Inteview with Tyler Ramsey
Where do you get your inspiration?
When I was a child, my father would create stories and illustrate them for me to satisfy my unique tastes. He couldn’t find enough books about dinosaurs with talking dogs and monster friends so we would improvise a story together and he would doodle as we went along. The shared experience filled me with a passion to create.
I feel Van Gough and Pollock were the two game-changers I admire the most! Right now I am most intrigued by an artist named Trek Thunder Kelly. A few years ago, in the name of art, he sold all his possessions, gave up his killer gallery, and disappeared from his world completely. I like to think he is traveling around and helping people like Knight Rider. Hopefully, he has been safe and I am excited to hear of his adventures when he returns. He also spent an entire year exclusively wearing tuxedos. I love him because he lives art as opposed to simply selling it.
How did you get started in art as a career?
I was having the time of my life working as a casting director and producer for reality television shows. It was an incredible career and allowed me to travel the world following people and tell some of the most interesting and sometimes obnoxious stories. I’ve worked on Joe Millionaire, Fear Factor, Real World, etc… I even met my beautiful wife while working in Africa on the show Survivor; she was a contestant at the time. Despite loving television, one day, it just fell on me that I had a different purpose. I had one of those profound moments and heard one of those profound voices that told me to drop it all to become an artist. I did.
Did you go to art school?
No. The moment I decided to become an artist I simply went to an art store and loaded up on the materials that spoke to me. I bought a giant canvas and decided to give myself one chance to see if I was crazy or not. The damn thing is still one of my favorite pieces. I threw paint, smeared it with my hands, and made a tremendous mess and loved every second of it.
How would you describe your technique as a painter?
My grandfather is an artist and his work always inspired me, but his art studio felt strange to me. It was quite organized and the brushes and crap always felt like a dainty hassle. From the moment I started painting, I made a point to make the process my own. I refused to use brushes and mixes and all the other stuff I felt slowed me down. My early work is defined by texture and boldness. I used oil paint like clay. I threw gallons of acrylic paint. I used my hands and my body and gravity and passion. I forced the paint. That is the best way to describe my technique. I force it.
How do you define success as an artist?
That is an interesting question. I only know how to answer it by talking around it. I sold a piece of art for about $100,000 that went to the City of Burbank. Financially, it should have been my finest hour as a working artist. After that, I was commissioned to create 8 paintings for the United Nations to celebrate their Millennium Development Goals. They only paid for my supplies and the paintings were all given away as gifts to dignitaries, but the experience of painting about hunger, AIDS, poverty, etc… and contributing to the world got me hooked into doing SOMETHING with my art. Perhaps I feel success is what you do with your art and not what you receive for it.
What is something else you do with your art?
I have a design deal with an incredible company called TOMS. For every pair of shoes purchased, they send a free pair of shoes to a child in-need. Blake Mycoskie is the CEO of Toms and was also my first art agent. In 2006 we worked together to design a line of Ramsey TOMS. Basically, I throw paint at the shoes and each pair is a unique piece of art. TOMS just donated their millionth pair of shoes last month. One million kids around the world have had their lives dramatically improved from the movement and it has been an honor to be included.
What’s next for you?
I am working on a video art project called Blood for Blood I just received a grant from the Human Rights Foundation to pursue it. I’m having a blast making it. I tape people cutting themselves with the intention of raising awareness for the world’s many atrocities. I am also planning to run for the 30th District seat for the US House of Representatives. Right now, I’m pretty busy.
Who are some notable collectors of your art?
Michael and Dru Hammer and the entire Armand Hammer family have supported me from the beginning. The youngest son, Viktor Hammer just became my new art agent. He is currently the Honorary Director of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Bill Clinton, Jenna Bush, Samuel Jackson, Gary Sinise, and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon are only a few of the collectors to whom I am grateful.