In Depth With Travis Spinks: Clothing, Art, and Everything in Between

by Rubén Palma
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Residing in Brooklyn, New York, Travis Spinks, is an artist with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art from The University of Texas. His artistic endeavors primarily involve acrylics, encompassing both traditional fine art and innovative approaches to reimagining clothing design. Following his college years, Travis found profound inspiration in the skateboarding and graffiti culture of the Bay area. Travis’ paintings have not only been exhibited in shows, but have also adorned celebrities across the country.

Hi Travis! Thank you for sitting down with me! First question that I always ask. How does a regular day look like for you in Brooklyn?

Happy to talk! A regular day for me generally consists of waking up in the morning and hitting my local coffee shop to answer dms and emails. I feel like i’m terrible at being my own boss and i have to be somewhere thats not my house in order to do any correspondence ha. So i’ll spend a couple hours there trying to focus and answer all my dms, then i’ll head back to the house to paint for as long as i can. I work in a garage and theres no heat so it can be brutal on cold winter days. When i feel like i’ve done enough for the day i’ll usually go get dinner with my girlfriend or go to the climbing gym for as long as i can before i go home and crash. The days go by so fast i never feel like i get enough done.

I’m curious. Growing up, what kind of kid were you? What did you enjoy doing, and how did you spend your time?

I was a wild kid growing up, always trying to hang out and have fun. I loved being outside and whenever i’d be home i’d be trying to think of characters to draw for a video game i always wanted to make. I’d send drawings into nintendo and stuff. I feel like they saw them and dismissed me pretty fast. I’m glad my mom helped me do that though. She was pretty supportive of my silly endeavors. 

With that in mind. How has skateboarding and graffiti influenced you and your work?

I started skateboarding really young. I was always trying to get out into the city and see new spots. I never felt like i was super good at skating or anything but i loved being out with my friends and goofing off. As i got into highschool and moved away to college i got into graffiti and skating kindof took a backseat. After i graduated i immediately moved to Oakland to paint full time. I trimmed a lot of weed back then and would just make a bunch of cash and come back and paint for months. It was harder living when i should have been focusing on getting a job and thinking about my future, but i dont regret it at all. I think it ultimately helped me to grow as a person, being out in the streets late at night and skating everywhere, you meet alot of different people and see a weirder/darker side of life that alot of people dont always see unless they go looking for it. Beyond that, the general lack of structure in graffiti and skateboarding fed into what i ultimately wanted to do creatively, I just needed something to focus on. 

Alright, so when did you first start painting? And when did you realize that you wanted to become an artist? Was there a specific moment?

I always wanted to be an artist, but I could never find my voice or my “style” as alot of people would call it. Airbrushing really spoke to me as a medium and i think it helped me hone in on what my style is today. 

How did you get introduced to the airbrush? And when did you start taking becoming an artist serious?

I was introduced to airbrushing around 2016. At the time it was just another fun way to express myself and i never thought about it as a thing that could make me money. Once i started making money from t shirts back then it kindof hit me that i should maybe start taking it more seriously. I was in my late twenties and time was flying past me. I was partying alot and knew i needed to focus more. Thats kind of what brought me to new york.

While we’re on the subject. What is it about the airbrush that makes you prefer it over a regular paint brush?

I’ve never been a super technical painter, and i think that painting with a brush requires one to be more deliberate with their colors and how they apply the paint. Airbrushing allows me to be less precise while still getting my point across visually. 

What’s your inspiration behind the various surreal scenes and motifs in your work? And how do you come up with them?

I love fried stuff and irony. I hate taking anything too seriously and I try to make that come across in my work. If you cant make fun of yourself and your surroundings its just not interesting to me. 

With that in mind. Can you walk me through your creative process, from beginning to end result?

It generally starts with seeing a funny image on the internet ha. Whenever i find something that speaks to me i try to find another image to juxtapose that one into making some sort of implied meaning, even if there isn’t any. I really just want to paint what is visually pleasing to me. I can be picky sometimes though, and it can take a while to find something really inspiring through all the doom scrolling. After that i try to see whats feasible and doable within the made up time frame that ive given myself. sometimes it works and sometimes it doesnt. As long as im working towards an end product im happy. 

Can you tell me about your use of symbolism and approach to color?

I like using contemporary images and complimentary colors in my work. I never want to come across as pretentious or as a painter thats exclusionary in my visual language. So i try to keep it simple. I do enjoy duality. and its probably what im most focused on in my recent work. Happy and sad. I like to show that theres two sides to every token. 

Alright, let’s change the subject a little bit…. How important is fashion to you?

In my normal life, fashion is completely unimportant. My girlfriend works in the fashion industry and i’m always asking her ‘whats that? who’s that brand? is that cool?’ I’ve never really been into fashion, but now that it’s the industry i’m involved in i try to pay more attention to whats going on. Really fashion to me was always kind of bourgeoisie and part of an upper class mindset that i’ve always tried to seperate myself from. I know that in of itself sounds pretentious but I like to stay more down to earth with anything i make. I feel like i kindof fell into the fashion world, but i like being an outsider.  

I’m asking because at some point you start customizing clothes. Tell me about that. When and why did you start doing that?

I will paint on anything, and airbrushing makes that really easy for me. Being involved in the graffiti world alot of friends had expensive jackets that they got in one way or another, and i could never afford them. One day a friend of mine (Senor, rip) let me paint on an arcy that he had for free if i would let him keep it, and the rest is history. 

Lightning bolts are recurring motifs on your garments of choice. What is it about lightning bolts that resonates with you?

I wanted to find a motif that was easily replicated through airbrushing, and i looked to old Frank Frazetta style vans from the 70’s. A lot of them had bad ass vikings and shit with girls which was cool, but they also always had a lightning strike going into a guys sword or in the background, so i tried to do it my own way. 

Back in 2022, Drake wore on of your custom Arc’teryx Jacket designs on stage at a festival. How did that come about? And what was the demand like after that?

I do some work with a reseller friend of mine. He sells to some big names. I made a jacket for him a while ago and a few months after that my phone started blowing up with everyone telling me drake was wearing one of my coats at a festival. I couldn’t believe it. I saw which one it was and traced it back to my homie and told him. He said that he sells to Drakes stylist a lot but he didn’t think it would be for him. It was a crazy coincidence and since then i’ve worked with his brand NOCTA. I’m truly thankful for Drake and his team at NOCTA, and my friend for making all this happen. It goes without saying that after that my demand really skyrocketed. 

Other people have popped up with custom designs that look an awful lot like yours. With the lightning bolts and everything. How do you feel about people copying your style? And what are your thoughts on it?

When it first started happening i was pissed. I was doing all this work and still had very little to show for it. Being an artist is hard when everyone wants to pay cut rate for everything. Nowadays the biting has slowed down a lot and i’m less irked about it. People know who to go to now. Do your thing!

Real quick. Which art form do you have the most passion for? Customizing clothes or painting on canvases?

Ultimately, I want to be known as a fine artist. Customizing clothes has done for me what a lot of other work could not and i’m forever thankful. Painting on canvases is much more fulfilling and fun to me though. 

What motivates you?

Surviving ha. Im bad with money and worse at being my own boss so having to do all this myself has been an incredibly awarding challenge that i’ll never stop as long as people let me.

How would you describe a perfect day?

A perfect day would involve waking up early and climbing for hours then getting a nice meal and having drinks with my friends somewhere warm. I’m a simple man with simple pleasures hah.

Anybody you look up to?

Too many to name! But all the creators who are doing the same thing as me but way better lol. It’s hard to wake up every day and have to manage everything your small business has to throw at you, and i admire anyone that can do that. 

Alright Travis. I always ask these two questions at the end of an interview. The first is. What’s your favorite movie(s) and why?

I always say my favorite movie is The Shining. It’s well told and succinct, and has alot of conspiracies surrounding it, which always entertain my distracted brain. I also like alot of horror movies. I saw Jacobs Ladder and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre way too young, and i think it broke my brain a little. 

The second is. What song(s) are you currently listening to the most right now?

I’ve been listening to alot of Narrowhead and Hopper 1000. I love manic drum n bass and anything that sounds like the deftones ha.

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