Will paint for … money

Joshua Silveira

Photo By Josh Fernandez

Joshua Silveira’s talent led him down a road full of interesting scenery. His résumé—diverse, peppered with high-profile projects—grew from his ability to blend the imaginative, DIY aesthetic of street art with the controlled lines and attention to detail of fine art. His portfolio includes an illustration of the Oakland rapper E-40 for the cover of Synthesis magazine, background skins for Microsoft Windows Live, a full press kit for the underground hip-hop artist Planet Asia, and recently he painted the bold graphics on the Globe Mills building (a mixed-income loft project on 12th and C streets). So why is this busy, ultratalented Sacramento artist still struggling? And why isn’t he bitter yet?

You’re like the epitome of a poor-ass, starving artist.

Pretty much. One thing that’s funny, though, is that I’ve done hella shit. I’ve done stuff with famous rappers. I’ve done big logos on the side of buildings. I have stuff on DVD. I’m on documentaries, and I’ve been in books. You hear that kind of résumé, and you think [I’d be] making all kinds of money. Dude … I don’t make any money. And I’m far from feeling like I’m “making it.”

Weren’t you in the Circus Show recently?

Yeah, it was great. Gale Hart’s been wonderful. She’s the one that actually introduced me to [developer] Skip Rosenbloom for the Globe Mills project. She’s been real cool.

Have you ever looked at artists who’ve made it big and been like, “I’m better than that"?

I think every artist has thought that at some point. The one thing I’ve learned over the last few years is you really have to do your art for yourself. If you’re doing it for any other reason, then you’re never going to reach where you’re trying to go. A lot of people out there have no talent, but they have all the business sense in the world … and there are artists who are amazing and don’t have any kind of business sense or representation, and they sit there and the artwork never reaches anybody.

“Indentured Tusk” by Joshua Silveira; pencil, watercolor and gouache on wood; Verge Gallery.

That’s how it is with writers, too. I have no business sense and I burn all my bridges.

That’s like that [Synthesis] magazine cover. They say, “Hey, I really want you to do this,” and you do it. But not only do they not pay you what you’re worth, they’re also like, “Hey, can you change this?” If you want to change it, then why don’t you do it? Things like that are kind of what left me with a bitter aftertaste for commercial work.

So are you comfortable with the term “urban artist” to describe your path?

No. I’m actually really trying to shy away from that now. I kind of grew up in that whole scene, and I really didn’t do a whole lot of it. But the style I kind of developed or got involved with, well, you could say was urban. I kind of want to get away from all that: urban art, commercial art. … I just want to work on fine art.

Do you think art trends are weird? Like all the characters with white eyes and paint drips?

I remember when it first started getting big. Every commercial had graffiti letters or a hip-hop theme. Now it’s so overdone. I never thought I would grow out of the whole hip-hop, graffiti, stencil thing. I knew I would evolve and change, but I never thought it would get to the point where I would be like, “I don’t ever want to do another character like that again.”

So you’re trying to focus on fine art now? What’s going on with the models and all that?

The main stuff I’m working on is with watercolor and wash. It’s like an overall vision. I have some ideas and I wanted to do sculptures, watercolors and some other mixed-media projects all based on the same thing.

What’s the theme?

I used to try to write journals and shit, but I just wasn’t good at it. I couldn’t write what I was thinking. But one day I was sitting down looking at my drawings, and I realized [they] were like diary entries. It kind of evolved into this idea of telling my history through the girls I paint.

So when are you going to show this new stuff?

I’m shooting for next fall.

To view some of Joshua Silveira’s work, or just to check in on the guy, visit www.joshuasilveira.com.