Lemonade Magazine: For those who aren’t aware of you or your art could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what you do?
WRDBNR: My name’s Peter, I go by the name of Kowalski, and I’m a self-taught typo/calligrapher of Polish descent. In 2009, out of complete boredom, I launched a blog on tumblr.com, which was a new, relatively unknown platform at the time. It was a blog with quotes, lyrics, inspiration, and such. I called it wordboner.com – the name just popped into my head. To my surprise, I almost immediately received a very positive response, so I focused on that. And then somebody suggested opening a store, so I did. Soon, I was working closely with the amazing people at Spreadshirt, the ball kept rolling, and it continues to roll to this very day.
LM: Can you tell us a little about your artistic background?
WRDBNR: I have no artistic education whatsoever, and I suppose that shows every now and then. I never took courses, I’m self-taught. I started off with simple instruments, then switched to Corel, then Photoshop, which, I remember scared me at first. When I opened it the first time, I thought, Well, what the hell am I supposed to do with it? And I came running to Corel, which was safe and easy to use. It took some time to know my way around it – true to the kaizen philosophy, I took little steps.
LM: Who or what inspired you to start creating art?
WRDBNR: That was an impulse, it was never a plan, there was no grand, one-and-only inspiration, either. I didn’t wake up one day and decided to start this project. It all happened by chance. It’s just happened… which, I believe, is how the best things happen. They just do, without any planning, or interference. That’s how you know they’re meant to be.
I am inspired now, though and the person that inspires me the most in probably Banksy, mostly with his straight-on, bullshit-free approach to life. He just does what he wants, he has his brilliant ideas and he’s not afraid to tell the world what he thinks, and by accident, it’s usually what the rest of the world thinks, too. That’s always the most inspiring in artists – not so much the technique, but what’s behind it all.
LM: How would you describe your art?
WRDBNR: If I had to describe it somehow, I’d say, typersonality. Typography with personality. With paint. Typaintography. But I wouldn’t call it art, or myself an artist, for that matter. Those are big words, and we should be careful when using them, because they’re on the verge of losing their grand meanings. Usually I call the things I do simply “pieces” or “creations” and myself “a creator” and those terms will suffice for now.
LM: Why do you do what you do?
WRDBNR: I think too much. I have so many thoughts, sometimes they won’t let me be until I make them a reality. Yes, I am aware how mental that sounds, but it’s true, it’s how it is, I can’t change that. I think we all have that in us, some only feel it stronger than others. And yes, it can get exhausting. People don’t know, but I do what I do mostly because I have personal reasons to do it. The quotes usually reflect what’s going on in my life, sometimes others, people close to me, but usually myself. They’re reactions to what happens in my life, sometimes hopeful notes. All very personal.
LM: How do you start off a new project? Do you always start from the same point or do you try to work more organically?
WRDBNR: I try not to over-think the process, but since I use internet as a main tool of spreading my creations, there needs to be some planning involved. What usually happens is that I have a thought (the good ones come to me when I’m not trying too hard, like when I vacuum, or while taking a shower), I write it down, and depending on how good I feel it is, I start working on it immediately, or put it aside and come back when it feels right. I learned that you can’t rush things too much. Some quotes have spent months in my drawer, I don’t think about them then, but they’re never really forgotten. Sometimes, I return to the pieces already created, sometimes from a couple of years back, and I redo them. That’s how I’m sure they stay alive.
LM: Tell us about your favourite piece of work that you have created to date and why it is so special to you?
WRDBNR: I think that would be “A change may be right around the corner”, mostly because there was so little thinking involved: I printed the sticker, went to my garden, put it up, took a photo, embedded a watermark and put it up on the blog and got such positive response. It just happened, I don’t think there was a single thought in my head during the whole process. Another thing that just happened, almost as if by itself.
LM: What’s the craziest idea you’ve either been proposed or come up with?
WRDBNR: Still in front of me, I’m afraid.
LM: Who are your favourite artists, past or present?
WRDBNR: Apart for the Banksy, I love the work of William Turner, Fangor, I love Anatol Knotek, he’s straight to the point and minimal, but powerful… Warhol, obviously, for his intelligent use of colors, JK Keller, I enjoy Cachetejack studio tremendously, they’re fun and authentic, they have a zest for life, and it shows through their works. I love Woody Allen, I appreciate his intelligent approach to human relationships. Thomas Albdorf is genius with his photography. There are so many of them, big and small, known and unknown. Inspiration is everywhere, truly.
LM: What is your favourite piece of work created by another artist and why?
WRDBNR: I don’t think there’s just one…that changes, too. A favorite piece today may mean nothing tomorrow. Nothing lasts forever. You can’t limit yourself to just one piece, one artist, one song, one something. You’ve got to have hundreds.
LM: Do you have a particular material, brand or technique that you swear by?
WRDBNR: When I started, I was infatuated with gradients and colors. I then switched to paper, cutting it, tearing it up, destroying it to create something, and very few things convey a message as well as a destroyed piece of paper can. Now I’m into painting, mostly because paint looks great on tees. I’m like to mix traditional techniques with the newer ones. I usually start “in real life” with a sketch, paint, or print, and I finish on my computer, I transform it digitally, play around. I generally stick to black and white more often than not, but when I go too far with it, I use color to break through.
LM: What do you think is in store during the next twelve months for design? How has the recent recession affected you?
WRDBNR: It didn’t. It certainly would, if I ever did what I do only for the money. I never did. WRDBNR is not a company, never has been and never will be. I can support myself, and that’s luxury for all creatives, especially the beginners, which I still consider myself to be – and that hasn’t really changed. There are always downfalls, just as there are always big sales. It’s always been like that. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get filthy rich off WRDBNR, and that’s alright, since that was never my intention nor my plan. I do think good ideas are recession-proof, at the same time being the cure for it.
LM: What’s the single most important thing you want to tell young designers just starting out?
WRDBNR: Have very little to no expectations. It may take months, even years, or not at all, before anything starts for you. Know when to listen to others, and when to yourself. Practice, create, everyday, get it out of you. Do your own thing. And don’t expect everyone to love what you do. You’re showing the world something they will judge, sometimes unreasonably, just for the sake of it. It’s human nature. Don’t get discouraged. A wise thing would be doing something different. Don’t lose focus. Don’t be afraid. Don’t do this for the money and don’t try to please everyone.
I can’t tell you how many people ask me to judge what they do, ask me if they have a shot at what they’re doing. I’m always flattered, and happy, even more so since I’ve witnessed some real talent over the years.
LM: What’s integral to the work of an artist?
WRDBNR: Staying true to yourself, and first and foremost – having a soul to stay true to.
LM: What role does the artist have in society?
WRDBNR: To show people something that they wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. Make the world more beautiful, especially in times of despair and darkness. Most of all… Inspire. I see art as a living organism. Something I create may have been inspired by somebody else’s work, and my creation may inspire somebody else, and so on. There’s a spark that’s being passed on.
LM: What do you dislike about the art world?
WRDBNR: People that call themselves „artists” with no real reason to do it. It’s true, on one hand, anything could be called art, I suppose. And who am I to call something art, or not? Alright, I don’t mean to sound condescending, but we have to agree that such thing exists: everyone with a camera is suddenly a photographer, everyone with Photoshop is suddenly a graphic artist. And I don’t think that’s how it works. There’s so much „art” in the world, the word slowly loses its meaning. And then there are those who do have the rights to call themselves artists, but often use it as a right to look down on everybody else… in both cases, what’s missing, is a bit of humility.
LM: If you had to up sticks and leave the country where would you choose and why?
WRDBNR: NYC, Barcelona or Paris. I love those places, and I feel at home there. You see, I get bored easily. I like to change locations every now and then, start again. I think most people are terrified of starting again, I love it. I don’t like to play safe. Life truly does begin at the end of your comfort zone.
LM: Tell us about a typical day in the life of WRDBNR.
WRDBNR: I get up (winter time, I sleep for considerably longer periods of time, I hate it, but it’s stronger than me), I check my e-mails, have coffee. Every day is different, I stray away from routine.
LM: Who controls the stereo and what’s usually playing in the studio?
WRDBNR: When I’m working – anything that’s loud. I consider myself to have an eclectic taste depending on the mood, so sometimes it’s The White Stripes, sometimes The Prodigy, I spent the past year listening to Alt-J, I’m currently into Rangleklods. So everything’s that loud, electronic or rock will do great. And of course, I control the stereo. Not anybody else and certainly not the neighbors. When I cook, however, I love something more quiet, like jazz.
LM: What can we expect from you in the future and is there anywhere you would like your work to take?
WRDBNR: I don’t think much of the future. I consider planning the future and sleeping a complete waste of time… I’d love to grow as a creator, perhaps open a studio with tees on demand, limited runs, people would come in, drink tee, wine, select a design, the material, color, size, and the tee would be created in front of them. That would be perfect.