Did you know the song Rebel, Rebel was the first song to get David Bowie “noticed” by the popular music press in the United States?
Turns out the rebel idea goes over big in lots of genres, including clothing design. Meet REBEL8 owners Mike Giant and Joshy D. REBEL8 is a San Francisco-based lifestyle brand with deep roots in skateboard, graffiti, and tattoo cultures. Joshy runs the business and Mike sees to the art.
Joshy and Mike met in the late 1990′s in San Francisco’s then bustling graffiti scene. Josh ran the popular graffiti website, HiFiArt, and Mike was one of the city’s most notorious writers. Years later, and having had some experience with a previous clothing venture, Josh approached Mike about creating a handful of t-shirt graphics. Mike agreed, and a small batch of shirts was made. Josh sold those shirts out of a messenger bag around the city, and REBEL8 was born.
Today, Joshy D. runs the business and Mike Giant sees to the art. REBEL8 makes it clear that despite its success, it is still committed to the communities from which it comes, and strives to reinforce its unique lifestyle with every product.
Every REBEL8 graphic by Mike Giant is hand-illustrated. Unlike most clothing graphics, which are created by digitizing the original artwork into vector format, Mike’s graphics are exact reproductions of his original art. No part of the original inked line is compromised in this process. The end result is a product with an edge of authenticity seldom seen in today’s mass-produced market.
Q: How did you get started as an artist?
A: The first time I made a mark on something is really when it started. I didn’t start working professionally until 1993.
Q: Tell us a little about your genre. Are there lots of artists who do what you do? Where are they concentrated? What makes your work stand out from the rest?
A: Well, these days I mostly work in black and white. My work gets out to the world through t-shirts, books, and gallery shows. My skills with Sharpies have been highly regarded among my peers for over 15 years.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Bold, simplistic, graceful…
Q: How did you come to use Sharpie markers in your work?
A: I began using Sharpies as a graffiti artist in the late 80s. They were the pen of choice for inking our graffiti sketches in our sketchbooks, and they were readily available (and easy to steal). From then on, I’ve used Sharpies almost exclusively in rendering my final drawings.
Q: What about Sharpie markers makes them your medium of choice? Is it the variety of tip sizes, colors, other? Please describe how you use Sharpie as an art tool.
A: I usually keep a few Sharpies handy when I’m inking a drawing. I like to use one brand new Ultra Fine Point, a brand new Fine Point, and a somewhat worn Fine Point, switching from one to the other as need be. I also use Chisel Tips and Super Sharpies for filling in large black areas.
Q: Tell us about some of your own favorite work. What seems to get the most attention or is most coveted by others? Why do you think people are drawn to your work?
A: My tattoo’d pin-up girls are the most popular. My favorite work is the most personal. On a technical level, the casual observer won’t notice much of a difference between a piece I’ve put a lot of personal emotion into and one that I made for the sake of making a beautiful image, but it’s an important difference in my experience.
Q: Can you describe the process you go through to create your work? How many hours does it take? Is it a free-hand approach or do you create a template in advance?
A: Most of my drawings start with research. I like to use archetypal image as a base, so I spend a lot of time pouring through books. If I’m inspired by something I find, I’ll spend some time working out sketches in pencil on layers of tracing paper. Once I have a sketch ready for inking, I attach it to the back of a clean sheet of paper, and ink the illustration with the help of a light table. I also put ink right to paper, without any sketching, something I’m quite well known for actually.
Q: What are your inspirations?
A: The totality of experience. All of it.
Q: What statement are you trying to make, if any? What do you want people take from your art?
A: Fundamentally, I hope to inspire the faith that we can all overcome our base suffering through connecting with the present moment, but you won’t get that from looking at one or two of my drawings. Primarily, I hope to inspire people to think for themselves, and to educate people about the symbols around us and the historical threads that tie us all together.
Q: Sharpie’s tagline is “Write Out Loud!” Does this apply to your work and if so, how?
A: Just have a look. I’d say it gets pretty Loud sometimes.
Q: Please list the types of Sharpie markers you use to create your work.
A: All of ‘em (editor’s note: including Personalized Sharpies as calling cards).