Artist Tyler Keeton Robbins Talks Inspiration Before the Vancouver Mural Festival

It’s been a while since I’ve felt as excited about an artist as I am about Kelowna-based multi-disciplinarian Tyler Keeton Robbins. The self-taught artist – Robbins cites First Nations art and culture and skateboarding subculture as early inspirations – creates paintings and drawings that are full of energy and immediacy, work that is somehow both frenetic and controlled at once. He recently took some time to pause and answer our questions about things like the importance of public art and when it’s acceptable not to share (hint: there’s food involved). Introducing Tyler Keeton Robbins, who is inbound to participate in the Vancouver Mural Festival.

What is your neighbourhood and what makes it home? I live in a ‘burb of Kelowna, on the edge of the city limits. It’s a quiet place to come home to and create.

Your neighbourhood go-to spot to get inspired? In 10 minutes I can be in the forest, feeling like I’m in the middle of nowhere. I think it’s more defragging than being inspired. Growing up, the ecology and inherent culture on the coast found its way into my work. It’s taken some time for me to appreciate what comes with a more arid climate, but it’s growing on me.

The most unusual or unexpected source of inspiration that you’ve ever encountered? How about usual? Usually, it’s music. I came across Laurie Spiegel a while back and it set me on this kick of computer music in the studio. Check out Drums (1975).

The most beautiful place in the world? Zion in Utah. It’s spectacular.

The best place in the world for art? Spain.

Your favourite Vancouver building? UBC’s Museum of Anthropology has a nice nuclear winter feeling.

Your favourite building in the world? I could definitely live in the Butantã Residence. The work of Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha, that mix of concrete and jungle, is like a modern ruin.

Your favourite dish in Vancouver? That’s tough, but the fried ocean perch to share at La Mezcaleria is up there; forget the sharing part.

It’s been a long week, what’s your drink of choice? White Rum and Perrier. Basic, but it has be Cuban.

Your favourite piece of public art? You’re gonna hate this: Picasso’s Guernica.

The artist you most admire? I have friends who are very talented but are also mothers and fathers. I admire how they are able balance these loves.

A hidden talent? I dabble in woodworking. Not so much the fine variety.

A skill you wished you possessed? Soooo many things. Immediately I wish I was more of a green thumb.

City or countryside? Countryside, every time.

Your preferred mode of transportation? 4×4.

Name one thing about Vancouver that you think should change? I don’t think I’m educated enough to really weigh in on it, but rooftop gardens are always a good thing. Living walls. Bring back the rainforest.

What’s the smallest piece of art you’ve made thus far? And the biggest? I like filling up those really small moleskins that fit in your shirt pocket when I’m traveling. The biggest so far was a mural in Ojai, California this spring.

If you could have your art on any building, what would it be? I have never really thought about it. I think I’m more of an under the bridge kind of guy.

In ten words or less, tell me why you think public art is important. 9: Fund public art or complain about disenfranchisement-fuelled graffiti.

Is it more important for public art to be provocative or aesthetically pleasing to the masses? I’m not really a provocateur. Instead of pushing ideas, I would really like to contribute, even if it’s in a small way to a positive mental environment. I’m more into the aesthetics. As far as the masses, I’m not sure I have a chance.

How do you want people to feel when they see your mural? I hope it brings people some amount of bliss.

What does your mural reveal about you? Maybe spontaneity…loose wires.

How much does the concept of ‘permanence’ factor into your mural design? Not much, if it fades away, I think it would suit it.

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