out and find it, especially because I came up in the pre-internet era. I found the ragged copy of subway art in the local library and used to copy the pieces. Same with music. You had to go out and hunt for it, with limited budget. Now all that shit is for free on the internet, you can sit at your house and blaze through a ton of albums in a day and listen to all these amazing unsigned kids on sound cloud. The same is for art. The internet is the Godzilla partyline with all types of everything. You have to be vigilant for busters.
Wolf’s Head: Who would you count as your influences today? Have they changed drastically over the years?
Going dumb, internet beef, vandalism, suburban mysticism, cyber bullying and my teams GTB and DADS. Graffiti gave me a good moral grounding with my art. There are rules to follow. The Good Time Boys started in the bay area in 1995. They are some of the most creative people in the world, in my opinion. They are of a similar mindset, old school way of thinking. Pay your dues. Everyone knows one another, our kids, parents, etc. Now a days you got kids asking to push your crew in the comments. It’s pathetic. These kids are so thirsty. DADS crew is a support group for DADS that hold it down.
Wolf’s Head: What are your thoughts/feelings on seeing your work on skate decks & clothes from brands like 5Boro, Lurk Hard, Born X Raised etc?
Oh man, its been really fun. My kids think it's cool. I have a lot of love and respect for the people that run those brands, and they have helped me grow my craft. I was off the grid for years being a dad and working as a software engineer, it has been really special to be able to do these projects.
Wolf’s Head: Have you had that moment where you’re walking down the street and seen someone rocking a shirt with one of your designs?
Not yet but my friends send me pictures. I don’t get out much, I am mostly hanging out at home with my wife and kids, working on stuff.
Wolf’s Head: And talk a little bit about how those collaborations happened, if you care to elaborate. Was it all through your IG, or did you have personal relationships with any of those folks prior to the collabs?
Kinda both. I use IG to test out ideas, like a comedian going to open mic night. You have to be humble with your art and willing to change it, and listen to people. Draw everyday. Be nice. Know your history. Know who you are dealing with, don’t do business with idiots. Know what you are worth, but don’t be greedy. Karma is real.
Wolf’s Head: What does it feel like when people send you/post pictures of your designs tattooed on them?
Tattoos are super intimate. It is one of the most flattering things in the world to me. Thanks to all those really awesome people that put my art on them!
It’s the best feeling in the world. I started drawing again as a promise to myself, after watching someone die from cancer in front of me. It feels like the universe is giving me positive feedback for going back down this path. Im happy to make things that people care deeply about.
Wolf’s Head: What keeps you continuously inspired to create? You’re very active on your Instagram account, there’s usually at least one new piece or doodle every day. Can you put a finger on it, or is it just in your blood?
I like to create. I like to see what kinds of things people react to. I like the internet and all of the weird shit that goes along with it. I just have to log the ideas, either half baked or pondered upon for weeks somewhere. Its like a public diary of sorts, a way to try out ideas and stories.
Wolf’s Head: Do you allot a certain amount of time to your drawing every day, or is it something that you do in your spare time?
Someone told me very young that real artists draw every day. A lot of these kids want to be artists but don’t want to make art. Its like playing an instrument. I am a designer. That’s my day job. Designers make things for people. Artists make things for themselves. At the end of the day, I am trying to make something ephemeral and funny. The brother Kegs GTB has RELENTLESS tattooed on the side of his head, I try to keep a steady pace like my man.
Wolf’s Head: Who are your favorite graffiti writers/painters?
Oh man, Hindue, Erupto327, Finsta, Sibl, Leo, Marr and the rest of the GTB Crew, Nise and Vic20 and the rest of DADS Crew, Enron, Serge, Papi, Kaput, Remio, Niche, Shark and the rest of the VTS Crew, Ataboy, Slay and Ewso and the rest of the PDB Crew. Akore and SE from LTD/MB. Be2 and Acne. Mr. Kiji. Team and Wolf from Go Club. My cousin Me 62 from Outlaws. I have a lot of love and respect for these folks because they are all amazingly good people. They also happen to be amazing artists.
Wolf’s Head: What are your thoughts on the current “Street Art” movement?
Comparing street art to graffiti is like comparing Kenny G to John Coltrane. Capitalism + Graffiti = Street Art. Easy and accessible. Beware of marketing.
Wolf’s Head: Any shoutouts you wanna give/let these folks know where they can view and purchase your work, or get in contact with you.
Love to my families. I can be found at @brendan on instagram or at your local 7-11. Lot of cool stuff coming up in the next year, I can’t wait.
Wolf’s Head: THANKS BRENDAN!!!
WE ARE ALSO PROUD TO ANNOUNCE THAT WE'RE THE SHIT AND HAVE OUR OWN COLLABORATION WITH BRENDAN THAT JUST RELEASED FOR OUR ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!! THIS IS THE FIRST T-SHIRT WE HAVE PRINTED FOR THE SHOP AND WAS MADE IN LIMITED QUANTITIES. DON'T SLEEP. BELOW IS A PREVIEW OF THE "BANDO" TEE AND A LINK TO BUY. AVAILABLE IN WHITE AND BLACK.