Septerhed has mastered capturing the energy of his characters through thoughtful line work. Thick black lines not only outline but create the body of his highly stylized subjects. His images make me want to blow the dust of an old fairy tale book and crack it open in hopes to find the story behind his art. Or get his work tattooed on my arm because it reminds me so much of American traditional tattoos at times. Septerhed's background in graphic design adds to his ability to be able to produce one solid image that holds a lot of power in its message.
One of my favorite things about interviewing artists is meeting the personalities behind the style. Upon walking up to our meeting location I see a husky man come around the corner with iced coffee in one hand a cig in the other. He proceeds to give me one of the most open interviews with no inhibitions. What's real is real and he had no fear in trying to make himself seem like a flawless artist, the struggle brings about the beauty in a lot of his work and the humor in some of it too.
Jennifer Agyapong: Where are you from?
Septerhed: I was born in Japan. I've lived on the east coast for half my life... my dad was in the navy. So when I was young I moved around a lot and I've been in SoCal since I was ten and in LA since 2000.
How do you like LA?
You know what [sighs] I love it and I'm also very old and I'm kinda over it. If I wasn't an artist I would leave. If I had more money I would be happier. I think LA is more enjoyable if you have more money or if you're in a rent controlled situation. It's a tough city like I said there's parts of it that I love and there's parts of it that I absolutely can't stand. Like I can't stand Hollywood blvd. I just can't do it it's my least favorite part of town.
Like the tourists and the fucking cheesiness and the fucking crowds it's just a mess. To other people that don't live here I can understand the "ooo, wow" but to me I'm just like, dude. I can't stand being there [laughs]
Where did you come up with the name Septerhed?
It was actually my senior thesis in art school. I wanted to brand myself as an artist. My background is advertising and in graphic design. I created a logo. The name is actually based off an actual scepter, which a lot of kings used to use as an ornamental context of power, and I got really deep and said my name is a representation of something else like most people do. I had this big long explanation and now it doesn't mean anything. I was actually born in September but I didn't choose it because of that, I was trying to get really deep with it but the longer I'm an artist the shorter my name gets and the less it means. Just Sept; pretty soon it will be just "S" [laughs].
So are you really interested in history since it seems that's where you were initially pulling your name from?
History? I used to study graphic design and religion. I was inspired as a young kid going to church by a lot of the catholic art and a lot of the paintings in church. A lot of crazy paintings of angels and shit and all that crazy superstitious stuff. So that kind of got me into monsters and stuff. And the graphic design is the iconography of things like a lot of universal symbols that we use as people that have stayed the same throughout time. Just the power of symbols that everyone can recognize that means one thing kind of inspires me to come up with powerful symbols that can be become iconic over time if used over and over.
Do you have any current artist influences or are you just focused on you right now?
I mean I would say there's an artist called Shrine On he painted the La Luz Gallery, he paints a lot of ornamental stuff, he painted the Angel city Brewery. I try not to pay attention to too many artists because it's always changing and I'm kind of in my own head. I mean if I show you my Instagram I can show you a lot of people that inspire me but I can't remember off the top of my head. It's like a moment thing, when you see them it's like damn I really love that and the next day it's like who's your favorite artist and I don't know. You're like "that one guy that does the stuff'" I don't know.
So as an artist myself I'm curious of your journey to finding your style? For me I'm trying to find my vibe. Your art and illustrations kind of remind me of the illustrations you find in old Grimm Tales books or those black cutouts.
Oh yeah linocuts and Gustav Dore is one, Albrecht Durer they did the old and gray inks. MC Escher has a lot of the line work and black and white illustrations I'm definitely inspired by that. But actually it came about where I've always been an artist and I've kind of been okay at drawing but I started really trying to perfect my illustrations. What I would do is I couldn't really get my shapes down and I would start outlining the shapes and then I would add another line to it and then pretty soon I would- because I'm obsessed with optical drawings like black and white lines the tension between lines creates the vividness of an image so the closer you put the lines together the more intense the image is- so a lot of the reason why the optical drawings are so powerful is because the absence of light and the concentration of darkness. Together the juxtaposition creates a really vivid strong image, so what I'm trying to do is balance that but also create motion. You look at cars and the Sun and there's heat waves coming off of them. I think people have vibrations as well. We put off energy there's energy all around us so if you were to somehow capture that like your cell phone right now is emitting a wave, probably a perfect wave, and hearts are emitting a frequency as people since we're powered by energy. So in a lot of images the reason you're seeing repeating lines is because I'm trying to recreate the energy.
Now i'm going to look at your art completely differently
But i'm also in a direction where I use less black lines but you can see I can't get away from it. I'm obsessed with consistency and perfection so a lot the lines are a repeating pattern of just practice and they're actually really therapeutic to paint.
What did you use? Paint and Spray paint?
This is spray paint.
Do you ever use stencils or this is freehand?
I use stencils when I work on smaller pieces. I'm actually not too big on stencils but I use them a lot to cut shading in my illustrations.
My mural work is something I'm more comfortable with. My studio work is something that I am still frustrated. Painting small with a brush I don't know what I'm doing a lot of times. It might not look like it when I'm done but the process is really frustrating to me because I'm still trying to learn what brushes to use. Like with spray paint I can lay down blue, light blue, dark blue, red, orange- I can lay down all these colors on top of each other and they'll cover it in one swipe. With acrylics and paint brushes I'll be sitting there trying to put red on black and have to go over it three times. I don't know about you but I don't have time for that and I won't compromise my time to sit and put the same color down three times it's totally frustrating to me so I'm trying to learn how to do things faster with my small brush work so a lot of the times I use spray paint on my smaller drawings just because I want the color there faster. I don't want to sit there and wait for it to dry and realizing this other color is still showing through. That's why I love murals and I do it once, I want this to be blue and it's blue.
I saw you did branding or logo some type of drink is that something you're trying to get more into?
It is was Jaguar Forest was one of them. I did branding for Chief THC, I did the joint packaging. I like doing the packaging thing but I would love to do more murals.
I was driving over here and there's various artists with their work right next to each other. Do you find that there's more camaraderie vs. competition or vice versa?
I mean the streets are really wild in a sense where no one really has ownership over anything. I mean the building owner might give you permission but anyone with the time or paint can go over your work if they want. So a lot of the artists I know personally but there's so many artists and people that you just don't know but for the most part I could probably name almost everyone on this street.
I would like to do PowWow. It's a big mural festival that I've always kind of followed. It's in Long Beach right now. I would also like to do Secret Walls but I don't know if they're into my stuff.
It's easy for me to expect that I deserve things but I think one of the beautiful things about life is that we don't always get what we want. I think if I always wanted to do something and I just got it then I don't think my brain will be set up properly like if I just expected to get things and I always got my way then there would be no struggle there would be no strife there would be no reason for me to paint a snake head hands praying for something. You do a lot of things as an artist and after a while you get arrogant so it's always nice to be checked every once and a while. Like "Oh I just got turned down". I just recently painted a fucking chair for a gallery and it's literally the best piece of 3d art I've ever painted with spray paint. I loved it and I never love my work and the gallery says it's not what they're looking for you're not an established artist and I've shown with 5 of 7 people you say are established. I have 5 times the amount of followers as [the gallery]. What I came up with was that they probably didn't like my style which is a lot easier to say than I'm not established.
In my brain I'm established but I don't know about them.
It's funny because the ego is just constantly being put in check.
Have you had any interesting reactions to any of your pieces?
Yeah I've had a lot people reach out. People that aren't really people that I know of that don't really follow me. Someone told me that one of my murals got them through a heart break. Someone told me that one of my drawings helped them get through a death in the family, all these little things. That's really the only mission I have with my work is to help people feel a little less alone in the world. If I can do that then that's more than I can hope for.