Joshua Vides
People Published: December 8, 2018 Updated: December 12, 2018  |  WORDS: Amirul Shazzani

Not flat at all: Joshua Vides talks 2D art, social media and the future

Joshua Vides needed a change of scenery when he picked up the brush to paint on those Nike Air Force 1s. The photo went viral and now the artist is traveling halfway around the world painting cars and interiors.

Joshua Vides
Joshua Vides was in Singapore for the first time last week to showcase a painted Mercedes Benz at Culture Cartel 2018
File photo

The artist’s style is simple but distinctive – black lines on white paint on everyday objects, making them appear 2D.

For about ten years, California-based designer Joshua Vides was the owner of the streetwear brand CLSC. Driven by the ennui of being in streetwear and the constant desire to better his older brother (whom by his admission is the better artist between them), Joshua came up with the idea of painting everyday objects white before applying black outlines onto them, turning them into life-size cartoon-style sketches.

Like all things viral, the first thing Joshua painted was a pair of sneakers – the Nike Air Force 1 to be exact. That blew up, and since then, Joshua has been flying halfway around the world to paint cars and interiors.

Last week, Joshua flew into Singapore for Culture Cartel to paint a Mercedes Benz. We met with him there to talk about his art, the impact of social media and the influence of streetwear and the state of street culture now.

“I think a lot of influencers only show their Rolexes and Ferraris but they don’t show how they got there. I think it’s important to let people understand that things do take time and work.”

 What’s the story behind the Air Force 1s you painted?
When I first painted it last year and posted it up, no one really cared. I posted another one and it didn’t get much attention either. I think it was the third time of posting when it really took off. It started because I wanted to do something new. I was in streetwear and I felt done with it. I just started thinking outside the box and outside of streetwear like, “What could I do?”. The idea basically popped out of nowhere and I decided to go for it.

What was the inspiration behind making everyday objects look 2D?
I’ve always drawn a lot and have always been creative. Since I was young, my older brother was my competition because he draws way better than I do. From an early age, I look at my brother as an artist but I wasn’t able to put myself in that position because he was better than me. It’s kind of like, I’ve always wanted to get there and it was always an idea, but it wasn’t until last year when I thought to myself, “I could actually make this happen”.

Joshua Vides
Joshua’s work has mesmerized fans from all over the world, including those in Singapore whom he met at Culture Cartel 2018
Culture Cartel 2018, Powered by Mercedes-Benz

What has changed now that you are Joshua Vides the artist, compared to when you were Joshua Vides the owner of CLSC?
I don’t think anything has changed. I’m doing something different. I’m expressing myself through different mediums and utilizing my hands in a different way. As opposed to being on the computer doing graphics work, I’m actually painting with my hands. If you look at most of the graphics from CLSC to what I’m doing now, you can see the similarities in the bold lines and cartoonish style. For me personally, nothing has changed. I’m simply creating in a different way.

How important is social media for artists these days?

“Everyone just has their own way of moving and making it work. For me, I stay driven because making things is addictive. It’s like a drug.”

I think it’s both a gift and a curse. It depends on how you use it actually. Some people utilize it as a tool, which is the smart way. Some people just use it to waste some time. I’m very transparent where it comes to what I show on social media. I don’t put up unnecessary things. I use it to try to inspire others to do what they want even if it’s going to be difficult. I have to show people the real side, such as a post of myself sweating while painting a car. I think a lot of influencers only show their Rolexes and Ferraris but they don’t show how they got there. I think it’s important to let people understand that things do take time and work. I always believe that in doing that, I’m successfully inspiring a decent amount of people every single time.

Apart from your art, what else are you passionate about? How do you make it all work, giving time to everything that matters to you?
Being a dad and a husband, making time for friends and family, creating and making things. I don’t really know how we make it work. There’s always so much going on but some people are just built differently. Everyone just has their own way of moving and making it work. For me, I stay driven because making things is addictive. It’s like a drug. For a long time, I’ve been making things but it never got the same reaction, which sucks. But now, I’m in a position where everything I post on social media will possibly get a positive reaction. It makes me want to do more and push myself to create things on a daily basis.

Joshua Vides
The Californian artist had only two days to complete his exhibition in time for Culture Cartel 2018
Culture Cartel 2018, Powered by Mercedes-Benz

Tell us what you’ve been up to so far and what plans you have for the future.
This year was very commercial as we’ve been working a lot with companies, brands, and people. I think next year is more about focusing on just myself and see what I can do with time on my side. A big part of what I learned from this year is that we always had to finish something in a short time-frame. But it’s good because it puts me in a position to create very fast, make quick decisions and think bigger than just painting a car, which helps with the business side. Taking the Mercedes Benz we did at Culture Cartel as an example – imagine if I had a month to do that instead of the two days we had when we got here. That’s what I’m hoping to find out next year. I feel like I might just go out, buy a car, paint it without telling anybody about it and see what the difference is. That’s going to help me learn more about my style for the long run. Even now, when I paint things where I had time to rest and think, I notice that I’m adding more lines and shading than I was before, which is interesting for me. So next year will be me hitting the brakes a little bit and allowing myself to think more in a sense of, “What else can I do?”, since I’ll have more time then.

What’s a piece of advice you would give to aspiring young creatives?
Firstly, don’t compare yourself with other people – which is difficult too because I do the same thing. No matter what, comparisons are bound to happen. I look at other artists such as Kaws and Banksy and I’m like, “I want to go get there! How did they do it?”. That mentality is going to exist regardless but you have to be able to stop yourself sooner or later instead of beating yourself up and thinking that you suck because that’s going to influence your creativity and work ethic. You have to focus on yourself, your goals and things will eventually align. 

What’s the one thing you love about street culture?
I love how big it’s gotten. When I was introduced to streetwear, The Hundreds was huge and what happened with Diamond Supply Co. hadn’t even happened yet. Then Diamond happened, HUF came around with the weed socks and SURR did “COMME des FUCKDOWN”. Afterward, it was like this massive recognition of streetwear and I love that. Virgil Abloh went from printing PYREX on Champion shorts to becoming the menswear creative director at Louis Vuitton. His brand Off-White is number two in luxury, which is crazy and he did that all within five years. That’s what I love about it. There’s something happening every day.

What do you hate about it?
What I hate about it is that it’s so competitive and I have so many homies that are in the game and really fucking good too. Actually, I don’t think there’s anything I hate about it. It’s simply how you just love to hate competition. Things are changing now and I think the whole thing about luxury brands getting into streetwear is inevitable because we’ve been doing it for so long. I feel like someone finally flipped the switch where it comes to streetwear and luxury. And I think it’s probably Virgil.

Keep up with Joshua Vides – @joshuavides.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Read more: Pioneering Singapore’s custom sneaker scene: 10 questions with Mark Ong SBTG