The Makers is a new column on Seattlemag.com that explores different Seattle creatives and their crafts. These artists live to design, connect and create.
It wasn’t a childhood dream that got Seattle-based painter, artist, designer and muralist Ten Hundred his start in the art world, but his journey into art did begin at his childhood home. More than three years ago, Ten Hundred (the artist name he adopted as a nod to childlike imagination) returned home to Michigan for nine months to get clean from a drug and alcohol addiction. During this time, he started painting. "I had so much more time and energy, and I started pouring that energy into my art."
He started posting his work online. To his surprise, it all sold. So he moved back to Seattle and continued to create and refine his skills, moonlighting as a painter alongside his day job. During this time he began to build a client list, with companies like Converse, Nordstrom and Jet Blue hiring him for various projects. "People started wanting to hire me to create murals, so I said yeah, let's give this a whirl. The first one I did was kinda stressful because I had never worked on that scale before... but it turned out really epic and was a lot easier that I thought."
Since he grew up in rural Michigan, Ten Hundred said he doesn't have a graffiti background like many urban muralists. "I have always created more canvas work, so I use some spraypaint, but I also use brushes and traditional paint, too. My murals have a little different look and feel than those done completely with spraypaint."
Ten Hundred collaborated with Converse and Nordstrom for a Pop-in Shop at Bellevue Square Mall
The artist recently returned home from a trip to Buzios, Brazil, where he created the mural Champagne Fantasy, a whirling orange and turquoise piece commissioned by two clients for their new home. He's heading into summer with a glut of new projects, including art for Sasquatch music festival, a solo art show at Sticks and Stones in Portland the first week of June, and murals and design work for brand collaborations alongside commissioned work.
While he has created murals scattered throughout Seattle for private and public clients, the most notable piece is the Caffe Vita commemorative mural, which he created for its 20th anniversary this year. "I created four characters to represent what Caffe Vita is all about from my perspective. The Explorer represents Vita traveling the globe to find the finest products. The Growerrepresents its connection to the land and agriculture and coffee. The Deliverer represents Vita bringing this stuff back home for us to enjoy, and also the spread of Vita as it opens new locations from coast to coast. The Patron represents the customer and the true believer," he says.
The making of the Caffe Vita mural Ten Hundred painted for their 20th Anniversary this year. Video by Red Williamson of New Spin Photo
One of the major themes in Ten Hundred's work is trying to recapture the childlike imagination we tend to lose as we become adults, which is also where his name stems from. "I like to imagine a kid learning to count by hundreds. As he is counting up he says 'eight hundred... nine hundred... ten hundred' and then some adult inevitably says 'no, it's one thousand' and the kid says 'no, it's ten hundred!' Ten Hundred is a different way to convey the same message."
Although he admits he doesn't suffer from creative block often, he finds inspiration from things around him like the contemporary artists he follows on Instagram, or "the way the sun hits a chrome bumper, the shape of a birds beak, the curves of a beautiful woman."
Ten Hundred now spends about 70 hours a week in his studio in Pioneer Square, and says his studiomates are the most important part of his creative environment. "We all have drastically different styles, but we are always pushing each other and providing feedback. We laugh a lot. Share music and food. And there is the added bonus of keeping our art studio rent low by splitting the costs!"
Ten Hundred's illustration titled The Getaway; Photo Credit: Ten Hundred
Ten Hundred plans to keep pushing himself and adding new skills with each project, while staying in the world he wants to create. For him, it's about doing what you love, and adding brightness and imagination into spaces in between.
"I just want to share a little joy with the world around me. There is art for every human emotion. There is sad art, angry art, dark art, protest art, sexy art and all of it is important. Art should tell a story and make you feel something. On the surface my art is fun, and imaginative and hopefully joyful...its about back to fun, and fantasy and recapturing that childlike imagination. I think people want that and need that right now."
Ten Hundred's most recent work, a mural titled Champagne Fantasy in Buzios, Brazil; Photo Credit Ten Hundred