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Back Talk with Travis Louie

Juxtapoz // Saturday, 11 Jul 2009

Travis Louie is more than an artist. He is a storyteller. Beyond mere subjects, his paintings feature characters with a life, a history, and dreams for the future—all of which he has written out in bio-form to accompany them.



Louie’s work provides a glimpse into a beautifully mastered underworld of creatures that are all his own. Using a muted sepia and black-and-white color scheme, Louie creates paintings that feel like anachronisms from a past world. Yet, somehow Travis still manages to achieve a sense of familiarity—akin to looking at portraits of distant relatives.


Read on to discover more about the creator of this creature-filled world with our Back Talk with Travis Louie.

How do you feel right now?




If you could wake up in a different place tomorrow morning, where would it be and what would you do?


I think it would be Los Angeles. I've made some great friends out there. I've also been meaning to collaborate on some artworks with a couple of them. Chet Zar and Craola are on my collaboration list.


If you lost your creative skill, how would you see yourself making a living?


I always wanted to be a photojournalist or writer. I like to tell a good story.

If you could punch one living contemporary artist, who would that be?


Why do I get the "punch-the-artist" question? Couldn't I get the "have-a-drink-with-an-artist" question? I'm not a fighter, I'm a lover.


Was your first kiss worth writing a song about?


No, but my first fuck was. I can still can hear the sounds of screaming sheep. (not really)

At what point were you particularly happy?


Are you implying that I'm not particularly happy right now?


The last time I was really, really kind of slap-happy was when I closed on my house. It was New Year's Eve, 1997. My grandfather was still alive. He was very proud of me.

No regrets allowed, but there must have been one?


I really get a rush out of helping other artists and I regret not being able to help a friend overcome his own mental obstacles to succeed in this business. Life is too short. I think everyone should get a chance. It's what we do with that opportunity that allows us to move further upward.


What trait do your friends have in common?


Most of my friends are artists or creative in some aspect of their lives.


If you had to evacuate your home or studio, what's the one thing you would grab?


My lucky liberty half-dollar, . . .my grandfather gave it to me in 1981. I rub it for good luck.


Greatest love of your life?


My family.


What is your favorite vice?


Caffeine and chocolate.


When you blow out the birthday candles, what do you wish for?


I wish for the good times to last longer and the bad times to pass quickly.


If you could play a character from a favorite film or TV show for a day, who would it be?


Steed from the Avengers…I would want to be as suave, sophisticated…always knowing exactly the right thing to say.

Do you ever lie?


Only when I have to.


Do you think viewers understand the intent of your work?


Not sure if they do. I do learn a lot from people's reactions. I've had viewers draw conclusions that were not at all what I was trying to say.

What virtue can you do without?



Do you even notice when you are swearing?


Set me off, and I'll let you know.


What has been your proudest moment?


Professionally, when I sold out my show for the first time.


Personally, when my daughter Elizabeth was born.


What would you like to be remembered for?


For being kind, affable, and making art that touched people.


How would you prefer to die?


Being shot down in a hail of gunfire from bi-planes circling around me as I am clutching a beautiful blond woman and straddling the tallest Art Deco structure in New York City. I would probably be screaming, "Don't judge me, . . . I was a man once."


At my funeral, I would want someone to say, "It was beauty that killed the beast"


More on Travis Louie here...


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