Photography by Jordan Reid
A few weeks back we got wind that one of our favorite people would be back in town painting a mural at one of the Rudy's Barbershop locations. It is safe to say that we were fast friends with Will Bryant upon first meeting him a couple years back. 90's basketball references and a killer crossover had us like, whoa. Aside from that it turns out that he's not only a super funny dude, but a fantastic artist as well. If you haven't had the chance to peruse his site or follow him on instagram - @WillBryantPlz - go right ahead and do that now. That way you'll get all the funny references that he makes during this short interview that we did with him via email.
ATHL: So, welcome back to Portland (at least for a minute). I know you just moved from Portland to Austin, what's up with that?
Will Bryant: Well, first off it was amazing to be back and get in a run with our hoop crew—such good dudes. I also had fun catching up with friends and eating tasty meals. Moving back South was all about family. My wife and I made a really tough grown up decision to leave our favorite city ever to move our daughter closer to family. We’re planning on getting in some summer breaks back in Portland, so keep your eyes peeled for the Bryant’s!
ATHL: Are you all set up down there? Do you have a studio/workplace/crew all set up and rolling?
WB: Yes, and no. We bought a house off of South 1st and we’re settling in well. Studio-wise I moved back in with my old crew called Public School. It’s a collective of graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, and entrepreneurs (not to be confused with the sick NYC label). I’m temporarily setup at place I was previously based as we wait for our new spot to wrap up construction. It’s so close! We’re all so pumped on it—more space, great light, and little bit more remote. Our current space is in the thick of things and can be a bit distracting.
You said that you just started in the city league there. Are the rivalries as good as our Sunday night games?
The league is solid. Good competition. Being the new guy on the team and a bit out of shape it’s taking time to find my rhythm. The chemistry and charisma of our Sunday night games is unparalleled! I miss that night so much.
Wait! Who's going to win the NBA finals this year? Do you have to automatically become a Spurs fan now that you're just north of San Antonio there? Have you been to a game yet?
NO WAY!!! I grew up in small town east Texas as a Bulls fan (hello, I’m a 90s kid). However, when I cheered for a Texas team it was the Mavs—loved watching Dirk & Nash & Finley. As for the Spurs, I’ve never ever been a fan. With that said I do have some solid friends that are Spurs fans so I entertain the idea out of friendship. I enjoy Kawhi’s game and listening to Popovic interviews is a national treasure.
Are you really LaMarcus Aldridge? Tell the truth.
Not a chance. You know my game. I fall down too much and my feet are so small.
Ok, let's get serious here. You're back in Portland to paint a mural at Rudy's Barbershop up on Mississippi Ave, correct? How did that come about?
Marshall Ryan from Rudy’s has been keeping up with my work for a bit. He reached out to me and my artist rep about the opportunity, so I did what I could to make it work! He’s a dream to work with, Rudy’s hair products smell amazing, and I definitely wanted to be back in Portland.
Can you tell us a little bit about the actual design? It looks real good! Was that a request, or do they just sort of let you do your thing and this is what comes out?
Initially I was just going to do my thing, but conversations with Marshall were so intriguing we pushed the direction into more of a solid concept.A lot of the times the back-n-forth with clients isn’t challenging in a good way. This discourse made the end result stronger conceptually but also allowed me to experiment with new materials. The front hallway has hidden hairdos, faces, and abstract hair linework painting in white acrylic on a black wall. The backroom is abstract repetitive linework utilizing a dry brush technique. The linework elements is derived from spatial elements on the front hallway, but painting inversely (black on white).
Do you practice those squiggles somewhere? Besides on paper? How does something this big evolve from a few squiggles to a huge painting? What's the process?
That brushwork at that scale was something I had never done before. I did some sketchbook sized character studies, but there was no definitive design or projection. I just dipped the brush in white paint and made a mark on the wall. It was partially scary and somewhat freeing. I started with the part that ended up looking kinda like Channing Tatum dressed as Beyonce. Our original execution plan was to only do a section that wrapped around to the front desk. However, after completing that section we both decided that it HAD to cover the entire wall. Cool move, bro!
So, what if our readers here wanted to get you to come and do their man cave or bathroom or something like that. Would you be available to come and do that? Ha!
Ha! I would love to. My expenses would need to be covered, but we could work something out.
Do you have some new inspiration for us? What are you looking at these days to get inspired?
Toronto based photographer Pat O’Rourke is on fire. He goes by @chilligansisland on IG, check him out. Way into the work Devin Troy Strother is cranking out. It’s smart, irreverent, formally interesting, and culturally challenging. Killer combo. Other artists to peep would be Evan Trine, Morgan Blair, Ben Sanders, Ellen Van Dusen, and Calvin Ross Carl. They’re all making things I wish I would make. Also, you can see a lot of the weird stuff I’m enjoying over on sureilikefun.com
I also noticed that you often times have your headphones in when you're painting these things. Sort of like when you did the bathroom wall in our retail store. What were you listening to when you did this one? Is it always the same?
It’s not always the exact same but I do have some go to jams. I love listening to full albums. Some favorites in the rotation are Talking Heads - 77 and Stop Making Sense, Oddisee - The Good Fight, African Brothers Dance Band (International) [link if you want it], and Monster Rally - Return To Paradise. I also like working to Ghana High Life compilations, Digable Planets, ATCQ, Charles Bradley, and anything Chaz Bundick releases.
Ok one more - did you get a haircut while you were there? We're always so impressed by your up-do, seems like it takes some maintenance. Ha!
Haha! I really appreciate that. Especially when I think about surviving high school with a chia pet meets Screech from Saved By the Bell hairdo. It was bad. But the answer is no, I wasn’t able to get a cut. The Rudy’s shop wasn’t really open while I was in town and I never made it over to Throne to see my dude Kalani Hutchings. He took care of me for almost 2 years. If you’re looking for someone, I fully recommend him and that shop in NW.
Also, we did that rad collection with you earlier and I never got to catch up with you. What did you think about the crazy photos with the white backdrop? Did you see Remy in there with the tall plants? Ha!
OMG SO SO SO GOOD! That was way cooler than I could ever have imagined. Seeing Remy in there was such a great surprise! So EPIC. Props to Juliet Zulu!
So, there you have it. A look into the mind of one of our favorite artists. Now, get your ass up to Mississippi Street, book a cut and color and sit back and let your mind wander over Will's latest creations. Then, when you're done (or even in the meantime) check out the Will Bryant Collection right here on these beautiful pages.