Erica Stella: For starters, please tell our readers about your art background: graffiti, art school or both?
Scott Tarbox: I never had any formal art education, and never really did a lot of traditional graffiti, but did a good chunk of stencil bombing. I grew up doodling a lot of letters and video game inspired content in school. Art dropped off for me for awhile after graduation, as I was more focused on partying and all that. This led to some drug addictions and when it came time to get away from that, art was a return to my roots - as an outlet for some of my triggers.
It was something to keep my brain occupied and focused. I didn't really expect it to become a career, but around the time I started doing murals in 2014, it turned into that because it was all that I focused on.
ES: Did you grow up in Houston, TX? What influences you about your city?
ST: I grew up in the suburbs of Houston, yeah. I started spending more time in the city as I grew up. The city's street art definitely inspired me a lot to get into murals. I remember seeing them and getting familiar with the artists before i'd even used aerosol. As I practiced in my garage, trying to get at least good enough to not feel embarrassed, I started reaching out to these artists looking for walls and learning the history.
Gonzo247 was/is hands down one of the most empowering artists in our scene. He helped me make so many connections, get so many opportunities, and has done the same with countless artists. He's also the creator of our only mural festival - HUE, which is approaching its 4th year.
ES: I noticed your work often contains a Roman numeral VII. There are many meaningful and powerful connections to the lucky number 7 - the seeker, the thinker, the searcher of truth. What does it mean to you & how does it connect to your artwork?
ST: Since 7 is thought of as a lucky number, I use it to represent my gratitude for being able to get off of heroin after 3 years of addiction. The success rates are pretty low, so I consider myself lucky and that's my little nod. It goes along with a decent amount of my pieces depicting animals fixated or obsessed with some object which parallels my addiction issues.
ES: Now that you mention the struggle of the animal, I can see it - an obstacle in their way. In addition to the number 7 and its meaning to you, what else has been instrumental in helping you with your recovery? Do you feel art has become your new addiction?
ST: Art as well as fitness oriented activities definitely became my springboard of focus the first couple of years of being clean. Now that art is more of a career than a hobby, I operate a little differently. I also whole-heartedly believe that doing something I love for a living has had a lasting impact on my urges to use addictive drugs as well. Looking back on the things that played into my substance abuse - working dead end thankless jobs was undoubtedly a large contributor to my desire to escape. What's funny is that art at the beginning, for me, was an escape from school. So it's kinda come full circle.
ES: We at Sold Magazine honor the monthly tradition of Free Art Friday in NYC, and covered the history recently. Actually, the tour that we met on, is in conjunction with FAF. We educate participants about the history of each neighborhood on the first Saturday of each month, and hope to find some left over pieces from the day before! Tell us how you and Black Cassidy got FAF started in Houston & how does it differ from other cities?
ST: We actually got started with the help of Spratx, a collective out of Austin, TX that I have a relationship with. It started with art battles and later recruiting me for Pow Wow SXSW in 2016. Spratx runs the FAF out of Austin, and they are awesome! Check them out.
They blasted all the info we pushed out for the FAF kickoff which was in August 2014, and it was live. We had a huge initial response, community interaction right away and it kept growing (funny side note my girlfriend Liliana and I actually met after she found one of my prints through FAF!)
I imagine every city that does it operates differently, but I would guess one of our main differences would probably be the events we started associating with it.
We had these meet and greet events with raffles and first come first serve wall space to hang art that were awesome community growth events. Later on we had wall painting events too and for a period even weekly hang outs.
ES: That's what I'm talkin bout! Southern hospitality has made its way to street art! Do you see revenue from FAF over time, or have you experienced new fans who buy pieces after meeting you through FAF? (and if not) What has been your best way of gaining clients & customers so far?
ST: Definitely over the first year of FAF launching in Houston, I met a number of new clients and especially networked more with other artists. As far as my most successful ways of getting clients it has always been pretty diverse before I started making enamel pins. Largely word of mouth from commissions, or seeing my murals led a lot of people to me as well as Instagram. Sometimes if business was slow I would campaign for high visibility walls that I wouldn't charge people for since people stop so much to talk to you while you work or see it after it's done and that almost always led to more paid jobs. I would highly recommend that strategy for street artists starting out. Since August, the absolute largest pool of clients has come from the pin community which is its own subculture of varying art collectors. It has been mind blowing what doors that community has opened for me and how passionate these folks are about art.
ES: Now that you have gotten the Big Apple under your belt, how does it compare to other US cities that you have painted? How did this trip come about (if you want to speak about it)?
The biggest difference has to be the sheer amount of people you can typically expect to be in one place - which is obviously great for painting! I was also just blown away by how many people there were who are happy to help and encourage the arts. Also the food was amazing.
In short, this trip simply came about because I planned a trip to Colombia in 2014. The long of it is that I reached out to crisp to see if he had any walls in Bogota which led to a couple of murals. This led to him getting me some opportunities at Art Basel, to me bringing him to Houston for our festival to the growth and exploration of our common friends, and a strong suggestion for me to visit NY. I reached out to a number of folks, some I already knew and some through mutual friends and made it work!
ES: NYC is a special place, and Sold Magazine aims to be a resource for artists when they visit, I'm glad you had a positive experience. You have been fortunate to travel to South America to paint, tell us about your experience working in Colombia? Any plans to return?
TS: Colombia was tremendous! You get on the highway and the streets are drenched in art top to bottom. I loved it in Bogota and its terrific how the process can go to get walls. We more-or-less walked around to peoples homes and asked if they would like a mural and if so then boom. Great way to practice and get up for sure and the people there are overwhelmingly friendly.
I plan to visit again absolutely. Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador on the list as well!
ES: What other artists are your biggest influences today?
My influences change from time to time but I still clearly remember the first time I saw a Nychos in person in Miami in 2013. It was then that I knew I wanted to learn how to paint murals. Nychos has always been a big influence - I've read a lot of his interviews. Some other favorites of mine would be Arsek & Erase, Fat Heat, Eelco & Dulk1.
ES: You must check out Ep. 7 of our podcast, "In The Spray Room" with Eelco, such a great dude, I think you would enjoy the chat. Let’s wrap this one up with a bow, tell our audience the best way to get in touch with you / follow along? And let us know what you have coming up, what does the rest of 2018 have in store for you?
ST: The best way to get in touch with me directly is email firstname.lastname@example.org, my shop is at tarbox.bigcartel.com and you can follow me on Instagram @tarboxx2. I'm currently reworking my independent site tarboxtarbox.com. If you're interested in buying pins, the specific time and dates of drops are available in my Facebook group "Tarbox - Art & Pins" and very hard to get otherwise.
Coming up for me in 2018 is a solo show at Grassroots in Chicago opening October 6th and running through the 13th. I'll be there for the week probably doing some murals along the way. I'm also considering a mural tour hitting Portland, Seattle and Vancouver in August but that's pending at the moment! Also hoping to knock out my biggest Houston mural later this year - working on confirming that.