Los Angeles is a confusing place. A big city with a small-town vibe, it’s often misunderstood and mistaken for a giant soulless urban sprawl, with a face as shiny as big media can allow and a heart as cold as the waters of Santa Monica. But the residents here see things a little differently. It’s a city where incredibly talented DJs and musicians play to their passionate fans on any given night of the week. It’s a city of microcosmic ecosystems, neighborhoods of history and culture begging to be explored. These neighborhoods developed gradually under the soft glowing lights of the Hollywood sign, all the while trying to maintain their identities.
On any given day, you can walk down the (sub)urban streets and see the record dives, mom & pop liquor shops, and dusty book depots sitting alongside the glittery designer boutiques, vegan bistros, and mortgage-payment-priced sneakers.
And what lies in between these pockets of life? The visual-plane connections that convey their meanings across blank canvases of stucco and concrete…?
Wall murals. A lot of freaking wall murals. These artistic endeavors performed under/outside the watchful eyes of the law litter the city in both good and bad - but always expressive - ways. Since the City of Angels has been Insomniac’s operating point since the beginning, we couldn’t think of a better outlet to combine our scene with the art and culture of the city. Whether or not you’ve seen the Insomniac murals around town yet, we’d like to give you an in-depth look at the thoughts of the creative team leading the campaign.
Introducing Isaac and Noah Lee, the two brothers who are planning, managing, and executing the campaign with the following creative talent.
Artists: Daniel Kim & Noah Lee
Videographer: Andrew Rivera
Videographer Assistant: Anthony Hwang
Photographer: Paul Yun
Project Coordinator: Isaac Lee
Please tell our fellow Insomniacs your background and how you two ended up on this project.
Isaac & Noah: Mom was an animator, so it was just always in our blood. Noah was more the one that stuck with the art. Isaac stopped, but lately has gotten into painting more.
Mom used to work on every epic project you could imagine. Ghostbusters, Dungeons & Dragons, Sherlock Homes, all during a time when everything was hand-drawn. No computers. We’d sit there and watch her trace, so we began following in her footsteps by drawing Disney characters and comic book heroes.
How did the team come together?
Isaac & Noah: Isaac used to do work at CalArts in their murals program. When the head of marketing brought it up, we formed a team immediately to get it done. Noah, a passionate artist, helped bring in a good friend and fellow artist, Daniel, for the graphic design side of things and to help with the painting itself. The team ended up being six people including a videographer and photographer (listed above).
What kind of trouble do you find with doing murals?
Isaac & Noah: One of the most interesting challenges from our first piece was how large of a scale it was. In our video you can see us running around, erasing, fixing all these unforeseen problems. On the second wall we were more focused on the execution and tried a different approach by wood framing. We were actually surprised it ended up working so smoothly.
Unforeseen problems also included weather and wall conditions, but in the end, it was a lot of our planning. Since we said to ourselves that we’d freehand it, that in itself came up with plenty of challenges. Daniel Kim, our design guy does gaming concepts, so having him come in to work with a different medium from what he was used to was tough for him to adjust to. And sometimes, our creative skills just didn’t mesh 100%.
That sounds ridiculously stressful.
Isaac & Noah: It seriously was. With this EDC piece, we just had to hit a deadline, and the direction was pretty minimal. We appreciated the freedom, but it was pretty tough since some images take longer to draw than others, and with nothing but the letters “EDC” to keep it driving. In the end, we were very happy with it and how prominent the EDC logo stayed.
Please tell everyone about the current and future projects.
Isaac & Noah: Since the owl is Insomniac’s mascot, that’s the concept we decided to pursue. Daniel was originally the one who came up with the owl design, worked it out on illustrator, everything got approved, and there it was.
For the next mural, we’re going to be leaning towards more minimal designs. Pasquale had talked about wanting to step back and scale things down in terms of having all big names at the festivals, and they wanted the next piece to reflect an old school feel with pixel art. It was an interesting idea to begin with. Art is a creative medium that you can’t destroy. It’s just got a certain aesthetic that won’t die out, regardless of how digital things get.
Fill us in on the community involvement portion of all this. Dealing with building owners, reactions, etc.
Isaac & Noah: Since this ongoing project is still in its development phases, all our dealings have felt very touch-and-go. Our first wall belonged to an older gentleman named Trevor. Very cool and easy to work with. We offered to restore his wall and do the mural, and he was very laid back with it.
The second wall was a bit trickier and required us to think about it in a more business-oriented way. But in the end, we have a good working relationship with the owner and have other projects planned for his place.
A HUGE thank you to Isaac, Noah, and the rest of their street art team!
The Insomniac murals are located at Melrose & Hudson as well as Sunset & Fountain.
Interview by Tim Wut