interview / liz rice mccray

California transplant Luke Pelletier is a mover and a shaker. He is an extremely talented artist, “idea man,” painter, music-maker, curator, photo-taker, blacksmith, writer, furniture maker and much, much more. We brought with us many assumptions when interviewing Luke Pelletier – that he is an incredibly organized, practically super human (he isn’t), that he must carefully pre-plan his days to accomplish so much (not really), and that things never fall through the cracks (sometimes). Our findings were that Luke Pelletier has an incredible amount of drive, follows his enthusiasm and is extremely motivated to always be creating. Many thanks to Luke for taking the time to answer our questions.

Will you describe where you are at this present moment so that we have a visual during our interview? This may be my favorite question to ask people.
I’m sitting on the couch in my living room. My girlfriend, Kristen Liu-Wong, is finishing up a painting on a folding plastic table in front of me. My dog, Rooster, is squeaking a toy. And “Friends” is on in the background.

Please say hi to Kristen for us. Now that we have a visual we are ready to start. You’re a California transplant; will you tell us a little bit about your childhood? Any standout moments, major forks in the road that you credit for making you the human you are today?
I was born in Tampa, Florida, and I lived there until I was seven. That’s when we moved to Brevard, North Carolina. It’s a really small town. There wasn’t much to do. So my friends and I mostly skated, went swimming in the waterfalls, built ramps, played in punk bands… stuff like that. As far as moments that pushed me towards art, I got expelled my freshman year of high school for spray-painting a bunch of dicks all over the school with my older brother and a few friends in the middle of the night. After that, we had to go to alternative school. It was a real drag, but that’s when we all started really focusing on our band. I’d design the flyers and all the merch. Pretty soon I was doing it for other bands. Then, I went to school at SAIC in Chicago. They taught me heaps about art and community building. So I started curating shows in small galleries in Chicago. After my freshman year of college, I curated a show out here in LA at Think Tank Gallery. That was my first time coming to LA, and I fell in love with the city. I feel like that’s most of it.

Did your interest and inclination toward painting start at a young age? Or would you say it evolved from your passion for music?
I was always interested in art for sure, but I never really took it seriously – mostly just doodles on homework. When I got into skating, that’s when I first started to see art I liked. I loved hanging out at the skatepark and looking at all the board graphics. I’d also go to the flea market a lot with my friend Carlos because his family owned a lemonade stand out there. I was always buying anything with classic American graphics, like old matchbooks, toys and advertising. My band for sure made me take art more seriously. I wanted our band’s merch to look cool. So that’s when I started actively trying to make my art “better,” but I didn’t touch paint on my own until the summer after I graduated high school. Over the years my music has become more integrated in my art. I work on music a lot while I’m waiting for paint to dry. So a lot of my lyrics end up in my paintings.

Painter, music maker, curator, photo-taker, coffee shop owner, designer of clothing, furniture maker — you have got your hands into many things. How do you explain your well-rounded art practice?
I can’t help myself, haha. I’ve always been like this. I haven’t a real job since I was 18, but I wake up at 9:00 a.m. everyday and, if I don’t need to leave the house, I’ll work ‘til 12:00 a.m. So I’ve had a lot of free time to get as weird as I want to get. I also get burnt out on things super quickly, but I’m relentlessly motivated to be creative and make stuff. So I just sort of bounce around my apartment painting, writing, drinking, recording, responding to emails, smoking, taking photos, writing business plans, hanging out with my girlfriend and my dog, and I don’t know. All of those things are connected to me. Sometimes working on a million things at once works really well and everything goes smoothly, but a lot of the time things fall through the cracks. I’m constantly rerecording entire songs because I forgot to save the file, apologizing for forgetting about shows I agreed to be in a year earlier, leaning against most of my paintings when they’re wet, etcetera. I’ve been trying to get my act together but I’m still figuring this whole art thing out. As far as keeping it going, I’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of really rad people and galleries that are nice enough to put up with how scattered and forgetful I am.

So when someone asks, “What do you do?” how do you answer?
My business card says: “Idea Man.”

How do you make time for everything?
I try my best to follow my enthusiasm. I feel like if I actively want to work on something it gets done faster and with more heart than if I force myself to do it. So, if I’m working on a painting that needs to be done tomorrow but I really want to be working on a song I just work on the song. It keeps me excited and engaged with my art. I’ve also found the painting usually gets done in time too. And if it doesn’t, eh, no worries. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one losing sleep over my art.

How would you like to see your future develop?
I would love to be involved with something narrative driven. Maybe a TV show. I’d love to design more interiors and open more businesses. I want to keep making paintings. I’m doing a lot more woodworking. So you’ll see more of that in the future. I’d love to record a song in a real studio with studio musicians. I’m working pretty closely with RVCA on a bunch of clothing/projects. I don’t know. I’m interested in doing a million things, but I just sort of go with the flow. If someone emails me tonight saying that they want me to design a giant waterslide for a theme park I’ll wipe my schedule.

What kind of art do you like? Do you collect anything in particular?
When I’m looking for inspiration I usually go to the flea market. I like the whole energy of it. It’s like a treasure hunt every time. You never know what you’ll find, but you know that it’ll probably be gone that day. I like all the old advertising, furniture, folk art, guns, weapons, art and antique toys. I’m also really into social aspect of it, like talking with people, bartering, watching people fight and walking around. As far as artists go, I really like the Chicago Imagists, H.C. Westerman, Craig Stecyk, Ed Ruscha, and my friend’s work, Kristen Liu-Wong, Nathan Alexis Brown, Jillian Evelyn, Matt Cagen, Ben Jensen, Homeless Cop, Sean Hogan, Dont Fret and heaps of others.

Where can people check out more of your art?
On my Instagram: @lukepelletier.

Very last question – any last words for our readers, shout-outs, declaration of love or hate?
The new Colter Wall record is really good.

Thank you again for taking the time to answer our questions.