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Java.March.2017

Andrew Brown By Jack

Andrew Brown By Jack Cavanaugh 8 JAVA MAGAZINE

When I met Phoenix-based artist Andrew Brown recently for morning coffee, he relayed a story about a meeting with executives from Imai, a smaller clothing company based in Tokyo, regarding licensing of the Sleisure brand in Japan. Originally, Brown and a few other American artists were to meet the Imai executives in Los Angeles, but in a moment of boldness, Brown requested that they come to Phoenix. Brown said his thinking was, “If they’re serious about starting a Sleisure chapter, they should come to Phoenix. This is where it was born back in the mid ’90s, and this is where it continues to grow.” After a brief tour of Brown’s murals around the Valley, a visit to his studio for a few games of ping pong and a break at Windsor to sign paperwork, the Imai group headed back to LA to meet with other artists. Almost immediately they sent a message back to Brown, saying that they already missed Phoenix. The contract Brown signed with Imai coincides with the 20th year of the Sleisure (aka Soldier Leisure) line. Once a year, Brown will travel to Japan to paint a mural and host art classes with the community in Tokyo or the Hiratsuka City area. This is all part of the business agreement, but its purpose extends beyond generating revenue. It’s driven in large part by Brown’s desire to share and exchange ideas, as well as maintain a human feel throughout the commercial process. The Sleisure brand had its beginnings here in Phoenix as an outlet for Brown and his friends. The goal was to find an accessible way to share his art with the public. “I knew that if I wanted to live a creative life, I’d have to get away from the drawing table and interact with people through my work. Printing t-shirts was a great way to do that, so I got a job with a screen printer and learned to do that.” Over the years, the clothing line has remained a side business for Brown, while he now works full-time as a muralist and painter in Phoenix, San Francisco, Brooklyn and other cities around the world. Known for his bold colors, abstract and topographical shapes, top-view pieces, the iconic “happy man” and other original content, Brown continually derives inspiration from everyday life, people and the natural world. In the early days, his work was inspired by hip-hop shows and skateboard contests at Patriot’s Park (now Cityscape), as well as punk rock, graffiti art in Phoenix, and his friends who gave Brown the urge to share his art. “I had friends that were killing it in graffiti that were inspirational, and then I had friends who were taking care of their parents, and that was inspirational.” Today, Brown still looks for ideas in unlikely places. While giving a mural tour in central Phoenix, Brown relates a story that took place during his involvement with the Let’s Be Better Humans project sponsored by Downtown Phoenix, Inc. Brown had been commissioned to paint a mural on a shipping container on 1st Avenue in the parking lot of the downtown YMCA. During the initial phase of painting, a resident of the YMCA approached Brown, asking what he was doing. Brown replied with a simple, “I’m painting a face.” During the conversation, Brown befriended the man, a former construction worker from Chicago, and snapped a picture intended for Instagram. At the last minute, Brown decided that the shape of the man’s eyes in the photo would become the design for the mural. Even though he stands out in a crowd (Brown is 6 6 tall), his casual approach to life is evident in his daily interactions. His amicable nature keeps him approachable, and he shows a sincere interest in hearing other people’s stories. This relaxed, open approach is balanced with a very strong sense of accountability that makes Brown seem like he spends less time thinking about what it means to be an artist and more time thinking about what it means to be human. JAVA 9 MAGAZINE

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