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Shepard Fairey Quotes

Frank Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey quotes: lessons and reflections from the street artist.

“My dad always had a really great work ethic. He always accused me of being a hedonist, because all I wanted to do was skateboard. But I worked hard at skateboarding when I was in high school. And I’ve found that everything worth trying to get is maybe worth a little extra effort—versus just plugging into the grid or whatever.”

“I think there are two different kinds of struggles. When I started out, I was working a $4.25-an-hour job at a skate shop making paper stickers, and I really felt like it was me against the world, which can really be very motivating. That instinct to just survive is pretty powerful. But then there’s another kind of struggle, which is the struggle I have with myself in terms of how I can evolve my ideas and push them forward based on the fact that I’m not going to be perceived as a complete outsider anymore. It’s the struggle of evolution, and not just clinging to this romantic idea of, ‘I’m a 20-year-old outsider, punk-rock kid, putting up stickers in cities. No one knows what it is or who I am. So I feel that as long as I maintain that struggle within myself, I haven’t become complacent.”

“Creating is about sharing ideas, sharing aesthetics, sharing what you believe in with other people.”

“I think the freedom to express one’s views is more important than intellectual property. The most important thing about intellectual property versus creative expression is that copyright law was created not to stifle creativity but to encourage creativity.”

“The great thing about the internet is, it has made it easier for people who are clever and resourceful to promote themselves.”

“What excites me is that, when things are tough, people become resourceful, and now with the internet, social networking and the ability for people who in the past had been relatively powerless, they have tools to be able to spread ideas and organize. The urgency is there and the tools are there and I think that the possibility for really, really powerful results is there. I think it’s all brewing, it’s all bubbling up right now.”

“If you’re creating something that has some sort of cultural currency—if the idea is getting out there—then that will probably yield money in some form, whether it’s through selling art or selling books or being asked to give a lecture.”

“I think the internet has definitely made it easier for people to have stuff seen, but it’s also encouraged a level of ADD, where you see so much that if it doesn’t make an impact on you immediately, you don’t look at it.”

“I’m mischievous. The idea of taking risks and having real-world consequences energizes me.”

“People want to be masters of their own destinies, but at the same time, I think they do so selectively. Sometimes they want to be told exactly what to do so they don’t have to think for themselves—as long as they can still exercise their free will.”

“People like to talk sh*t, but it’s usually to justify their own apathy.”

“There’s good and bad in every arena. It’s funny, some people, the reason they’re in the underground is because they’re lazy and don’t make things happen for themselves.”

“I think ‘punk’ should really be defined as paving your own way creatively and by defying any sort of orthodoxy or commercial pressure.”

“People are complacent and apathetic when they’re hopeless, and so hope leads to action. It’s also hard to be anti-hope. It’s one of those bulletproof things.”

“Art is not always meant to be decorative or soothing. In fact, it can create uncomfortable conversations and stimulate uncomfortable emotions.”

“The way I make art—the way a lot of people make art—is as an extension of language and communication, where references are incredibly important. It’s about making a work that is inspired by something preexisting but changes it to have a new value and meaning that doesn’t in any way take away from the original. And, in fact, might provide the original with a second life or a new audience.”

“I try to find a balance between positivity and negativity, celebration and critique in my work; I think there is room for both.”

“As a street artist, I’m used to sharing my stuff with the public. It’s a communal experience. I’ve learned not to be so precious, but rather to enjoy the process.”

“I was arrested on two outstanding warrants for damage to property caused by my graffiti. I went from having my first museum solo show, the inauguration, my original poster of Obama going into the National Portrait Gallery, to being arrested in Boston. I received two years’ probation, after pleading guilty to one count of defacing property and two counts of wanton destruction of property, 11 other charges were dropped.”

“I’ve been in street art 30 years. Most of my pieces don’t last that long. As an artist you have to be comfortable with enjoying the process and not being precious about the product. I am always happy when something lasts but it’s a world of many transgressions, the least of which is someone writing over my mural. People will tag me or write over my mural because they think I am too mainstream now, that I’m a sellout, or they know that my work will be photographed and it will get them attention. I consider myself an ally with all the other people doing things on the street.”

“Even though the ‘Andre the Giant’ sticker was just an inside joke and I was just having fun, I liked the idea of the more stickers that are out there, the more important it seems; the more important it seems, the more people want to know what it is, the more they ask each other, and it gains real power from perceived power.”

“Propaganda has a negative connotation, which it partially deserves, but I think there is some propaganda that is very positive. I feel that if you can do something that gets people’s attention, then maybe they’ll go and find out more about the person.”

“I think that art has the ability to capture people’s imaginations and make them think that more is possible.”

“My idea about the role of artists is to get people to look at things in a way that’s different than the way they normally would if they are being told how to think, what to do. I think when people receive information through art, they are more open-minded.”

“The role of my favorite artists in society has been to give people things to dream about and reflect upon; so to escape and to engage simultaneously, bring pleasure and provocation potentially, simultaneously. It’s when you have a clear head right before you go to bed and you’re open to reflecting upon things honestly—that’s the moment when we need to all have some art to be able to think about.”

“People like to be able to own something that connects them to something they like.”

“Trying to make a lot of money is not my goal. Trying to do things in a way I feel good about them is much more my goal. I see myself at an earlier stage when I had less means in so many other people out there that I would just feel terrible if I felt like I’d abandoned them. This is something I really believe. Maybe I should get off the soapbox now but a lot of people from the fine art world start off with these lofty ambitions but as they become successful maybe they make some postcards or trinkets they can sell at a museum and create a licensing empire trickling down. I went completely the opposite way. I made all the posters, t-shirts and the stickers at the start and then people started asking for some more developed pieces so I’ve trickled up! I’m trying to engage as many different income tiers and fans of art as I can.”

“The thing to me is no matter how familiar my work becomes to a certain group of people there’s always going to be other people that have never seen it before. The way I think I can make a difference is by capturing their attention, having them find out what I’m about. Even if they’ve never thought outside the box they go and Google it and it opens up a whole new world to them. So rather than just reinforcing the enthusiasm of the fans that are already in the ‘club,’ which I think a lot of artists do once they get to a certain point, I’m always striving to impact the people who most need to be impacted—the ones who kind of sleepwalk through life. Yeah, I still enjoy it, the adrenalin rush! Some people want to climb mountains and that’s their challenge. I just want to find spots and get them. Search and destroy!”

“I put determination and motivation down, in part, to the fact that I’m living with type 1 diabetes. Predicting that I will die up to two decades before the average person, I spend more time thinking about the meaning of life. The disease has affected my sight, leaving me needing operations on my eyes and temporary blindness. It makes me feel as if I’d better get busy.”

“When people ask me about my work, I say I create it to hopefully initiate a conversation that I don’t think is happening enough. Then it’s up to people to decide how they feel about that conversation once they’re happening. I’m not trying to tell anybody how to think. I’m just hoping if they haven’t considered something that they’ll consider it. When my work can achieve that it’s what I’m most proud of.”

“Perfection is never achievable and it’s always a work in progress.”

“My intention is trying to be as educated as possible, but also being fearless about expressing myself.”

“I want to be proud of this country, but when aspects of our policy don’t align with my ethics, I want to protest them and try to change them.”

“Being black or white about things, that you’re either in or you’re out—that’s ignorant.”

“Just because you’ve reached a certain level of success, that doesn’t mean you’ve become corrupted by the system.”

“Greater financial success has allowed me to be more generous.”

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