The Michael C. Hsiung Interview


To coincide with the release our of Can't Skateboard Club tee, Phil Morgan had the great #goodmarketing idea to do an interview with the artist Michael C Hsiung.

So for ages now Phil's been banging on about getting some of the friends in the art world to do some clothing for us. After much delay (things take time and stuff gets in the way, sorry!), we're fully stoked to have a t'shirt in our collection with an original piece of Michael C. Hsiung artwork.

Michael is an artist from LA, known for his distinct style, drawing rotund men with beards, mythological creatures, and running the Vans Art Blog. Phil has known Michael for a few years now and the two have been in numerous art shows together. With his Can't Skateboard Club tee dropping, Phil thought it would be good idea to interview Michael. So we told him to do it.

The Can't Skateboard Club t'shirt by Michael is available to buy online here.

Hey Mike, how's life in LA?

Hey Phil! So far, so good, so what as I always say. But seriously, things are good in LA at the moment – they haven’t raised my rent, the weather is sunny, and weed is legal. Other than that just really trying to keep the art life going. Now that I live in a neighbourhood outside of Los Angeles, I find I’m enjoying the smaller community vibe and quiet streets - just gotta get myself outside more.

When did you start skateboarding? Do you still skate?

I started skating when I was probably like 8 or 9? My cousin had a skateboard and lived in Pasadena. His mom, my aunt, married an American guy, so every time we visited I was exposed to new cool things like skateboarding, Led Zeppelin and Mad Magazines. I remember we were all riding down his driveway, trying to do manuals. Even though I wasn’t very good, I was hooked from then on.
From there I begged my mom for a board, so she got me one at an outlet called Price Club (now Costco) where they sold that KAMIKAZE board by Action Sports. I rode that thing in the backyard, stopping with the tail and stuff for a couple years until I got boards from a neighbour who got one like every month.  First hand me down was a Fred Smith board, and from there I skated up till I was probably 31-32.
Nowadays, I don’t find myself skating as much with my buds, since either all of our lives have gotten busier with jobs, kids and etc. When I moved to this smaller neighbourhood I did ride the board to the post office for a bit, but started walking after I was almost plowed by a car.  I only bust out the skate deck occasionally to hang onto the back of cars when I’m cruising to the mall. HAH but yeah, I grew up street skating mostly, with very limited exposure to ramps and transition, and I do miss weaving in and out of traffic, hitting curbs and etc.
As much as we love your 'Can't Skateboard Club' shirt design, can you talk us through the design process? Where did your ideas come from?
My process with designs often start with working with the art director to get a sense of what they’re envisioning.  Getting these ideas down are usually a good starting point because generally I’d say folks have an idea of what they want to see from the artist, which is great!  From there I generally do some quick drafts and use those responses to hone in closer to what fits the style or vision of what we’re making. For the Can’t Skateboard Club, you gave me some general topics or ideas, and I just sort of worked through it, after sifting threw some of my own.  My ideas just come from doodling, scribbling, and sketching –sometimes I’ll flip through old books and find some fact or strange illustration that might inspire me. Either way it was super easy to work on this one and fun!
What are you working on right now? Any cool art shows or projects coming up that we should know about?
I’m currently getting ready to paint the skate bowl at the Vans US Open of Surfing in Huntington this year  - my first time.  I’ve actually always helped out for the event, but this year I’m excited to be an artist and paint alongside Andrew Pommier, Tolietsnake, Lauren Asta and Teddy Kelly. It’ll probably be the largest thing I’ve done, and I’ll be trying various mediums to hopefully get it finished in time!  After that I’ve got a handful of group shows I’m participating in from July to December.  Oh yeah I’m also participating in a Grateful Dead zine.
We know that you run the Art blog for Vans over in the States. Could you tell us a little bit about the LA Art Scene? How involved are you with other creatives? Who should we be looking out for that get's your thumbs up?
The LA Art Scene is pretty big, and there’s all kinds of little niches and galleries, which makes it hard to keep up with but also makes it endlessly interesting and buzzing. I think like most artists we all try and keep in contact and in touch with each other when we can, but everyone is pretty much hustling all the time, like myself.  There’s a lot of artists out here that I’m either learning about or discovering, and honestly too many new talents .. where to start haha!
We know you are a huge Dungeons and Dragons fan, and you love mythical creatures. Have you ever been to Wales? We have plenty of castles and mythical creatures here.
I have been to WALES! In 1998 and I plan on returning one day with my wife, who is also a medieval nerd. I actually studied abroad as an English major and lived in Bath for a semester. We made several trips to Wales to learn about English history and saw a lot of free standing stones (Averybury) and visited a couple of castles. We also spent a lot of time at Tintern Abbey exploring the site, while my professor read Wordsworth to us ha. I remember Wales actually as one of the coolest and prettiest places I had visited on that continent - I NEED to plan my second trip there soon
Best and worst thing about being an artist?
Best part about being an artist is creating, and having those creations live on in people’s homes or as something that folks can have like a shirt or board. I also have to say that when your art touches folks or just gets a great reaction - that erases all the hardships or downsides that sometimes get me down.  But drawing stuff and sharing it, and hopefully living off it is really the best part, but probably also the worst haha. 
The worst part of being an artist is having the ups and downs that come with being a freelance artist or designer–looking for projects, hoping they pay, and then looking for more.  In all our careers, there are lulls, and I think the lulls maybe the worst part because they feel endless, but probably only last a couple of weeks.  Sometime the hustle can make you go crazy or feel super depressed too - look into my eyes and see what I mean? It comes with the territory though, but adds a dimension to art making that has a lot more pressure when you start to get older: drawing to survive vs. drawing for pure enjoyment of creation.
Best and worst thing about living in LA?
Best part of living in LA is that my friends and family are here, and it has always been home.  My parents emigrated from China (dad) and Taiwan (mom) to LA, and I was born in downtown, LA. In a weird way it’s always been home and I enjoy the diversity of growing up here.   Also, you can travel to the beach, slopes, desert, and /or mountains in a few hours and be home the same day, which is insane. Of course the sunny weather is nice, although personally I’m a rain and gloom dude.
Worst thing about living in LA I suppose would be the price of living right now. Housing is out of control here, and we were rated as one of the most expensive cities to live in….that is a bummer!  Too many car chases and cops beating people up too.
Shout outs? Anything else you want to mention?
Shout out to my wife Rachel, to you kind sir – Phil (hi BETH!), and to CSC for reaching out and having me create a super fun shirt design!!  Also to all the folks who have supported my art I truly appreciate it.
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