Lively illustrations, bright colors and playful designs are just a few of the ways to describe the work created by Will Bryant here in Austin, Texas. As the next featured artist at the East 11th St. store and the newest installment in the HELM series, we were excited to find out more about how he began making the art that we love so much. We learned about his day to day inspirations, what keeps him motivated and what "Sweatageddon" was. You're going to have to read on to find out about that one.
Where are you from originally and what brought you to Austin?
I grew up in Texarkana, TX playing sports, reluctantly participating in Boy Scouts (I made it to Eagle tho!), trying to charm my neighbors, and obsessing over Michael Jordan. I kinda lived out Friday Night Lights, except my school wasn't ever that good at football and there was no Coach Taylor. My family is all from Mississippi so I spent summers there and eventually attended the only school I applied to (so dumb), Mississippi State University. During spring breaks I’d drive down to see my folks then head to Austin for SXSW. The 2007 Gorilla vs Booze showcase at The Peacock was such a big trip for me back then. Not many bands came to Starkville, MS!
After graduating in Dec 2008, I married my childhood sweetheart and we moved to Austin because I convinced her it would be really cool. I found my way into the Public School crew and my career started to take off here. The first time around we were in Austin for almost 3 years before we moved to Portland, OR so I could attend graduate school. We returned to Austin in Jan 2016 to bring our daughter closer to family—such a tough decision to leave the PNW, but it has been really great for us being back. There’s a lot that’s different about Austin, but it’s very lovable. And still quite warm.
How and when did you start making art? I suppose I can recall some important moments in my childhood that contributed, but undergrad at Mississippi State (2004-2008) is where things really clicked. I’m pretty sure I fell in love with graphic design while in my first class with Kate Bingaman-Burt. Prior to that class, I had a very limited understanding/exposure examples of graphic design. She introduced me to everything—from zines to Milton Glaser to branding systems to hand lettering to contemporary illustration. I started making a lot of work outside of classes. A lot of weird drawings, watercolor paintings, and screen prints. I also started deejaying ridiculously themed dance parties where I would do installations and make merch for each show (i.e. “Sweatageddon, the sweat that ends all sweat”). That was a really important time for me creatively. It helped shaped my voice, experiment with style, and develop my interests.
What are some of your current day inspirations and how they help you to create? Inspiration is literally everywhere. In recent years I’ve become less interested in graphic design/illustration culture, and have been gravitating towards more art. I’m mostly inspired by day to day things like my daughter jumping into bed in the morning and asking to watch the 1929 Silly Symphony The Skeleton Dance. I recently started riding a bicycle for exercise (cycling if you will), and this has really been getting me pumped to be productive. I associate productivity with inspiration…so whatever feeds the flow/rhythm and helps me focus. The flow can be stimulated by conversations with studio mates, shooting hoops in my driveway, watching MJ highlights, my wife and kid surprising me at the studio, or even just eating a banana. People get hungry, ya know.
I’m also really into bowling alley carpets, 90s basketball uniforms, Port-A-Potty branding, and Bill Murray’s cameo in Space Jam.
Tell us a little bit about your recent project with Adidas and how it’s been working with such a big company. The Adidas project during NBA All Star Weekend in New Orleans was a total dream come true! Everyone involved was amazing—including the production team, the athletes, the agency, the brand, and all the artists involved. Drawing, basketball, with friends, and NBA players all in one project?! INSANE! I was photographed and filmed dribbling, dunking, and grinning in front of something I made, which is pretty dang cool. This is one of those projects that 8 year old Will and 31 year old Will are equally stoked on! My wife was my assistant and we’d go on dates at night after working all day, that was so pleasant.
What would you say to someone wanting to turn their art into “a career”?
Make a lot of work. Make so so so much work! A lot of times you’re going have to choose making art over going out with friends or the bar or whatever. If you’re good with that, then definitely go for it! Also, find your people that are going to push you to be better and more mindful. And lastly, there’s a great chance you won’t like your art once it becomes your work…this is normal, I think. Ask yourself if you want your name and work to be associated with brands/companies or would you rather keep it separate? I’ve tried to blend a commercial practice and a fine art practice together. Pursuing commercial work is definitely an easier approach to a financially stable career over being a fine artist, but it does dramatically change the work you make.
Any upcoming projects you’re working on that we can keep an eye out for?
I’m contributing some fun illustrations to a pretty big campaign for the launch of a new product for a brand that I cannot name (I haven’t been paid yet so no way I’m spilling the beans). There are some other potential projects that might pop up here in Austin, but nothing confirmed yet.
And last but not least, what sign are you? Just googled to confirm, I am Virgo. This is like the fifth time I’ve checked, are Virgos forgetful?