Artist Gary Baseman Collaborates with Dr Martens

Artist Gary Baseman Collaborates with Dr Martens

LA-based artist Gary Baseman teams up with UK-based brand Dr Martens on a limited-edition capsule collection of t-shirts and footwear

LA-based artist Gary Baseman teams up with UK-based brand Dr Martens on a limited-edition capsule collection of t-shirts and footwear

Text: Ian David Monroe

Art lover or not, chances are you are quite familiar with the work of Los-Angeles based artist Gary Baseman. The multimedia creator is well known for developing the Emmy award-winning television cartoon show Teacher’s Pet, designing magazine covers for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and for leading the design of the award-winning board game Cranium. That is all without mentioning his two dozen or so international solo exhibitions around the world.

Gary Baseman and Punk Toby

Baseman’s work often features his self-created creatures that, while playful in composition, explore complex psychological archetypes. A few of these characters recently appeared painted on and stitched into Coach’s S/S ’15 line. Following the collaboration with the American luxury label, Baseman is bringing his creatures to UK-based brand Dr. Martens, well known for their fashion-crowd-favorite footwear. The four-piece capsule collection sees old characters HotChaChaCha, and a reimagined Toby, dubbed punk Toby, to honor Dr. Martens’ rebellious roots.

Here, we dive deeper into the collaboration with the artist, and find out about wearable art, conceptualizing characters, and how punk is forever.

How did the collaboration with Dr. Martens come about? 

Dr. Marten's contacted me to collaborate with them to design shoes and t-shirts and they wanted Toby and Hotchachacha. Toby is the “Keeper of Your Secrets,” and Hotchachacha is a lil’ devil that steals angels’ halos. Toby can manifest into many different creatures like a spider, a butterfly, a snake, and even a flower. But for Dr. Martens, Toby needed to let his rebellious side out as a punk rocker. Hotchahchacha is a bit of a troublemaker.

What guidance or limitations did they give you? 

Originally, Dr. Marten's chose the classic Toby and Hotchachacha from paintings that I made over a decade ago. But because I like to challenge myself and I have such respect for the history of Dr Martens, I wanted to do something special, so I created Punk Toby. There weren't any real limitations except wanting the images to be smart and mischievous.

Did you approach a historically working class brand differently than a luxury one? 

It doesn't matter if a brand is working class versus luxury. I just wanted to create something special, playful, and smart, and something that my friends and I could wear. I've always emphasized that artistic voice is crucial, to be able to have your images and characters in any medium or any product, but still be true to yourself and your art. That's why I use the term "pervasive art" to describe my work. It's not about a style, but hanging onto your true artistic voice. For Dr. Martens, my aim was to capture the punk rock spirit of the brand.

How would you like consumers to consider the pieces? Are they wearable art? Collectible fashion?

It's both art and fashion. To me, there's much in fashion that is art. If there's no art in it, it's less noticeable, less meaningful, or less fun. I want the Dr. Martens items to be worn, for sure. I'd hate for people to treat them as precious. Wear your art. Live with it. Sure, it's collectible, but there's little need to wrap the things in plastic wrap and put them on shelves. Art looks better with age and looking like it’s lived a good life.

Artistically, how does creating for a clothing brand fulfill a need for expression?

Creating work for Dr. Marten's is an extension of my existing work. I don't see it as different, but as an essential part of what I do as an artist. There's more beyond expression that art does for an artist. For me, it's about exploration and challenge, and communication. How do we communicate? Not just in the normal way, but through what we wear and what we do and how we interact. Art is about self-expression. How we dress is self-expression. It’s important to make a statement.

How long does conceptualizing/finishing a new character take?

Toby has been around forever. I don't create characters; I just draw them.

Were there any specific references that inspired Punk Toby?

I grew up in Hollywood. I grew up during a time when punk rock was literally right in front of me on Melrose. I'd see guys with mohawks and leather pants walking next to Jews and their furry boxy hats. My mom worked at the famous Canter's Deli bakery, a place that's open 24 hours and where folks would go after rock shows. When I worked on Punk Toby, I thought about those days in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. It's kind of funny that none of this punk rock stuff is new.

Items from the limited-edition Gary Baseman x Dr Martens collaboration are available now here.

Credits: Images courtesy of Dr Martens

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