Louis Carreon: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist

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There are no five things. There is no map. There is no road for creative success, but I will tell you this — when you don’t give a shit about what other people think and you actually just love what you do and stand by your own work, you’re winning!

As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Californian artist, Louis Carreon.

Drawing from his colorful past and background in graffiti, rapping, skateboarding and surfing, Los Angeles-born Louis Carreon is a visionary contemporary artist known for his enigmatic, abstract images inspired by religious iconography. Using art to reflect on the adversities of his past, his work fuses contemporary ideas with classic concepts, paying homage to art history. In addition to brand collaborations with UBS, Art Basel, Denison Yachts, Soho House, Viper Room and the Stanley Cup, Carreon has exhibited his artworks internationally, including in Mexico City, Madrid and New York City. Notably, Louis has been commissioned by Landmark Aviation to paint its narrative ISOT (International Symbols of Travel) onto a 12-seater private jet, as well as by Dimension Superyachts to paint ISOT on a mega yacht for consecutive years during Art Basel. Louis has recently partnered with Aston Martin Residences to present an exclusive virtual exhibit entitled “An Addicts Halo,” that can now be viewed online at the Aston Martin Residences immersive 3D virtual gallery.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up the oldest of three. My parents were longshoreman on the port of Long Beach. They grew up in Wilmington and always wanted a better life for me, so moved me down to Long Beach and Seal Beach to go to better school district. Growing up in the 90s — surfing and skateboarding in California — was pop culture at its finest. I was a sponsored skateboarder and surfer by a very young of 12. I was always drawing and doodling, but mostly addicted to board sports, skateboarding and surfing, but diagnosed with learning disabilities very young. I felt ostracized by schools and made to feel stupid, so I rebelled and dropped out of school and headed on tour with the band, The Grateful Dead. I then traveled the streets of America learning about the barter system, supply and demand, painting graffiti in every major city in the U.S. The Grateful Dead tour was freedom and like an American hippie dream when my friends were graduating from high school. I was on a Grateful Dead concert parking lot selling beer or drugs to try to get enough money to get a hotel. That was the life I chose and that was the life that I enjoyed as a kid. It was pure freedom.

Graffiti was my first addiction. I painted for a decade with a graffiti crew out of Long Beach called KBH in the 90s. The streets were live with tag banging before street art graffiti was real graffiti and shaped me into the artist I am and taught me about not caring about boundaries, borders and how to kick down doors or paint over them if needed. I learned how to support myself at young age by selling drugs. That’s when marijuana was illegal and it was actually a felony, so after The Grateful Dead tour, I moved up to Hollywood and started my Hollywood adventure in modeling and being a socialite with famous friends and a lot of powerful people. I had Hollywood at my fingertips.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

My path towards becoming an artist was through fashion, way before I ever thought I had a shot of being a painter or doing art. I was approached to do graphics for a streetwear brand out of Japan. The investor who had many doors open in Shibuya partnered with me and I started tagging directly onto garments, taking the graffiti straight from the freeway to blazers, Levi’s denim and creating the art of the streets for boutiques. The company was called Klozhorse. I had lots of celebrities supporting me and I dressed Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie for the TV show “The Simple Life,” because they were my friends who I was running around Hollywood with at the time. I was just a young drug addict taking my graffiti and putting it on clothes. It was a big hit. Davis Factor from Smashbox helped me do fashion week in LA and I think I was the first designer to do an all-celebrity runway in 2003. Long story short, I got indicted by the FBI for drug crimes and my company was taken from me when I got out of prison. I was going to dive back into the fashion world and realized that ultimately it was my art on clothing that had a movement, so I put art on canvas and started my journey as a fine artist. It’s funny because the world comes full circle. I’m putting out a new line of clothes and t-shirts with my signature Louis Carreon designs that will be coming soon

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The most interesting story pretty much happens every day. I never thought I could even get to where I’m going. I come from the street graffiti and street culture world and the fact that my art now hangs in museums and is collected by leaders of industry and I get to live the life that I live is amazing. The whole thing is just blessed and astonishing. My whole life has been a movie, it’s actually pretty insane.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’ve been working on a statue for the past four years. Its name is David Reincarnated, and it’s a regurgitated version of Bernini’s “David,” which was one of the first baroque statues in history. It is my belief that these statues, these giants, are fading away, and while the digital art world is moving so fast that unless you study art history or are able to travel globally, a lot of this art history will be forgotten. I will re-introduce David — taking out the sling from his hand and replacing it with a Glock handgun. I will update David to the modern version of what today’s David should look like as the modern oppressor. My David has Nikes on his feet and a Rolex on his wrist. My David has a skateboard at his feet and stands in the streets. Everybody has a Goliath. We have to see my version of this David as the most relevant statue of our time in my opinion.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I’ve been friends with lots of celebrities and high-profile creative people. I don’t find them the most interesting though. I think the most interesting people are people that are very far from my realm. I didn’t even graduate from high school but I spoke at Pepperdine University to the art department, and I deal with professors from universities for whom I write papers about my narrative and what I do. How I’m culturally relevant in art and the academic side is very important, so these are the kind of people that I find very interesting. I’ve read thousands of books and have studied most of their lives. These individuals I find interesting because they are usually my polar opposite.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?

I find my inspiration from my life journey. A lot of my references are religious iconography or have a bohemian shamanic field. I often paint while listening to the audio Bible revelations — thinking about my sins and thinking about commercialized religion — asking a lot of questions and challenging western society. I just tell my story and learn along the way. My art journey is for everlasting life, while I keep failing on this planet and painting about it

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think that I’m telling a story and I’m pushing people to look at religion differently. I am talking about plant medicine and having open dialogue with people on antidepressants. With the new language of plant medicine, I’ve been incorporating that in my work . If I can help anybody get off big pharmaceutical and get back to what your body and mind actually needs it’s more than just art to me.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.

There are no five things. There is no map. There is no road for creative success, but I will tell you this — when you don’t give a shit about what other people think and you actually just love what you do and stand by your own work, you’re winning!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My Ryzntine movement can point towards a spiritual direction to this godless world that everyone is currently living in. There is no moral compass. Everyone, especially the new generation, is godless and stands for nothing. I believe my work can have a movement of waking the third eye up and showing people that the spiritual world is real and hopefully help them transition into a life of not living in fear and hate and being manipulated by the governments of the world.

We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.

Having a coffee with Larry Gagosian would be amazing. He’s pretty much the art gangster for many great artists in history. I have a few questions for him. I would also love to do a show at his gallery while he’s still alive.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

My Instagram handle is @louiscarreon

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Louis Carreon: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.