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#OverACupOfTealeaves: Sket One, Visual Artist: Palette as Urban Art

Apr.05.2016
This month, we cheers to the new Tealeaves x Pantone packaging design of our iconic Whole Leaf Pyramid Teabag collection with #PaletteForYourPalate. An online exhibition of tea+color+mood, we explore the detail of color through a culinary approach as well as a documentary on why color matters— at TEALEAVES, we not only blend for aroma and taste, but also for color.

 

Understanding that “the first taste is with the eyes”, we filmed and learned from influencers, thought-leaders, movers and shakers of industry to see how they apply color in their respective domains. With this same philosophy and curious spirit, we believe that the best “condiment” to any cup of Tealeaves is wisdom to share and a great story to tell. Sip, reflect, enjoy.

Andrew Yasgar, better known as graffiti artist Sket One, has never backed from an opportunity to mix and match. This signature style of blending ideas and mediums can be seen throughout his expansive portfolio of work, from large-scale graffiti to miniature Kidrobot Dunny, and is precisely why we at TEALEAVES resonate with his approach.

Watch our interview with Sket One as he recounts his rise in the urban arts scene (including a run-in with cops) and his deeply-aware attitude towards his creations— a bold blending of street, old school, and pop culture.

Over a Cup of Tealeaves with Sket One
Visual Artist

Sket One: To start, I am a visual artist. I do everything from sculpture to drawing to graphic design, basically the whole gamut of art I have played around with at one time or another.

Tealeaves: Can you please tell us where the name Sket One came from?

Sket One: When I first started graffiti, I was about 15 years old, and there was this process of graffiti that you go through where you try to find a name or a nom de plume or some kind of code name for yourself, because you can’t go around writing your name because then you’ll just get caught. I started playing. Being so close to New York, I would take the train into New York on a constant basis to visit family, and you would see all these names written everywhere. I got the whole gist of it and was like, “Okay, I need a name.”

One of my good friends, Jimmy, who is actually a cop now, he was writing “Sket” and he took it from the first four letters of “sketch.” We were talking and I ended up doing a piece for him. Back then you’d write other peoples’ names, you’d just do all this random stuff, and one day I wrote his name and I did a graffiti piece and I really, really liked it because of the way the letters flowed. I was like, “Well, he’s not too serious about it.” I was like, “I’m going to see if he wants to give me his name and I’m just going to take it.” I hit him up and I was like, “You know, you’re not too serious about graffiti. You mind if I start writing ‘Sket?'” He was like, “Yeah, go right ahead.” That was around the age of 16, so from that point forward, I would write “Sket.” That’s where it came from.

I laugh because it’s pretty uneventful. Most graffiti writers’ names, they come from, they were given it or they were handed it down or somebody deemed them that name, and mine was more of like, “Oh, I like that, that’s cool, I’m going to use that.”

Tealeaves: But why Sket “One”?

Sket One: The “One” comes from … In graffiti, people end up writing the same name, so basically when you put a number after it, it tells you or the other graffiti writers where you are in the line of that particular name. If you’re Sket One, you’re the first to use the One. If there was another Sket and he wrote “Two,” technically I couldn’t get mad because he was writing the “Two.” That’s where there’s people that write “Rage Five” or popular names like Seen and other names, if they choose to write those names, they usually will have to change them in some way to make them different from the originator. It’s a respect kind of thing.

Tealeaves: We’re curious about your Kidrobot collaborations. What was the first Dunny that you had the chance to work on?

Sket One: I just laugh because it was so minimal. I just learned Illustrator. I was probably about two or three years into Illustrator, didn’t really know all the bells and whistles. I went to an art show in New York. It was for Mark Bode, who his father is a very well-known artist called Vaughn Bode and he came out with this character, Cheech Wizard. Cheech Wizard was a very influential character in graffiti. Graffiti writers would buy this comic book which Vaughn Bode created, and they would take characters out of that comic book and use them in graffiti pieces on the grain.

At this art show, me and Mark were talking, and that particular night, I met Tristan Eaton, who was a co-founder of Kidrobot. He created a Cheech Wizard toy, which was Kidrobot’s first toy. As I was talking to Tristan back and forth, he said, “You do graffiti?” I said, “Yeah.” He says, “Do you illustrate?” I said, “Yeah,” and I broke down some of my work, knowing I was going to meet him, gave him some of my work. He handed me a DVD and he was like, “Here, there’s templates on here. I’m coming out with a Dunny,” and this other toy called a Toro at the time. He said, “Do some designs and get it back to me.”

Within three days, I turned in my designs. It being Japanese influenced toys and graffiti influenced, growing up I loved Shogun Warriors. There used to be two-foot Shogun Warriors that I had as a kid, so it only felt right to do that particular toy but in this Dunny format. It was a Shogun Warrior. Would it be my first choice now? Definitely not. We all start somewhere I guess. They chose the design. Just because you design something doesn’t mean it was actually going to get made, which has always been a factor of designing toys.

The fact that they chose it and then the night I first saw my sample, it was exciting, I was stoked, because I’d made things my whole life, I’ve made art and I built things, and I don’t know, it was different because this was manufactured. This was something that went from the computer and to China and it was actually manufactured. It was a product. That was my first product. That turned around everything. In graphic design I would so stuff that would be made, but I necessarily wouldn’t see it out in the wild, so to say. It would just leave my desk and then it would get made and used. It was print and that was different. Yeah, you could still touch paper, but it wasn’t a three-dimensional object that had you on it. It was really, really cool. It started all of this, opened up the floodgates.

Tealeaves: You talked about “blending” with us before. Can you tell us more about your idea of blending?

Sket One: What I do in my particular artwork, it’s all blending. Creating every single piece that I’ve ever created is blending. Right now I’ve been on this new thing of blending everyday objects with other everyday objects, like the extinguisher, turning extinguishers into condiment dispensers. It’s ridiculous. Nobody would every think of that, but yet, the over-consumption of Americans, and all that other stuff, it’s, why not have these big dispensers for condiments?

I’ve recently started doing these fire hydrants from Siracha sauce, and taking Darth Vader, and recognizing his place in pop culture, and changing it to the redeemer pose of Jesus. That’s blending two different religion and pop icons together, and I think we grow up with this sense of looking at something for so long, and when you blend the two things together it brings this shock to you, like why, or how, or what’s that saying? Blending, it’s now a necessity for me. You get more out of it. If you take two great things and put them together, you’re going to get something awesome, even better than those two great things.

Visually, for me, I love to take people that are used to seeing something, and making them rethink about it in a different light, whether it be comical, whether it be deep and meaningful, whether it be … Whatever it may be whatever message is personally coming to you, that’s my objective as an artist, to make you rethink the world that we live in, in a different light, and blending has a huge part of it.

· On Color ·

Tealeaves: Is there any different use of colors between East and West coast graffiti styles?

Sket One: No. Color schemes have always been a very important part of graffiti. It’s something you actually sit down and plan out 90% of the time. You’ll sit with a gamut of color and be like, “Okay, if I’m using a black outline then I need something to pop the inside out.” It’s something that you actually sit and really put more thought into, probably the most thought into, doing a piece, next to if there’s a theme or not to the whole production. Color is very important.

Putting together colors, there’s no rhyme or reason sometimes. It’s more of just a play on the eyes. You might reverse everything, do a white outline, and then use dark colors inside or do light colors on the outside rather than the inside and vice versa. The reason be is just, once again, to make yours stand out amongst others. Then there’s productions where everyone uses the same color scheme to make it look more cohesive in that overall production. It’s very important.

Tealeaves: With respect to the designer vinyl toys that you create, how do you select the different colors that you want them released in?

Sket One: Sometimes when we’re working on color ways, that might be a … What companies do is, we initially do the original colorway, which is basically the artist’s vision of what that particular piece should look like. When you’re picking other color ways, it’s up to the artist or the particular company producing the toys. Sometimes shops or vendors or people who buy the toy will purchase a particular color way.

If there’s a shop out there will take 3-D retro, which is a good friend of mine, Ben, his shop, Ben loves the color yellow and green, so he always tries to get those particular colorways. When he does exclusive releases of toys and he has them on a shelf of all his toys, they all have the same green tone and you know that they’re particularly from his company. I’ve seen other companies do different red, black, and yellow, or different color schemes, like NFL color schemes, that is exclusive to their store or their company. Sometimes it’s the store, sometimes it’s the artist.

A lot of people collect all black toys, a lot of people collect all white toys, so they have an all white section, an all black section to their collection, it looks very modern, it looks very cool. Those are colorways that are givens in the toy world. Glow in the dark is also a popular colorway. People love the other aspect of turning off the lights and having it glow. Budget also comes into play. Picking a color means the more colors, the more money. Sad to say, but that drives a lot of it too.

Tealeaves: What colors do you tend to lean more towards when creating urban vinyl?

Sket One: I guess it depends on the project. When I work on a toy, I always think of the interactivity with the user. Most of these toys are meant to be set down and then never touched again, a display only kind of thing. They’re not necessarily meant to be played with and stuff. I always think of pushing the envelope like, “What can we do to make these toys more interesting?”

I have one toy that it started off as a custom, it was a FatCap from Kidrobot, and it was basically a spray paint top with a bottom. With that particular toy, I ended up changing the spray paint nozzle to a working police light. I used that, and the fact that the police light would light up and turn around was something simple, but yet it transformed this toy into the next level, having something that actually worked and functioned on it made it cool and made it even more interesting and different from the other toys around it.

There was one particular instance where I did a snowman Dunny. Snowmen have stick arms so I wanted to remove the arms and have sticks or sculpted stick arms. At the time, no one did that to a Dunny. The Dunny has never been changed, the shape of it. I was like, “Why can’t we?” They were like, “We can.” I was like, “Okay.” Then I changed it from being just white to being flocked, which is a fuzzy material application. We did that and then we had a 3-D sculpted pole for eyes and a 3-D sculpted nose, and it was all applications of three-dimensional objects being attached to the Dunny, which was the first time they ever did this to the Dunny shape. For me it was like, “Good, I’m being able to push the envelope.”

On the chase of that particular design, which is the hard to find version, we ended up, because the Dunny was flocked, I wanted it to be glow in the dark to simulate yellow snow, but they were like, “It’s flocked, we can’t make it glow in the dark.” I was like, “Why can’t we use clear flock?” They were like, “I don’t know, let’s see.” They were able to use that. Pushing materials is more of my thing rather than color ways. I’d rather use different things within the toy to get more, I don’t know, more focused on the actual design of the toy rather than colors.

Tealeaves: What role does Pantone play in your work?

Sket One: I design every day. Look, my [Pantone] book is right next to me, it’s right next to my computer. Pantone is a necessity in design. It’s so funny, I started working for an agency and I was sitting next to a web guy and we started designing product and he was like, “Yeah, just make it blue.” I was like, “What blue?” I was like, “Here’s the Pantone book.” He goes, “What’s this?” He was a web guy, so he’s always using code, which is number 42050076 and that’s white or something, which I have no idea about. I’m always like, “I need a red, Pantone 186,” and people know exactly what I’m talking about…Pantone, it’s just the way of everything.

I’ve been designing for close to 16, 17 years now, and I’ve always had a Pantone book next to me, always. Everything from T-shirts to print to toys. It’s the only way that you can ensure everything being correct in China. There’s that language barrier, that discussing products and doing all that, and then you got Pantone and it’s like, “Oh, okay they know Pantone, that’s cool. All right, I know my colors are going to be on point then.” It’s the bible, the bible of color.

Tealeaves: What would you say is your favourite Pantone color?

Sket One: My favorite Pantone color … I’d have to say … I’m going to relate it back to graffiti, because my favorite Pantone color would be 361. 361 is a jungle green which is an old Crayola color, which is right here. This particular color is very rare, and it’s very rare in Crayola. When I was growing up, if you found a can of this color […] you would just keep it. That, and icy grape, but for me, jungle green, I loved it. 361, yeah, that would be my favorite Pantone, if I had to pick one. There’re so many.

· On Tea & Tealeaves ·

Tealeaves: A few more questions for you! What’s your favorite tea to drink?

Sket One: This [Mountain Berry], is bomb right now. I’m dead serious. I’m not just saying that. It’s really good.

Tealeaves: I’m not sure I’ve ever heard our teas being called Bomb! That’s great!

Sket One: It is. It’s so good.

Tealeaves: My second question is do you have a fond memory of tea from any time?

Sket One: Yeah. Definitely, the first time I went to England. In 1992 I traveled to Sheffield, England, and my grandmother always drank tea, bit when I went to Sheffield, I stayed with a family of friends’ family, and I realized how important it was to their culture, and how it was just like clockwork. In the morning it was tea, and afternoon, tea, and night time, tea. I was amazed.

Why color? Stay tuned for Tealeaves documentary, Color In Sight.

· SYNOPSIS ·

We blend teas specifically for color, alongside aroma and taste, with understanding that “the first bite is with the eyes”. Fascinated by color’s potential to excite and delight, TEALEAVES reached out to experts in design to see how they thought about—and used—color. From Nike and OPI to Herman Miller and PANTONE, these experts volunteered their time for this exciting project. Our goal, together, was to bring about appreciation for the little detail of color selection and how it can have a big impact on the products and services enjoyed by many. Coming Soon.

Explore the Documentary on the #PaletteForYourPalate exhibit of tea + color + mood

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