Since the 1970s, American punk rock music and culture has flourished in Southern California. By the end of the decade, bands like X, the Germs, Black Flag, the Zeros, the Weirdos, the Screamers and Bags, were at the forefront of the region’s punk scene. It is a scene that grew thanks to independent record labels, magazine, fanzines, local DJs, and the clubs that hosted these raucous live shows.
The spirit of community and collaboration that cultivated the movement inspired hundreds (if not thousands) of bands through the following decades and continues to gain recognition, with The New York Times publishing an article in November 2018 titled “The New Punks of Los Angeles” that explores how Latino teenagers are shaping the city’s new music scene. The 1990s were an especially important era in Los Angeles and the surrounding communities as bands like NOFX, Rancid, Blink-182, Bad Religion, Green Day, The Offspring, Pennywise, and Sublime dominated the charts and airwaves.
The artist and illustrator Bob Dob, whose paintings are featured in Outsource’s corporate headquarters, grew up in Hermosa Beach in the 1980s and 90s. It is a town rich with surf and skate culture as well as the birthplace of west coast hardcore punk. Dob played in the punk band Lunacy during the 1990s and the influence of L.A.’s music scene is clearly evident in his paintings today. Although Hermosa Beach provides the backdrop to much of Bob Dob’s work, the characters and pop culture icons that populate this world and the experiences he conveys through their narratives make his work universally relatable.
There is a deep current of dark humor in Bob Dob’s work, which he says is inspired as much as performing in a punk band is it is by the video games of his youth, Disney, Mad Magazine, Garbage Pail Kids, and being diagnosed with bone cancer when he was 12 years old. While the characters in his paintings exhibit distinctly adolescent qualities, one gets the sense that they have encountered more than they should in their short lives. Bob Dob’s work is inspired by a period in his life and in the history of Hermosa Beach that he lovingly shares, despite the challenges life invariably presents to us all.
In 2001, Bob graduated from Otis College of Art and Design with a BFA in Illustration. Bob has shown his work throughout the United States and Europe, including solo exhibitions at renowned galleries like La Luz De Jesus, Gallery1988, and a November 2018 solo show at Hermosa Beach’s ShockBoxx called “You Should Have Been Here Yesterday”. His list of illustration clients include The Fox Family Channel, Aflac, Kraft, Intel, The Village Voice, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Random House Publishing, and numerous editorial magazines.
Many of the subjects in your paintings seem to exhibit a sense of calm/detachment/intense focus amid the chaos around them. Has this always been evident in your work or is something that evolved?
Bob Dob: It’s always been part of my work I think. I played in a punk/thrash band for 12 years and when you on stage creating the chaos of the mosh pit you feel the intensity but you are also calmly observing. It’s really a distance feeling.
You’ve stated in previous interviews and in your artist statement that your work is heavily influenced by events that occurred as you were growing up. Are there things in your adult life that presently influence your work?
BD: Now that I have kids there’s a sense of nostalgia that I want to incorporate into my themes. My kids won’t get to experience the rawness Hermosa Beach use to be. I tried to capture it in “The Golden Punk God Made of Clay”. Pennywise and the entire music scene in the early 90’s in the South Bay was an amazing time. Going to a punk show at Chillers, Frogs, Looneys Tavern, and the many other clubs around town was the place to gather on a Friday or Saturday. Sometimes 400 to 500 people would show up. I realize now how special it was and want to continue creating imagery that depicts my experience of that special time.
Your work has a definite sense of place. Have you thought about what it would look like had you had similar experiences growing up in New York City or even a small town in middle America?
BD: I have and I’m sure I would gravitate to the same music and scenes that inspired the work inspired by growing up in Hermosa Beach.
Have you thought about having a show outside of Southern California? If so, where would you like it to be (can be city, country, specific gallery, etc.)?
BD: I have shown in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Denver, Miami, and Boston in the states. Overseas I’ve had group shows in Italy. England, and Australia. The show in Italy was a blast as I went over with the whole family. The curator of the show took us to dinner one night and this older Italian woman, wearing a very conservative, long blue dress showed up. The curator introduced me to her and it turns out that she bought my painting titled “Smoking, Drinking, Raging!” which shows one of my characters giving the middle finger. It was so strange but very cool. Next I’d love to have a showing in New Zealand or maybe Germany.
You’ve been able to find success in the gallery world while simultaneously expanding into merch like vinyl figures and collaborations with clothing companies. Do you find yourself getting pulled further one way or the other? Or is it easy to balance the two?
BD: I’d love to do nothing more than sit and paint in my studio all day but I like to mix it up and seeing my characters in a 3D medium or a tee shirt with my character on it is great.
What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
BD: You gotta love doing it and putting in the work. You need patience and knowing it’s probably going to take time.
What advice would you give to an artist experiencing a creative block?
BD: Go to a museum or experience something you may have forgotten. I just went and saw Rancid and Pennywise play and it was very inspiring.
Finally, what’s on the horizon for Bob Dob?
BD: I have four vinyl collectables coming out this year at DesignerCon (www.designercon.com) I also have a tee shirt brand I’m working on. And, of course, some new paintings and drawings.
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