A few weeks back we told you about Phil Lumbang, the LA-based street artist/assistant to Shepard Fairey who won us over with his cute, cuddly bear images. Then as luck would have it, a friend of a friend actually knows Phil, so we were able to send him a few questions over email about his work. Also: He offered to giveaway one of his sketches to Flavorpill readers. To enter for a chance to win, just leave a comment on this post with the name of your favorite pop culture bear. Good luck!
Flavorpill: It’s been a pretty strange year for street art. The election turned people like Shepard Fairey and Ron English into household names. Is that something that excites you as someone who is just breaking in to the scene? Or is that kind of “legitimacy” not important to you?
Phil Lumbang: Ha. When you say “legitimacy,” I think “street cred,” and I don’t believe in that. I do what I do because it’s fun. I’m a really easy going person so validation isn’t that important to me. It’s may seem kinda selfish, but the only one who I’m trying to impress is myself. If I don’t like what I’m doing then it’s not worth it.
FP: What is it about bears that you find so compelling?
PL: That’s a good question. Being born and raised in California, I guess it’s the flag. But honestly, I just started drawing one day and all I could draw were these lil cute bears. I thought to myself, “Why not run with it?” I have twin sister who’s not that much younger than me, so growing up we had a lot of stuffed animals in my house. Me and the family would always go up to Reno, and we would stay at Circus Circus. While my mom and dad would gamble, we’d be on the midway trading tickets for lil stuffed animals. Oh the memories…
FP: Do you have a favorite cartoon bear?
PL: Oh boy, all I watch are cartoons. I feel like that is the only form of entertainment with any dignity left. Anything Hanna-Barbera is on the top of my list. My favorite channels are Cartoon Network and Boomerang. I’m too much of a nerd for my own good, but I love it.
FP: I read that your bears were meant to be a commentary on race. Do you see race as a major theme in the work on the streets of LA? Is having pieces that deliver a message something that’s important to you?
PL: Most of the stuff I see out on the streets of LA tends to say “HEY YO! I’M BETTER, HARDER, MEANER THAN YOU, SO FUCK OFF!” and I don’t hate it, I just think it’s backwards thinking. We got enough of that. I just want something fresh and new to look at sometimes. My message is a message of happiness and understanding. I mean can’t we all just get along? I try to say that in every piece I paint.
FP: For someone who has never done a paste up or painted a mural, how would you describe the thrill of working on the streets?
PL: It’s just fun. I go out in the middle of the day on weekends, so the likelihood of me getting caught is slim. I just enjoy making people smile. It keeps me motivated when people drive by and honk or stop and ask questions.
FP: How have your friends and family reacted to your career choice? Did they see it coming all along?
PL: Well, of course my parents wanted me to be the typical a doctor or lawyer, but they found out early on that school wasn’t my strong point. I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember. It’s like the one thing I’m good at. I guess people saw it coming. Friends would tell me, “You’re going to make it.” I never really considered it. All I want to do is draw. If I make money in the process, great. Just don’t stick me in a cubicle. That wouldn’t be fun at all!