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WADE
HAMPTON

Artist  / Graphic Designer / Filmmaker

 

Wade Hampton wields a repertoire of disciplines. Creatively indulging in a cast of playfully macabre characters, he's recently produced over 115 drawings and 16 paintings for his upcoming art show - "Wade Hate's Holiday Home Art Show of Love II"
 
Imaginative, focused, and charming.
Wade's renaissance is range.

December 4th, 2015
Interview and Photography by:
Kevin Wildt

Introduce yourself and what you do professionally.
I'm Wade Hampton. I have a day time job as graphic desiginer/art director at Spectrum Promotional—then painting, filmmaking, and other things too, but painting actually gives me a pretty good chunk of change every year. Between the two I do ok.

Why do you work in so many different artistic mediums?
It's half joking but I used to have as my occupation on Facebook "Renaissance Man," not because that was an ego, it's just my thing. Since I was a kid. If someone tells me something creative, I go, "Oh, I want to try that." That's where my brain goes. I want to dabble in everything. I have a bucket list of artistic things—I've done a chunk of them but there are still a few things I still would like to do. Hopefully I'll live another 30 years to do them.

Years ago a guy told me of an artist quoted saying "An artist isn't worth a shit until he hits his 40's." I was in my 20's when I heard that and I thought "Bullshit." Now that I'm in my 40's, I still don't think it's true, but I do think there's something that happens if you've been working. You hit midlife and look back and really question "What am I doing, why am I doing, and what do I want out of it?"

It's all a journey. This is the 5th time I've done this kind of art show and the first two times I called them "Art from the gut." The whole point was to just put out a ton of work. Hopefully sell it affordably. When I do that much work, I discover a lot as an artist. Especially with the drawings. If it's terrible in your opinion, you don't question it, you just move on to the next one. Somebody might come up to you and say "I love this piece and this is why..." and you go "Ohhh..." If you're only doing one painting you can break it down, psychoanalyze it. All the mediums are that way for me. The most boring thing in the world for me as an artist is to do one medium. Being an artist is a creative approach to life in general. Wanting to explore every single option and be as good at it as you can. To hope I die when I'm 80 or 85 and go "Oh, I did some good art." Instead of "Jesus Christ I made a lot of crap."

 
 

"You hit midlife and look back and really question, what am I doing, why am I doing, and what do I want out of it?"

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"Molly stopped giving as shit back in 1989" - One of Wade's 115 drawings available at "Wade Hate's Holiday Home Art Show of Love II"

 

Can you recall a memory involving art as a child?
What is it Picasso said? "Everybody is born an artist, the trick is to stay one." It's kind of that thing, because society will tell your you're shit and you'll stop making art. That happens. My favorite story of that very thing was in the First Grade. We had a substitute teacher and we were supposed to draw your family or something outside. I was drawing birds in the sky and I actually drew the birds, heads, arms, wings, legs… she came up erased them and said "That's not how you draw birds." Then she drew V's. I remember even at 6 years old thinking "That's bullshit, I fucking drew a bird, what's this V shit?" That was my introduction to society crushing the artist out of you. I always look back on that moment and think that was the pivotal point. Up until 5 almost everything you do is "Beautiful." They stick it up on the fridge, they don't question it. This was the first time I had an adult tell me "That's wrong, you're making bad art, let me show you good art." She didn't know a fucking thing about art.

Were there any other defining moments in your development as a young artist?
Growing up I was "The Artist" at Clearwater. There was one girl that could draw horses really well but that was it. I could draw everything—it seemed. I was convinced I was pretty damn fantastic. I had this really good kick in the balls when I graduated High School. My Dad had been retired from the Eagle for years and I remember him saying "Go over there and find out if you can't get a job in graphics." I went to this art director and he had all of this art on his wall, it was pretty good. He's glancing at my portfolio and he looks up at me and goes "So are you The Artist at Clearwater?" I just remember he shit all over me. I said "I guess". He said "You need to go to WSU, you have a lot to learn." I remember distinctively as a adult recalling some of the pieces on his wall at the point where I had surpassed him. I don't mean surpassed him, but I thought "I can do this shit he had on his wall." It was years and years later but... he was right. He was kind of crass about it, but it was a wake up call. I had fundamentals, but I had a long way to go before I should be walking around telling anyone I knew anything about art.

My mom, God rest her soul, told me in my 20's once, "You know what? You're actually pretty good." I go "Huh?" She said "Growing up I thought you were pretty terrible and I never wanted to crush you." My mom, she called it like she saw it. I go "What do you mean?" She said "I dunno, I remember you doing bodies and elbows were always too skinny." She was right, she goes "I didn't want to be that nitpicking mom, but I remember thinking… oh this poor boy will never make a living as an artist." Thank god, she would have crushed me.

 
 

"I remember even at six years old thinking... That's bullshit, I fucking drew a bird, what's this V shit?"

 
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Wade drawing at his upstairs desk. 
 

 

What did your parent's think of your artistic style?
My mom, who I wouldn't say is the most perceptive person art wise, came up to me at one of my shows—when I was getting blobby-er and splatty-er and said "Well, the family has talked and we all agree you're getting worse." I said "That's funny because most of my artist friends are saying I'm getting better." She goes "Oh I know, it's probably like jazz where it gets squawky and squeaky and everybody thinks it sounds like crap, but all the other jazz musicians say "You're really on to something." I thought "Holy shit, she's exactly right." That blew my mind. It didn't mean she still didn't think my stuff was crap, but I didn't take it personally. As my friend Greg Turner said "If you could look in the future at your art, you'd say to yourself... "Did I have a stroke at one point?"

It's all expressive. It's cathartic. This sounds awful but it's a very important thing for me. When my parent's past away it freed me as an artist. The only two people I was ever concerned about disappointing where my folks. My mom would be like "What are you doing? Why Wade Hate?" It used to bother her. When I explained it she got over it, but I always thought "I don't want to make my Mom upset." My Dad, I don't think it effected him. But when my Mom started getting Alzheimer's and didn't know who I was or what I was artistically, there was a part of me going "Well you're free now." As long as I'm cool with what I'm saying or if I'm dropping the F bomb or whatever, I don't give two shits what anybody else thinks. If I know I'm not doing any wrong. If somebody is offended then, that's you. Artistically I find myself now—because my Mom just passed away, I feel a bit like I'm in the second big act of my life. In 2016 I want to focus on film, not painting or drawing. I want to push some stuff. My Aunt Dottie doesn't care, I just tell her "Oh it's just weird stuff." She says "Ok! It's time to go to dinner." My brothers and sisters, they'll live. They know their brother is odd and into weird stuff. I think you're always a kid when your parents are alive. If you had a good relationship with them as I did, you're conscious of that. You're still their son and they don't want to be embarrassed by some dumb thing you did. That's been a new kind of revelation for me. If I did something horrible or someone thought I did a racial slur or something—something came off wrong, I'd be mortified, because that's not my intention. But if I did something I stand behind... you know, you don't have to be friends with me.

 
 

"I think you're always a kid when your parents are alive. If you had a good relationship with them as I did, you're conscious of that."

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"Nothing is Sacred" peeks through layers of paint on Wade's studio easel.

 

 

Tell us about your education and art background.
Let me go on record stating I did not graduate from Wichita State. I dropped out as a Junior because I was done with all my art classes. There was a time where I said "Everything I ever had came from WSU" and I meant that. So much of my life came from connections I had made through college life. It forced me to be integrated with so many diverse people I probably wouldn't have normally.

What's weird about my story is I was making art from about 18-25, but not really. I went to graphic design school. I followed graphic designers, I didn't follow painters. Somebody I knew at WSU had a friend who had started this little t-shirt company called The Resort. They literally just needed artists to freelance designs because they were opening a shop at Towne East Mall—which they had for a number of years. I started doing their art and it got to a point where they offered me a full time job as their only designer. The company grew and grew and in it's heyday was a good job. It's still technically what I do today. I do the same kind of work. The guy who started The Resort actually works with me at Spectrum. Like I said everything in my life somehow came through a connection to WSU. 

Was it a hard decision to leave WSU and start working full time?
It was easy. When The Resort offered me full time I was like "See ya!" That's just how my brain worked. I wanted to make art. I had an art job, but then that was my only artistic outlet, designing shirts. Which wasn't fulfilling as an artist. One of my roommates showed me a book about Robert Longo and I wanna say James Rosenquist and I was like "What's this?" I thought I missed the boat. It's laughable that at 23 or 24 I thought I was done. I hadn't been making art. It wasn't until I took a painting class from Brian Hinkle with my friend Scott Steele. Brian was great because he was not only a good teacher, but he got to a point with the class where he would say "Paint whatever you want." That blew my mind. So I started painting and that's when it evolved into me knowing some people and starting the Famous Dead Artists. Which was a few years after the Fisch Haus started. I always give credit, Fisch Haus started it all, Famous Dead Artists just came up right behind it. I was proud of our group, I thought we did a lot of good things, but the bottom line was 18-25 I didn't do shit.

 
 

"So much of my life came from connections I had made through college life. It forced me to be integrated with so many diverse people I probably wouldn't have normally."

 

Eyes gaze as Wade continues painting. 

 

Elaborate more on the Famous Dead Artists collective.
The Fisch Haus made Scott and I want to do a show and my brother knew a guy that owned a little furniture gallery called Keene by Design. Which was right down the street from Planet Hair. He said "Bring your paintings in I'll put them on the wall." I told Scott and then I told Marc Bosworth, his roommate was Brad Hart who's girlfriend was Pam Terry, I was dating Jennifer Wallace and Jenny's sister Leigh Wallace was getting her master degree and it just happened. I just kept telling people and we filled it up. He said "We should give this gallery a name." So we called it Famous Dead Artists. He shut Keene by Design down, so we started showing around town. That was an exciting time because you realized how big of an impact you could make. Other than the Fisch Haus there weren't many people showing. You realized this isn't that difficult. Find a room, put some things on a wall, put some clip lights up, some chips out, and you've got a show. I was so excited because I was an artist. I still wouldn't say it though, I went through a weird phase. I asked Marc "Do you have a problem telling someone you're an artist?" He was like "No... it's who you are, what's the big deal?" But to me I felt like I hadn't earned it. "I'm not an artist, I'm practicing art."

We started Final Friday with Evo Gallery, which didn't take off for I think 10 years. I look back and it was easy. We just had fun and had shows—we had big shows, big crowds sometime, shockingly so. That's why I always say "The city will support you." They just have to know what you're doing and they have to be excited. It's up to you to get people excited. Pre-internet and Facebook you were writing out everyone of those godamn postcards and sticking a stamp on there and putting a thousands post cards in the mail. You had to bust ass through posters and postcards and word of mouth for people to even know. People used to bag on the Eagle, but if you got to them they're pretty good about posting your information. The thing is now, my last home show was very sucessful, most of that is Facebook. To be able to just go "ding" is so amazing. I think one year we had made the postcards too small and we had to redo them all, it was a nightmare.

How had the Fisch Haus originally inspired you?
I remember my brother told me he went to this "Fish artist's show." He showed me the card which I didn't think was very good, because I was a graphic designer. Those guys are all talented don't get me wrong, but it was literally just a fish. They had already blown up enough that the first show I went to was at the Center of the Arts. I remember thinking "These guys suck." But they didn't, I just didn't understand it. I was of the school of more realistic and Kent Williams had a shoe ontop of one of his paintings. Looking back it was a great show, with great work, but at the time I was kind of like "WHAT!? These are the big artists?" Which is good. The healthy side of being an artist in a community is just trying to out-do each other and to not have the other people take it personally. Instead go "Motherfucker..." and want to come back and out-do that artist. I love people doing stuff that pisses me off, because then you want to push yourself. If you're just the kid from Clearwater that's making art and everyone is saying "You're amazing..." you need people to say "That sucks…" and you know it sucks and you push yourself.

 
 

"The city will support you. They just have to know what you're doing and they have to be excited. It's up to you to get people excited."

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Colored pencils waiting their turn.

 

 

These home shows are an ambitious amount of work, how do you meet deadlines and get the work done on time?
Last show, I literally drew two of the paper pieces the day of the opening, because I stick them in plastic and I tape them on the wall. Which is exciting because once it's all hung you can look and say "Oh, I was going to do…" and then go and draw it. I was at a point where I was doing two drawings a night. I think I have a hundred and fifteen currently. My drawing table is upstairs infront of the TV and I try to put on something mindless so I don't pay attention too much. With the paintings it's kind of the same thing. Charles Baughman builds all of my boxes and I'll buy eight 24x24's and three 30x40's, and two 48x48's and it's just a mental note of how much I have to do. I have an outline typed up of what has to be done and when it's due.

I work in bursts, I'm a very fast artist and I'd assume there is probably a big chunk of artists that look at my stuff and think "That guy's a hack." I wouldn't blame them because I'm knocking stuff out really fast. I've done some good stuff here and there and my goal ultimately and maybe in 2016 is to paint one or two paintings and really take my time and be able to say "This is absolutely the best I can do, if it sucks it sucks." Exciting things happen when you work fast. You suddenly throw paint on there and go "Oh, that's cool." I may have not done that if I had six months to work on it. I'm not belittling the process but if I set a goal I know I'm going to get it done. It may not be my favorite painting in the world, but I'm not going to show something I don't stand behind. There are a couple of drawings that I know may not be great, but someone might like it. For $95 if they're happy and they take it home, great. Who am I to say "Don't tell anybody I did that, let me erase my name from that." Since I've done last year's show in this space I kind of know the breakdown of lighting it. Charles comes over and helps me hang everything, he's a lot more manly then I am. We walk through it. As far as studio time I know what I want to have done in certain amounts of time and I sit down there until I get it done. It may be 6 or 7 hours of me painting, other times it may be one hour and I go "That's all I need, it's wet and I'm going to leave it alone." That's what's fun about it this way, there are always drawings to do. I can always be making art. I don't have to wait for the drawings to dry. I have purposely done some dumb things that have been pretty fun for me. I'll grab a colored pencil and go crazy with a stroke, I'll look at it and make something out of it and go "Oh, that's kind of cool." It's the dumbest kind of approach but it's not the one piece people are going to see. If it's up on a wall, someone might go "Oh, that's a bizarre thing, I love it." As an artist I try to use this as a chance to push it.

 
 

"It may not be my favorite painting in the world, but I'm not going to show something I don't stand behind."

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60 single page typewriter pieces will also be available at "Wade Hate's Holiday Home Art Show of Love II"

 

Do you prefer showing in public home shows instead of galleries?
Oh, 100%. I am a big fan of Wichita, but there is not a big gallery scene in Wichita. To own a gallery, represent artists, support artists, nurture artists, it's not an easy thing to do and it's not a profitable thing to do. It has nothing to do with Wichita and it's not because I don't think people care. The few people that would say to someone like me "Hey we'd like to do a show", well first of all they're going to take a 30% commission. I don't want to pay that, it's not an ego thing, it's like "Can I do that without losing 30% of my sales? Yes I can." Only in Wichita, I move tomorrow to another city, no one is going to give two shits about me and they're surely not going to come to my house. It's been years and years of building this. To me it's like I would be a fool to do it any other way.

What benefits do galleries offer artists?
Commission is a big deal, I do this legitimately, US government, I pay taxes on all my art sales. So I'm already paying a percentage right off the top to the government. Then if you're paying 30-40% on top of that, you get to a point where you get done and you've only made a quarter of your sales back. It's ridiculous. Now if you're trying to get established, that's probably good math. There is a shit ton of people who have no clue who I am or about my art, I realize that. My crowd or my audience is very small, but it's been serving me well. I realize that. It's a strange thing to answer I don't want to insult anybody. I think anybody that is trying to have a gallery and represent artists—my heart goes out to them. I look at somebody like Kelly Moody that had Firehouse Gallery back in the day and he launched so many people's careers cause he would unselfishly go "Sure, you want a show…" If I was at a place financially I'd almost want to open a place like that. "I know I'm not going to make money, I just want to have people have that excitement of possibly having a show and people seeing their work." Galleries are still the greatest thing ever, I love going to a good gallery and seeing a good show BUT it doesn't serve me well at this point to do that.

I can admit it, I'm a control freak. I know how I want to represent myself. If I'm doing a show at home and you go "You know what? This is an amazing show." That's because of me. If you say "This show sucks." That's because of me. I can't blame anybody, but at least I have control over it. I learned after 20 years of doing this what works and what doesn't. I like to think my show is slightly sucessful because I know how stuff needs to be set up, how cashiers need to be set up, and how the flow needs to work. It blows my mind when you go to a show and you have no clue how to purchase art. "Who do I talk to? Do you take a credit card?" Most people go "Fuck it." They leave. That is such a disservice if you are actually trying to sell art. That's why when you come to my show there are signs everywhere explaining how easy it is for me to accept your money. I want people to feel like "I want to buy this... swoop, my card was swiped". Home shows, it's on you, it's exciting.

 

"I move tomorrow to another city, no one is going to give two shits about me and there surely not going to come to my house. It's been years and years of building this."

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Wade painting in his basement studio.

 

How did you decide to perminately put down roots in Wichita?
When I was in my early twenties I went through a phase of "I don't want people to know I'm from Wichita." The stuff that everybody goes through. Because of a few different incidents I remember finally being like "Oh... I think you can really do some pretty cool stuff here." I felt this movement happening and it was exciting and I realized you can get noticed in this town. Artistically you can make a difference. Time kept flying by but it didn't take long for me to realize "I think I'd like to stay here." From a very young age I made it my personal mission, as others have, to be verbal about how much I like Wichita and how much I think it's a good thing to want to stay in Wichita—to not feel this weird thing that so many young people do, "This town is dumb, I have to go where it's cool." I was talking to Adam Hartke and his wife the other day and I just barfed out... When people say "I want to move to Portland" or somewhere like that. I feel like it's when people buy beat up jeans at the store for $300, they're already done, you didn't wear the jeans and make them cool, you bought them already cool. You didn't earn that, you just walked into it, you can't claim it. I'm not against people moving to big cities, only when they move to them for that reason. Portland or wherever was cool and you had nothing to fucking do with it. I've done something in Wichita, as so many people have. Part of the reason Wichita's little community is cool is because I've tried to help build that. It's exciting to me, it's my baby, it's your baby, it's all of our baby. We're doing everything in our own power to continue to make it better and better.

How can Wichita change negative perceptions of the city?
10 years ago or so Wichita set up a task force, bringing in people from outside of the city. They tried to figure out why people and businesses were leaving Wichita. They came back and said "We figured out what's wrong with your city, your people are what's wrong with this city. Everybody we talk to, when we tell them where we're from they say "What are you doing here, why would you come to Wichita?" Your people's shitty impression of their own town is why nobody wants to be in Wichita." People need to be more confident about where they're from. Then people might be intrigued. People start to go "Oh, there's a killer scene, and cool shit's happening." Suddenly, "I'm kind of curious about Wichita."

I like the obscurity of things, I like this fucking weird ass band nobody likes, that's exciting. Wichita sometimes to me is that obscure band you like. Own it. Wear the shirt proudly. I'm into this kind of shit that some people bag on, I think it's fucking awesome. Especially with Kansas and Brownback and all that bullshit going on, you need to own your state more than ever. You can't let them have it. Don't let them take the image and what's good about Kansas away from you. You've got to own it more than ever and fight harder than ever to say "Kansas is a great place, Wichita is great place, I'm not going to let Brownback and all those douchebags destroy it." You've got to own it more now than ever. You've got to own it.

 

"From a very young age I made it my personal mission, as others have, to be verbal about how much I like Wichita and how much I think it's a good thing to want to stay in Wichita."

 

 

To see more of Wade's work please visit his website at WadeHamptonArt.com