Top 10 Most Inspiring Artists

My top 10 Artists (Specifically painters alive during my lifetime) who influenced and inspired me over the years. I am sure you can see the remnants of their work in mine. I sure hope so. Over the years these artists were my teachers (whether they knew it or not) As I geeked out on their style, approach and passion for creating. 

  1. Jean Michele Basquiat - approach to creativity and the canvas
  2. Jackson Pollock - approach 
  3. Keith Haring - style and imagery 
  4. Drew Brophy - medium - surf art
  5. Maya Hayuk - colors and the power of combining multiple colors
  6. Andy Warhol - imagery repetition. Symbolism
  7. Thomas Campbell - Script, that its ok to do your own thing
  8. Heather Brown - to take it on full steam prolific
  9. Shepard Fairey - Prolific branded street art.
  10. Mike Welles - My dad
  11. Georgia O’keefee - Powefull colors and shapes defining the composition

Jean Michele Basquiat - (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988)

I was 19 years old when I was introduced to his work and I gobbled it up. For a good 6 months all I could do was study his paintings and try to reproduce his style on my own canvases. The way he wasn't scared to put paint down taught me that you don’t have to be scared of the canvas. The canvas should be scared of you. Putting emotions, ideas, and stories into paintings is what art is all about. Thank you Jean Michele Basquiat.


Jackson Pollock - (January 28, 1912 – August 11, 1956)

The first time I saw a  painting that stopped me in my tracks, gave me goose bumps, and required my complete attention for 5 minutes (Not easy for a 16 year old boy) Jackson Pollock is the king of abstract expressionism. His work is so recognizable that any time you see a “Splatter Painting” you think of him. His freedom with the paint and the idea that you can create an emotion without imagery is now a big part of my work. There was a good part of my early 20’s solely devoted to abstract expressionism and it is pretty much 50% of my paintings today. Although I place imagery over abstract backgrounds, Pollocks formula for composition is one I use everyday. Thank you Jackson Pollock.


Keith Haring - (May 4, 1958 – February 16, 1990)

The first artist I remember being able to recognize their style. Driving around Santa Cruz with my Mom as a kid I remember a Haring Mural with his distinct black,white, and red colors and stick figures. Every time we drove by that wall with his work on it my mom would ask “Name that artist!” 

“Keith Haring!” I would say with delight. Keith Haring’s work is so simple yet tells such a huge story. His definitive style and characters make his work so recognizable and fun that even as a kid I could understand it Maybe that’s why it means so much to me when kids like my work? I don't know, but Keith barring is and artist I am thankful for. Thank you Keith Haring.


Drew Brophy - (born in 1971)

I can blame most of my art on this guy. Drew Brophy is a surf artists who uses Posca pens to draw images on surfboards. I was 15 years old when I started seeing his work pop up on surfboards and I knew i wanted to do that too. I got my hands on some Posca Pens and started copying his images onto surfboards exactly like him. After about 30 surfboards I no longer had to copy his work, I was able to start putting together my own images and patterns, but really if it wasn’t for him I think my route and medium in the world of creating would be much different. Thank you Drew Brophy.


Maya Hayuk (Born 1969 in Baltimore, Maryland)

Wow, When I met Maya at the Pow Wow Hawaii mural event in Kaka’ako I was blown away by the colors she was achieving. No one else came close to the impact she had with her bright colors and juxtaposition of them. I was fortunate to collaborate with her on a few pieces and have her work in my studio for an evening. I learned so much about color and what happens when different colors are next to each other and how that can translate to emotions in the body. She also reveled a paint source that I still use that provides pigments that radiate the brightness that I strive to achieve. Thank you Maya Hayuk!


Andy Warhol - (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987)

His use of imagery and repetition to create power statements and interesting pieces of art has intrigued me since I was in high school. Growing up with a father who was a graphic designer I have always been drawn to graphic imagery and the power of symbols. When you see multiple images of the same thing in my work you can tell Warhol had an influence in it. 


Thomas Campbell

Growing up as a long boarder in Santa Cruz, there was no way I wasn't going to cross Thomas Campbell’s creative work. His surf films and artwork were so distinctive and made a big impact on me as a late teenager. Campbell's work proved to me that you can be creative in many ways and don't have to follow the traditional art paths. His loose style and ability show his inspiration was incredibly inspiring to me. I don't think I would have developed a cursive script if it hadn't been for watching Thomas Campbell’s work. Thank you Thomas!


Heather Brown

Heather Brown had a giant influence on me as I was developing as an artist. The way she was able to channel what she enjoyed about making art into a business has been so inspiring. I was living in a van outside my studio/shop making paintings and really playing the broke artist card. Becoming friends and collaborators was the best thing to happen to me. She showed me what it took to move from making a few paintings on the side to making paintings and being able to live of it. Thank you Heather Brown!


Shepard Fairey - (born February 15, 1970)

You have seen Shepard Fairey’s work, remember the “Obama Hope” campaign poster? That was Fairey. His street art campaign of OBEY GIANT has been going on for over 20 years of stickers, stencils, and wheat pasted posters going up all over the world. His “Andre The Giant Has a Posse” sticker is almost the symbol for street art. Shepard Fairey proves the power of being prolific and getting the work done. What he has created and the ideas behind his work demonstrate the power of being a visual artist. A super motivated and driven artist with a vision. What’s not to like?


Mike Welles 

My father was a graphic designer, way before computers and 99$ logos came into the world. Back when you had to understand illustration, printing, typesetting and used encyclopedias and art books to look up images to reproduce. A completely different time from Adobe Photoshop and Google Images. He started working from home by the time I was in 5th grade and seeing the process of creating graphic images for use of advertisement had a big influence on the type of art I am most interested in. Not only is he an amazing graphic designer and illustrator but also an Watercolor, Oil and Acrylic painter. My childhood home was covered in paintings he had made throughout the years. Definitely the most inspiring artist on my list. Thank you Dad!


Georgia Okeeff’e - (November 15, 1887 – March 6, 1986)

I think the reason Georgia Okeeff’e had an impact on me was the fact that my family liked her work. My grandparents had a poster of hers up in their apartment and they just loved the big soft blocked of color and the provocative and subtle compositions. As they talked about how much they liked her work, I was taking notes and trying to figure out what I could make to get the same loving response from my family. O’keeffe’s work is impressive to me because her simple pieces can have so much meaning and content, and bold yet soft. A tough combination of composition if you ask me. Thank you Georgia O’keeffe.