In the Cut! with David Flores

Interview with local Los Angeles street artist

You are a California native, have you lived here all your life?
I’ve been living in Los Angeles most of my life.  Been moving in and out but most of my life I have spent here.  I grew up in the Central Valley and my first memory of Los Angeles was coming to church with my family as a young boy.  My dad was a church treasurer and he would drag us out every Sunday to the church here in Echo Park.  

How old were you when your first started skateboarding?  Do you remember the first board you had?
Yeah I skateboarded my whole childhood.  I was pretty good and shredded a lot.  I remember getting shoes from DVS and boards from Shorty’s.  My first board that I got was a Veriflex hightail that my dad got me at a toyshop.  It was old school.  I remember all I wanted to do was to skateboard on a big board, I wasn’t interested in the small decks. The fat ones were popular back then, this was late 70’s early 80’s.  I loved it forever.  I even updated that board later on, with some different trucks and bearings and customized it a little bit to fit me.

Take us back to your high school days.  What was the culture like, what kind of things did you do? 
It was really segregated back then.  You had skater kids on one side, the goth kids on the other, and metal kids.  I remember the skater kids always beefed with the metal kids and we would fight all the time.  There were jocks, but non-one messed with them.  There were the nerds.  Everyone had their own clicks and everything seemed so new.  Like Hip Hop culture was brand new, breakdancing was new, it was all exploding and fresh.  The early skaters were all punk kids.  

Was painting skateboards the first time you started taking art seriously?
Yeah, I was skateboarding and all my friends were turning pro.  Ricky Higgins turned pro, Mike Santarosa turned pro, Jeff Chamley, and they were all like “Dave do my graphics” cause I was always drawing. My friend Ricky Higgins who was pro for Clean Skateboards asked me to do his board so I did it.  That was the first one ever and from there it just snowballed.  Then I did the whole series for Clean, you know the whole team.  That was back in the day.  

How important is size in your painting process? Do you prefer to do large murals or small paintings as well?
Painting large murals is something that I always wanted to do.  But it is not something you can do right away, it takes baby steps.  You start with a small painting, then you do a medium one, then a large one.  I remember I used to buy the old hollowed out doors from Home Depot, and I used to use those as a canvas, cause it was way cheaper than buying real canvas for that big of a size.   I don’t know who has these doors now, they’re in someone’s house, I painted like a dozen of them and I sold them all at an art show.   This was back in the year 2000. 

You paint a lot of cultural icons, is there ever a time you focus on local people and paint them as well?
Back then, when I started doing portraits I was just painting things that I thought were dope and cool.  Things that I thought were underground and unspoken of. Like Jacques Cousteau the deep sea diver and explorer, and Mos Def who was like the dopest MC back then. By painting their portraits I was giving props and credit to the people that were giving me inspiration.  Other artists like Picasso and Frida Kahlo. We would put those paintings on t-shirts and sell them because they were so dope. It’s all about what and who inspires me and how those images are also very iconic for other people as well, not just me.     
   Was there ever a time you did illegal art, have you ever been in trouble for this type of painting?
I never painted illegally.  Most of my memories of running away from cops was because of my skateboarding.  Back then when kids were tagging we were grinding curbs. So when the cops came we would all run together.  But I wasn’t painting much back then, just a little. I remember I used tag CONAN and my friend would tag ZEN, and that was it. Just when we were at the skate spots and had nothing else to do when we weren’t skating.    

Your art has allowed you to travel the world.  Which place has been your favorite to paint so far?
Painting at Parco Gallery in Tokyo was really fun.  Tokyo is an amazing place and the people there really take care of you, and they respect you.  When people find out you paint they get really excited and they want to know more about it.  London is cool too, New York City is always fun. Even in Denver. I painted a few years back in Colorado that was pretty cool.   

What are your plans for the future? Will you continue making the same style of art or do you think it might evolve into something else?
I’m about to be a dad so that’s really going to be a big part of my future. Buying a house and getting the family started. More paintings, bigger shows, more contracts in China. I’m really excited about going back there this year.    
What are some things found only in Los Angeles that inspires you?
Has a lot to do with the other creative people that are here, and the different people you can link up with.  Like Shepard Fairey, his studio is right across the block, RETNA is a few blocks away.  All my artist friends are around in the neighborhood.  

Do you ever see yourself experimenting with different styles and materials?
Well I just did a stained glass piece with Judson Studios. They’re like the premier stained glass company in America.  I just did a large mural with them but with my traditional style.  So branching out a little. Also doing some work with cement, where the image gets pressed into the concrete. So I have a lot of different ideas, its just about getting them done.  Its been a blessing though.  Right now I’m going to continue on this path where I’m at.  Next I have an exhibition in Shanghai where I’m taking over the whole spot with different ideas.      

What has been your biggest struggle since you’ve become a professional artist?
Chasing down payments from people, hahaha. Trying to get paid.  Biggest struggles, not sure, there have been so many.  For example I never went to college so some people look at me different, depends which circle I am in. But most of my struggles are internal like being motivated and feeling confident.  Sometimes I’ll be doing something and halfway through I get discouraged, but I always carry on and at the end when I see the final piece I know that I did something dope.