Recently my friend Lili and I had the pleasure of visiting the Amsterdam studio of Dutch graphic designer, illustrator, artist, art director, clothing company owner Parra. For a guy as mellow as he is, he definitely gets a lot done. He is currently art directing for several companies such as Colorblind Skateboards and Ben G as well as his own cut and sew clothing brand Rockwell Clothing. His client list for illustration and design work includes companies like Nike, Etnies, Zoo York and Heineken. In the last few months he has had a sold out show at the Reed Space in New York and another at HVW8 in Los Angeles. He also plays in a couple of bands (the names of which I have forgotten). Oh, and he used to skate for Think and Venture in the '90s. Not bad for a guy who wakes up at noon everyday.
Parra After spending a bit of time in Amsterdam, you start to notice that this guy's work is everywhere. On any given day, you'll see kids wearing his shirts or shoes, ads and fliers he's graced and his paintings/prints hanging at shops all over the place. Its pretty rad to see how much support he gets out there.
We did an interview that turned into more of a loose conversation about commercial illustration that had far too many "likes" and "ums" and "dudes" in it to really do anyone justice, so instead of posting the entire thing, I'll just put up a few of the better sections from it. -Nate
Also, make sure to check out his website for many, many more photos of his work... http://www.rockwellclothing.com/parra/
N So it seems like you've done tons of product stuff. I had no idea. So how long have you been at it?
P Oh wow. Like quite a while. Umm I'm 31 now and think I started working in Amsterdam like 10 years ago.
N Oh, you're not from Amsterdam. Where're you from?
P I'm from the south.
P Haha. Deep deep south. I was born there but never lived there. It was Nijmegen I think I lived last.
N Awe dude. I went to Nijmegen.
P Neimeg is really a place I hardly ever visit now.
N There were tons of thugs there with huge gelled mullets. Next level mullets.
P That's crazy. Yeah. Ha ha...
L So did you go to Art school here in the Netherlands or did you just start designing and stuff?
P Ah no. Well of course I wanted to go to art school, 'cause my father's a painter and I wanted to follow in his footsteps, but then I was too young. I wanted to enroll when I was like 17, not the Rietveld, but in Arnhem, and they said well you're too young, come back next year, your works not good enough... which it wasn't. So I was like really pissed off. I was like fuck you. I'll do it myself. But then I had to learn quickly. I had to figure a way 'cause I had to do something. Cause if your 17 you can't really work.
N - Oh that's right. In Holland there's weird laws.
P Yeah the only thing you can do is like work in a grocery store or something.
P Yeah so then umm what'd I do? I went to some stupid school where they taught drawing to be a teacher. Drawing teacher. Did that for like one year and then switched the course to free art, and then basically did nothing for 2 years. I just skated. I never visited the place. And then they said well you have to intern now, well cool, so I called a lot of people from skateboarding and eventually got work at a web place in the center of Amsterdam.
P Early internet stages. And then they let me intern there for 3 months and then they kept me there and I never went back.
N Really? Where was this?
P It was an internet company. But an ex-skater, an older guy who worked there. It was funny. He brought me there and I couldn't even switch on a computer.
P I was like uh oh. But the guy taught me Illustrator and I kind of went from there.
N Yeah, that's the story that goes down a lot...
P Yeah, you have to kind of do it yourself man.
N Is this is an Illustration for the New Yorker?
P No that's not the New Yorker. It's a crap magazine I think. 'Cause in the end there are all these ads to buy condos for 6 million. If I knew this... It's my agent you know. He's like oh yeah it's a good magazine and I'm like OK. It's like some crappy free thing.
I'm sure this photo will soon be all over the internet.
New board graphics for Rockwell, Patta and Ben G.
N So you have like an agent that like gets you jobs and everything?
The collabo logo for the three brands.
P Yeah, without that I'd be... I wouldn't have this house. Nothing. He saved my, basically my life. I didn't know what to do and then he like, he made me an Illustrator. I thought I was a graphic designer and he said "Oh you're and Illustrator" and I said "OK cool". We shook hands and then a week later I arrived home and he's got my first client and it just went on and on and never stopped for two years. They're called Big Active. They're in London. They print big. This guy is with them as well. Jody Barton. I bought that peice from him.
N Penis god meets scrotum.
P It's called Cock versus Balls.
L So does he have mostly Illustrator and designers?
P Just Illustrators and he's pretty high end because he only has 11 Illustrators and they usually have like a bunch.
N Does he take like a ridiculous fee?
P No. Not really. No. 25% and I called around and that's pretty usual.
L Well if your at a gallery they take like 50.
P Yeah. This is the Big Active site. I'll show you this 'cause it's basically what I live off of. It kind of boosted me into the commercial illustration culture.
L So did he come to you or...?
P Yeah he came to me. That's the dope part. He found out. I had a solo show in London, my first ever. I had cheap prints. They were like 2 bucks to make and I sold them for 20 pounds and the whole city had a laugh about it. You serious? 20 pounds? Ok I'll take 5. But it sold out because it was so cheap. He heard about this idea prior and he wanted to have a private view the day before.
N So did he buy tons of stuff too?
P So that really helps the work. In a week I'd say 50% is on commercial work, nice stuff like book covers and stuff.
N That's awesome.
P - And the other 50% is just making drawings.
L So do you have like a set schedule like you wake up and treat it like a regular job?
P Yeah I try too. Yeah. Definitely. The day's a bit shit for me... I cannot get up that early. I do not function you know. So I said Ok I'll go to sleep late and I'll work late. That's the whole deal. But usually I work at 12 and I stop at 6. I do half days!
N Ha!! ha!!
N Well even sitting in front of the computer all day is like...
P It's horrible man.
P My father is a really big inspiration to me in the beginning but like now he's copying me.
N Oh yeah?
L This is your dad's work? It's awesome!
P Yeah this is my dads stuff. He sends me things in the mail. He makes copies and "Look, I draw them" Its sick like a morph. This one I did a version of. He sent me this and I made this. So that's like, really nice. I call him every week to see what he's doing and tell him what I'm doing.
The collabo logo for the three brands.
N That's cool you work off one another...
P Well he's really productive. You know I'm productive but he's like insane. He can draw a whole book in a day. He'll fill it up, one of those dummies. These are copies from that. Basically what I want, what I made for the Jeff Staple show, is a little movie where you see me actually hand drawing something. But they didn't use it.
N Oh really?
P 'Cause I think a lot of people think I just draw it straight on the computer, which is impossible.
Some of his dad's drawings.
Dad's paintings! What the?
Check out this giant leather pillow he made!
make sure to check out his website for much much more photos of his work...
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