We customize our lives and the environment that surrounds us every day — from things as big as shaping our own boards to the smallest ones, like adding that little bit of extra milk to our coffee.
In our Custom Spotlight series, we’re exploring the process of some of our favorite artists, musicians, and creatives to learn how they see their world and to find out what drives them to get their hands dirty and bring their ideas to life. We also give them free reign to create their own custom, one-of-a-kind Birdwell gear, and to bring their unique vision of our California tradition into the world.
Director, and animator Steven Mertens is no stranger to the process of transformation. As a fixture of the New York music scene, he toured with numerous alt-rock favorites such as The Moldy Peaches. These days, the LA-based polymath is making a name for himself as the creator of painstakingly composed psychedelic, sci-fi infused animations for artists all the way from Sheryl Crow to Wiz Khalifa. We’re stoked to see him bring his artfully meticulous hand (and his sunny disposition) to a special design just for us.
1) How did you get started?
My dad is an artist, he taught me to draw when I was a kid. I was very into comic books and the first thing I wanted to be was a comic book artist. That kind of turned into skating for a few years and then I picked up the bass guitar when I was 15. That took over my life for like 20 years. Lol. Still play the bass a lot. My animation and directing career started about 6 years ago, I started getting very low budget animated music video gigs. Slowly it's grown a bit every year since then.
2) Tell us about your artistic process.
It really changes every day. I work on a lot of different types of projects so it really depends. Songs could come as melodies first, or chords and production. I draw a lot, and it usually is the most fun when a concept comes to me and then I illustrate it. Music videos are often solicited, so I have to problem solve for each song/ artist depending on if they have a brief or not.
3) Is your work a collaborative or solo process?
Could be either. I really enjoy all kinds of creativity, a friend recently called me an "Art Enabler".
4) Describe your workplace/studio.
It's the second bedroom in our apartment in Echo Park. It really could be more organized. Lots of guitars and paintbrushes lying around. I hope one day to kick the pack rat vibe and have a nice, clean, and design-y workspace.
5) Describe your ideal workplace/studio.
Lots of space. Dedicated areas for painting, animation, music production, a drum set, skylights, clean, organized, and an inspiration for anyone else that wants to collaborate with me there!
6) What does a working day look like for you?
Start work around 9 or 10. Write emails first. Then try to tackle to do list. Could be anything from working on revisions for a music video, illustrating, learning songs for an upcoming gig, or programming drum tracks for a Bass race song.
7) Artists/Musicians/Designers that inspire you ______.
Michel Gondry, Moebius, Beeple, Canada, Mose Alison, Django Reindhardt, The Coen Brothers, Terry Gilliam, ZZ Top.
8) What does Southern California mean to you? (Feel free to skip this one if it doesn’t apply to you)
Sun! It sounds cliche but a more laid back attitude. I come from NYC so, better living conditions!
9) How important is the outdoors/surf/beach to your work?
I walk my dog a lot, it's a good time for creative ideas to come through. I love hiking, I love swimming.
10) Favorite beach/vacation spot and what it means to your art.
Paris! Food and Architecture. I think any vacation is good for your art, creativity and soul though. Whenever you'er gone you start to have all these ideas, like" When I get back I'm going to do this and this and this and this.."
11) How important is a connection to the past/classics to your work?
Very. So many many amazing works have come before, and all we are ever doing is building on the works of the greats who came before us.
12) Can you tell us one rule that governs yourself/your art?
Try new things as often as you can! Practice the old things daily!
To stay up to date on Steven and his work go HERE.