I say Art Chantry, the world says always angry. Incessantly irritable. His idiosyncratic nature searing into every graphic he designs. From the very first question – and our simple introduction – Art shows me how wide-open his mind really is.

Newbear: “What’s good, Art? Where are you calling from today?”

Art Chantry: “I’m in my studio, up in Tacoma.”

NB: “Oh, cool. I recently moved to Orange County from the Portland area…”

AC: “You know, Portland…see, there’s a reason I’m in (a little city) like Tacoma. I don’t want to be part of the problem in a city where you’ve got yuppies turning the place into condos and s––––. I’m with ‘my peeps’ in Tacoma.”

And so it begins.

NB: “With your success, you’ve gotten offers from major brands like Coke and Nike and you’ve turned them down. So why Oakley?”

AC: “They were honest with me. Straightforward, and no one else was or usually is. I’m a small business and I’ve discovered over years, the only credit I can give is integrity and if some isn’t doing that I’ve gotta say no. Companies are all about gamesmanship. Paul Schulte (Oakley’s Creative Director) was very straightforward, Oakley’s the best product and an association with Oakley…sounded like fun.”

AC continues: “I’m an old alcoholic. Part of getting healthy was not working for a––––––just for the money. Life’s too long to deal with that crap. I tend to be kind of picky….Nike would constantly approach to get samples of my work…just to copy it…six times it happened…and I thought ‘I’ve gotta do this, gotta make the money’ and I finally got tired of it. I began to realize, there’s no real money there…so I said no. I’ve been in the business long enough, I can smell it sometimes. I’m not a saint. Sometimes it’s political. Coke tried to overthrow the Allende government in Chile…financed it and that pissed me off! But Nixon used Pepsi to open up the Soviet Union. The bottom line, I’ve got to call my shots and be able to sleep at night. Oakley’s a no-brainer. Good product, good company.”

NB: “So you drink Pepsi?”

AC: “F––– that, I’m an American. I drink COKE. What do you want me to do – support Nixon and Pepsi for opening up communism, or support Coke for killing communist dictators?”

NB: “Walk me through the process of designing the ART CHANTRY LIMITED EDITION HIJINX from your end.”

AC: “It was tough. I usually don’t decorate. This is an already designed sunglass and adding graphics to make it more interesting-looking…right off the bat, I wanted to change the actual physical design. Silk-screen shattered safety glass. One side with a bullet hole…or print on the lenses…use one-way mirror technology to create a look of shattered safety glass. You don’t f–––– with Oakley’s lenses. Runs the risk of screwing up the HIGH DEFINITION OPTICS®. I wanted to design something I thought would appeal to your audience, you know, stylized flames and crap.”

AC continues: “Paul Schulte said, ‘don’t design specifically for the glasses, do what you do and we’ll figure it out.’ I collect a lot of old clip art, one of the biggest collections of old crap you can imagine. Lots of strip shows in burlesque ads…I think they’re wonderful. I took a whole mess of those ads, kind of a cheesy, sleazy look which wouldn’t be run in their day ‘cause they were considered pornographic. And I cut them up, took ‘em through a paper shredder and created an intense concentric pattern that I overlapped with various colors. Originally, it was an off-blue towards green, a golden yellow and magenta. But because of the computer limitations, it came out in primary colors. My version looked too much like a Jamaican flag and we tweaked it a little bit. And true to my style, half of it was accidental and half was planned…and it’s not always in that order.”

NB: “So you’ve had a lot of happy accidents over the years?”

AC: “I think I have an explosive, dangerous feel. I’m never quite sure…and it scares the heck out of clients. But it keeps it fresh. Designing for a punk rock band? Then it’s cool that it’s all f–––––– up. Corporations never go that route…which makes Oakley different.”

AC continues: “I’m in my 50s…been doing this a long time and that’s how it’s never lost the edge.”

Up next: True or False with Art, featuring topics ranging from playing pool with Ted Bundy to Art’s take on the “always angry” label.

ART CHANTRY ARTIST SERIES HIJINX now available online in limited quantities.


Newbear Lesniewski


September 05, 2007