Any Different Stroke with Artist Ty Williams

A little sit down with Ty on his influences, mediums and the safe places art creates

Ty Williams has got a signature design aesthetic, that’s certain. But his medium of choice is less distinct because as a mixed-media artist, he dabbles in quite a few expressive avenues. Ty also happens to be one of our featured artists for our pop-up with K-SWISS down in the hot hot heat of Miami—so we thought it a good opportunity to order a mojito and ask him a few questions we had on what inspires him and how he goes about creating so many nice pieces for the world to enjoy.

If your visual style was a musician or a band, who would it be?

I feel like my musical band parallel for my work would be a blend of roots reggae and jazz. Maybe some Gregory Isaacs with Dorothy Ashby?

A headshot of Artist, Ty Williams - a white bearded man dressed in a white collared shirt and also wearing a blue cap looks into the camera.

How do your patterns come into your brain? Is there a particular inspiration you draw from?

The patterns really have become more like “writings”—it’s all free-form at this point. I love simple tropical suggestive shapes—they have almost become like an alphabet for me over the years. I love testing them in different spots and using different variations.

What are all of the mediums in which you work right now? 

I dabble a lot with paint, I love drawing with ink and brush—and always have been fond of collage. Different conditions call for different approaches (Kind of like surfing and different surfboards for different waves).

Is there anything, in particular, you’ve seen abroad that you think has influenced your style?

I have spent a lot of time in Japan and that certainly has impacted my aesthetic. I adore simple clean brushstrokes and minimal elements. Of course, surf trips in places like Bali and Sri Lanka show up in my work as well in my patterns. Trips to the Mediterranean show up in my work as the complex dinner scenes—I suppose travel is the greatest influence.

The trip profoundly affected me and showed me how something seemingly trivial like “drawing” can help connect people and heal them.

What’s one medium you’re looking to dive even deeper into or that you wish you had more time to spend with?

I’d love to play more with printmaking, I struggle with the patience for all the steps and that’s the main reason I don’t do it. I love how I can hop right into a piece with paint or ink drawing rather than carving away at something for a print—however the end result with printmaking is so special—block prints, etc are some of my favorites to see in museums and galleries.

Simplistic surfboard painted by artist Ty Williams
Modern line drawing by artist Ty Williams

Are you the kind of artist that has an idea and immediately gets the whole thing out in one go?

I try and hammer out a piece relatively quickly. I usually have an idea of some sort and then fixate on it until it’s finished. I can’t do long-term romances with my work. I am a pretty anxious person so making work is a calming practice for me (but I still even tend to go for a steady pace).

When did you start to uncover your artistic talent?

I have been making scribbles and drawings since I was a very small human—but it wasn’t until college that I sold a design to a brand and that made me consider it more as a tangible career path. I am still learning and uncovering what the hell I’m doing—I’m not a young person anymore, but it feels really good.

I adore simple clean brushstrokes and minimal elements.

What project to date has held the most meaning for you?

In 2012 I went to Japan after the tsunami disaster and visited Fukushima, through the gallery I worked with. I visited children who had lost their families in the disaster and spent a day drawing with them and sharing time—the trip profoundly affected me and showed me how something seemingly trivial like “drawing” can help connect people and heal them. Even when our languages are so different.

Artist Ty Williams under umbrellas by the water
blue and white swimming pool painted by artist Ty Williams

How does it feel getting to work with brands like Patagonia and Huckberry? And what are your criteria for the brands you choose to work with?

I have always been fortunate with the brands that request to work with me—I feel like it’s some sort of  “self-editing” and vibe screening. Of course, some are better than others. Patagonia has always been tremendous and I love making things for “thoughtful brands.” Huckberry has also always been supportive—it really happens organically. I feel like good people tend to attract genuine good people.