Sam Flores combines graffiti, fine art and a bit of pop culture to create curious images that could be interpreted as the dreams of a drunken Japanese girl. As a prominent figure in a new wave of contemporary artists, Flores displays a certain elegance and fluidity in his work—it’s urban, yet nature-centric, imaginative, but respectful of tradition. SN&R caught up with the artist as he was in the process of vandalizing the wall of the Upper Playground building.
What do you do before you start on a blank wall?
Well, I have a sketch on this one, but most of the time I kind of just improvise. This building is owned by a couple different people, so they all had to come see the sketch. I think they saw the last show and all these crazy demons. Just to make sure there’s not a devil baby on the side of their house.
Do you feel blessed to be able to do art all the time?
What do they say … If you do what you love you never work a day in your life? I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid; I always knew I was going to do something with art but getting to travel around the world—to be able to live off it—is a blessing. I couldn’t be any happier.
What places have you traveled to?
I’ve been to Japan a few times. There’s a big spot in Taipei that I painted; I was just in Denver for the Democratic convention for [Sen. Barack] Obama with [Frank] Shepard Fairey and all that.
How did you hook up with Upper Playground?
They’ve been around for a good 10 years, and I started working with them a year into it. They started in [San Francisco]. I met them and we started doing more stuff, more products and more work. I started my line of clothes about three years ago [12 Grain], and they do all the distribution and production. It’s helped me get all over the world and get my stuff out there.
Why did you pick this painting to do?
I don’t know. It just kind of came out.
So did you think, “OK, I want to paint a girl sitting down blowing bubbles, but instead of bubbles they’re birds"?
There wasn’t even that much thought! I started drawing and it just happened like that.