Ryan “Motel” Campbell is asked how he’d categorize his art.
He pauses to contemplate. “I’d say that my work is … contemporary, fluid motion, cubist, urban, contemporary.”
He laughs. “That’s the short version,” he adds.
The description (aside from the two mentions of “contemporary,” perhaps) actually fits Campbell’s works nicely—as everyone can see at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16, when Campbell will paint a 10-foot-by-5-foot mural live, as part of the Coachella Valley Independent’s Official Launch Party.
The Independent is celebrating our one-year anniversary online, as well as the launch of our monthly edition, with free drinks from 6 to 8 p.m.; a DJ set by All Night Shoes; and the live creation of the mural on canvas, which will later be donated to the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, for the organization’s silent auction at the Center Stage event.
Campbell, 32, is an accomplished artist whose works and installations have been featured in galleries far and wide. (See just a small sampling of his works at www.ryanmotelcampbell.com/index.html.)
Ryan “Motel” Campbell—the nickname came to be, he says, because friends used to regularly stay at his house, aka the “Motel Campbell”—teaches regularly at Venus Studios, which is co-sponsoring the launch party; the good folks there are donating the canvas on which Campbell will paint, as well as other materials.
He says he often came to the desert while he was growing up in Los Angeles, and he credits the Coachella Valley for giving him inspiration.
“I really love the desert—something about the energy, something about just being here, I connected with immediately,” he says. “I would come here from Los Angeles and feel just completely disconnected, which is great.”
As a kid in L.A., Campbell fell in love with graffiti.
“I went and wrote on every mailbox and every sidewalk, and I’m not proud of it,” he says. “… I knew better. I had a very nice upbringing. My family taught me to always be respectful. But I needed to have my voice heard.”
In 2001, he decided to move to the Coachella Valley; his mom already lived in here, in Palm Desert.
“I had the opportunity to move here and jumped all over it,” he says. “I moved here—and found myself totally bored out of my mind.
“Oddly enough, in the bag of things that I brought with me—my worldly possessions—I had my sketchbook. So I broke out my sketchbook, and I just started drawing. I started looking at a lot of the graffiti I was doing and saw the monotony in it. I saw that I wasn’t really progressing. … I felt like I needed to push myself.”
Campbell started visiting local museums and galleries; those visits led to what he called a “wave of inspiration.”
“I said, ‘You know, I want to do something different. I want to try to really take the fundamentals of this graffiti art … and put it into creating something that’s more fine art’—art that spoke to me, that I was able to connect with and identify with and really enjoy.”
The melding of influences has led to Campbell’s “contemporary, fluid motion, cubist, urban, contemporary” style.
“It’s very inspired,” Campbell says about his art. “It’s inspired by movement. It’s inspired by motion, a lot of fluidity. I think that depicted where I was and where I am in life. I like to cruise through. I don’t want to fight too much.”
Today, in a way, Campbell has come full-circle: He often teaches alternative-education classes to kids with whom he can closely relate.
“I was basically going in to teach (kids who were just like) myself when I was in high school,” he says. “I was going in to teach kids who were rebellious and angry and wanted to do vandalism and go out and make a name for themselves.”
He says some kids even recognized him and his works from his graffiti days.
“The question (from the kids) was always like, ‘How come you don’t go out any more?’ he says. “For me, the necessity and the outlet have changed over time.”
Today, he says, kids have more outlets than he did when he was young. He cites skate parks as an example, as well as some of the efforts that forward-thinking arts organizations like Venus Studios are making.
“Kids want to go out and paint. They want to go out and write their name,” he says. “They want people to go out and see the work that they’re making. What I’ve been able to do with Venus Studios is we have Spray Paint Session Saturdays, where we invite people to come in and bring their spray paint. We give them a large-size canvas to paint on, to display their work in a venue where they’re not harming anybody, and they’re not getting into any trouble. They have an audience that’s interested in what they have to say, in a place where they can show their work.”
When asked what attendees at the Independent Launch Party can expect while Campbell spends four to six hours creating a brand-new work of art, he says that he often draws inspiration from the audience when he produces live works.
So come and help create Campbell create a contemporary, fluid-motion, cubist, urban, contemporary piece of art—for a good cause to boot.
Ryan “Motel” Campbell will paint starting at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Coachella Valley Independent’s Official Launch Party. The event takes place at Clinic Bar and Lounge, 188 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. A hosted bar will be open from 6 to 8 p.m., and All Night Shoes will spin music all night. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-904-4208. Below: “Reclining Nude” (from life study), 48 by 36 inches; acrylic, spray paint and charcoal on wood. Above: “Sorting It All Out,” 24 by 24 inches; acrylic, spray paint and charcoal on wood.