Featured Artist- David Choe
David Choe is not your average human. He is equipped with a good sense of humor, but most people would probably think he is just plain crazy. David does whatever the fuck he wants whenever the fuck he wants to. I don’t think he could live any other way. He wears his heart on his sleeve and he’s not afraid to say what he thinks. He is a very talented artist who works in a world of different mediums – from wood work to paint to video. I caught up with him at Comic Con 2009 in San Diego while he was signing decks at Giant Robot. He is quite the storyteller, and would rather joke than play 20 questions, but I got him to answer a few.
NB: When you were growing up, did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
I always liked drawing. When you are a kid, everyone draws, they bust out the crayolas and you just draw. I just thought that’s what you do, and when it was time to do other shit, like play sports, I was like nah, I’d rather keep drawing. Whenever someone looks at my drawings from when I was a kid, all the battle scenes and army scenes and Transformers and G.I. Joe, they are like, oh, I drew the same thing when I was your age and then, parents too, they go, oh, my child draws just like that. So, what’s the difference between that and someone who goes on to become an artist? I just never stopped. I just kept going.
NB: When did you start painting?
The first time I painted was in high school, because everything up until that point was crayons, markers, colored pencils. I think there was one moment when we had a babysitter who went to art school, and we were horrible children. She had this great idea to bring oil paints. She’s like, oh, I’ll teach you guys to paint. We were little kids, and we got it on everything. It was all over the house, all over our clothes. After that, my Mom lost her mind, so I didn’t start painting again till I was in high school. This kid brought spray paint to school and it was pretty much over after that.
NB: You did a lot of spray paint art from that point, mostly on the street, right – not much on canvas?
Never on canvas, I got spray paint and I just lost my mind. I could paint whatever.
It was such a liberating, powerful feeling to draw these huge drawings everywhere outside and they were horrible. I was not very good at all, but it was just nice to do that. Usually when you draw something horrible it’s in your sketchbook and nobody sees it. It sucks that the whole city has to be your training ground, but that’s part of it.
NB: Did you ever go to art school?
After high school, I spent a lot of time hitchhiking around the world. I eventually did go to art school for about a year after I decided to stop traveling. That was the best time of my life and the worst time of my life. It’s the biggest fuckin’ scam in America. It’s total bullshit, a complete waste of money. I learned how to forge my advisors signature and I took all the senior level classes that I wanted and then I dropped out. I got all the bang for my buck and had sex with weird artsy girls and then bailed.
NB: How did you start to actually make money on your art?
Who said I make money off my art? (we laugh) I don’t even know how I fucking get my shoes on in the morning. I don’t pay attention to any of that, I just do shit. I hate to just sound belligerent, but I just do whatever I want. It’s always been like that, I don’t have any standards. I have like subterranean standards of living. I don’t give a shit about making money. I have all this shit today and all this shit tomorrow, and then it all goes away and it all comes back. That’s just life, you know, I don’t plan this stuff out.
I am a very selfish person and in the end that is why I picked art. Art is like masturbation, it’s you by yourself. Sometimes, I paint with other people, but basically anybody that makes anything good knows that it’s just you by yourself in a room or outside, spending tremendous amounts of time self-absorbed, thinking about yourself.
I’m a selfish guy, so it’s almost perfect for me. I do what I want, and sometimes it makes money, sometimes it doesn’t, and then whatever.
NB: How did you start working with GR?
Right here, San Diego Comic Con, probably more than 10 yrs ago. I have gone to a comic book store every Wednesday since I was 15. So, Giant Robot was sold in the comic book store, and I was like oh fuck, cool Asian guys making a magazine that I actually like to read every page. I saw them here and I lost my mind, I was like, Hey! If you guys ever need any art – they didn’t take me seriously. But, they asked me to draw an illustration for an article, and I drew it the next day. So, they are like, oh this kid is fucking serious. Pretty much since then I have been drawing, writing, making shit for them for over 10 years now, and it feeds into all the shit I’m saying too about doing what I want. At this point I don’t want to work or do anything with anybody I don’t like. I mean ever, but you gotta suck some dick and kiss some ass to get a couple places, if you don’t have to then God bless. At this point in my life, I just don’t want to hang out or work with people or do projects that I don’t want to do.
NB: What do you like to work in the most? Ok, tell me about your video stuffs on VBS?
That show is so funny! I was walking to the ATM yesterday and a mom with a baby carriage and an 8 yr old, she almost knocked over her own carriage to get to me – they were like, oh, can I take your picture? I thought she might of thought I was Harold and Kumar….I ask, from what? She’s like from Thumbs Up, that’s my favorite show. The kid, who’s like 8 years old, was like, oh shit, Mom, that’s the guy from Thumbs Up? I was like, why you letting your 8 year old kid watch Thumbs Up? She was like, oh, I’m a bad mother. It was funny.
The video stuff, I guess I got in good with just turning everything I do in my life into my work. The hitchhiking, the hopping on trains, the traveling, all that shit, I have been doing it forever. Someone said, hey, why don’t you just make it a short? It felt natural, but it’s a lot of pressure now, because when you are just doing it for fun, you are just doing it, but when you are doing it for a show, you have this pressure to make something happen. You really don’t have to make things happen on the road, because crazy shit happens, but if it’s a slow day, then you have this pressure to make something crazy happen. It’s a blessing that I get to travel and do whatever I want and someone will just pay me to do that, so it’s cool.
NB: What’s your next project?
Going straight to Las Vegas. I’ve been in Vegas for awhile. What am I working on? I don’t know, maybe film a porno.
NB: You gonna be in it?
No, I’m not gonna be in it. I’m here at Comic Con signing shit and I’m not complaining, but everyone that comes asks something of you. I’ve seen other artists and they just sign and go, thank you, and that’s it. But if I draw someone something, and then it’s not as good as the other guy, the other guy will come back and go, why do you draw this shit for him and not me? There was this very nice couple, this goofy white guy and his girlfriend who was very cute and Asian. He dressed up like a Streetfighter dude and she dressed up like Chun Li, and they were the last ones in line. She was like, sign this, sign this, and they were very nice, but I just wanted to get a sandwich and go home. I’m like, you’re asking me all this shit – can I ask you something? He’s like, yeah. I’m like, I want to see your girlfriend, I want to make a porno. Are you going to fuck her later wearing those costumes? He’s like, yeah, we already did. I’m like, cool, let me film it. You’re sitting here asking me all this shit, can’t I ask you too? Is that a dick? I can’t ask them that? (we are laughing hard again)
NB: Why do you think your fans are like this?
I think because I put all my shit out there. I don’t really think about it, and then I attract real strange people. I don’t know, I love them, they are awesome people, but I hate them too, that’s like life, right? I think most of life is very censored and you gotta act appropriately. I could be wrong, but I feel like when they meet me, they’re like here’s a guy that does and says whatever he wants.
NB: How do you think your attitude comes across in your work?
It’s just in phases, I guess. When I was a kid, I would only draw men, just Superman, Batman, He-man, all like super buff dudes rippling with muscles and huge dicks. That’s all I would ever draw, and I didn’t have any money, so I would draw guys I liked and cut them out and those would be my toys I played with. People would be like, where’s Wonder Woman, and I was like, I don’t want to draw Wonder Woman, do I look like a fag? So I drew Wonder Woman one time and her tit was here and here, the anatomy was all out of whack. She looked all retarded, I was like, I need to work on that. Then I think I looked into a Sears catalog or a Victoria’s Secret catalog to try to get the anatomy right. As soon as I got it right, I gave myself a boner, and I was like, oh shit! So, it switched over to a phase of drawing woman all the time. I hate drawing dudes, unless they are really fucked up looking, like Charles Bukowski or something like that.
NB: You have such attitude and independence in the way you live your life. How is that reflected in your painting, or whatever you are drawing?
(He laughs) You want me to think about it? Ok, I see a beautiful woman, and I have sex with her. She is lying in bed, and I go, hey, can I paint you while you are laying there? She’s like, I don’t give a fuck, ok. I paint her.
The painting is there, at my house, and somebody is like, hey, can I buy it? I’m like, ok, you can have it. So, here’s a beautiful experience I had with somebody and now I am making money off it because I’m a fucking whore. And then GR will be like, hey, we want to make skateboards, you have any paintings? I’m, like yeah, I just painted this chick I just fucked. They’re like, alright, send it over, that’s going to look great on a board. Next thing you know, here’s a woman that I just had sex with, I painted, which got turned into a product which these fucking weirdos are buying, and then I’m signing it. This woman had no idea she was going to have sex with me, now there’s all these weirdos riding her on this board, and it’s really fucked up if you think about it.
I’m a hustler. I make money. If this art bullshit goes away tomorrow, then I’ll figure something out. I’ll be a ginseng farmer.