As a creative person, you have to be out and about and involved in the community — and never stop working.
Quentin “Shplinton” Thomas is a nomad. Oftentimes he’ll glide from place to place on his bike while carrying his drawing tools and rolled-up pieces of paper in a tube or backpack. His workspaces span the reaches of his home, his studio, cafes and friends’ places all over the greater Los Angeles area. However, he says, not all pieces are made in transit.
The Los Angeles-based artist says the first part of his process is turning off all devices and focusing on his work, but there’s always music involved. “I listen to a lot of different music while working,” he says. “While the music is different all the time, a few I like to keep in rotation are Jay Z, Drake, Tame Impala and Mac Miller.”
Shplinton’s client base is impressive, from companies like RVCA, Bucket Feet and The Standard Hotel to celebrities Kevin Bacon, Lupe Fiasco and Element founder Johnny Schillereff. Quentin’s surreal style is almost hallucinatory; bright colors bleed into one another and his signature triangle points hold free-form shapes together. It’s unrestricted and fragmented yet organic. His weapons of choice are watercolor, gouache and ink, and he occasionally works with acrylic and spray paint.
I can’t go back and try to change anything. I’d rather move forward and keep working on different ideas I have in my head — because I have a million of them — and represent them as best I can.
The younger version of Quentin doodled in class, drawing characters from TV shows like Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, and Dragon Ball Z. Quentin’s influences came from the people around him, and others who also drew. As the years passed the urge to draw and create stayed with him. “I’m always making art in some form, if it’s not visual art,” he says. “I know it sounds cheesy, but I feel like everything is an art form — always art, everything art!”
Moving around and looking at the world from different perspectives is important to Quentin. He says a lot of LA people don’t like to leave their own little circles, and that habit can hurt you as an artist. “As a creative person, you have to be out and about and involved in the community — and never stop working.” He continues, “I like to check out different galleries and spaces. The La Brea/Melrose area is always cool to check out. And street art is super huge right now; there’s been this cross between street art and fine art, this Basquiat-inspired work, and that’s been cool and interesting. I’m curious to see what comes next.”
Quentin says he wouldn’t change anything about his artistic journey. “As of right now, everything lends itself to my work, so in a sense everything I’ve done has been the right thing. I can’t go back and try to change anything. I’d rather move forward and keep working on different ideas I have in my head — because I have a million of them — and represent them as best I can.”
Making a living as an artist doesn’t come without pouring hundreds of hours of hard work into your craft. Quentin says that every project is a challenge: getting through it, solving problems, and finding motivation to keep going. But he does it, every day. And although Quentin has found success for himself, he says, “I’m still working on building whatever it is that I’m building.”
Don’t be stressed out working on something for somebody else. It’s all work — may as well work on doing something you love.
His advice for green creatives: “Don’t get screwed on your deals. Be aware of the people you’re working with. Check out their past projects, people they’ve worked with, their budgets. Be cautious and do your research. Because people will screw you on deals.” Just because you’re just starting out doesn’t mean you have to let clients take advantage of you.
Quentin currently has several collaborations going on, including watch face designs with Modify, children’s clothing with La La Ling, and a music video with a friend who’s working with Ariel Pink. “And then whatever else comes my way,” he laughs. “I haven’t been sleeping as much as I used to, but I think that’s OK because I love being busy… basically I want to do as much work as humanly possible without killing myself!”
Go-hard work ethic aside, Shplinton also believes it’s important to enjoy yourself. “Don’t be stressed out working on something for somebody else. It’s all work — may as well work on doing something you love.” And make all the I-don’t-have-time excuses you want — “The time is there if you want it to be,” he says. “Figure out whatever you can do to make money, manage your time well, and have the focus and drive to do what it is you want to do.”
Because life’s too short to be doing anything else.