UPSO Interview: Why Mustachioed Men Are Cool

Prior to the release of Dunnys Series 2, there’s a good chance you never heard the name UPSO or Dustin Amery Hostetler, but you probably have seen his work. Designing portraits with digital media and a cartoony, yet life-like style, UPSO has received paydays from some major magazines, including Wired and Flaunt. And, thanks to a little day-glow yellow Dunny and near sell-out shows in New York City, UPSO is ready to take the lowbrow into the mainstream.

It’s hard not to notice that your tattoos are based on the world of graffiti art. How did you become part of the culture and can you give us a history of how UPSO came to be?
My tattoos are all designed and done by Mike Giant. I’ve been a big fan of his work since I was in high school, and through my art magazine Faesthetic, I’ve had the pleasure to get to know him and connect with him not only through his prints and drawings but also now his tattoos. I’ve been working on my sleeves for eight years with him. The tattoos are all different kinds of arrows, and are a constant reminder that I need to keep moving.

My background in graffiti pretty much ends around ’98. I was getting habitually caught, and it was really getting in the way of school. I was never very good anyways, but I’ve always had a deep love for the art form. So when I started doing my magazine 6 years ago, I made sure I included as much graffiti as possible. Over the years I’ve been able to connect with a lot of people i really respect (like joker, delta and above)

UPSO came about around 1999 when I was finishing college, and looking to set off and make my own art. It took a while to come up with my style and work flow, and I had a ton of crappy jobs along the way, but around 2003 I went solo and started doing freelance illustrations for a living (under the name UPSO). It’s been going pretty good ever since, and gets a little better every year, as far as projects I get to work on. I feel really lucky.

6_munnys.jpgYour portrait work is uncanny as is your style of drawing. How did you establish your style and what elements do you use to design?
Its hard to explain how I work, since sometimes I work from photos, sometimes I work from my sketches and sometimes I just pull things out of my rump. But, now a days I pretty much work 100% on the computer, as it allows me to multitask the best. Thanks for the props!

Explain the reoccurring mustachioed man. Word on the street is that it’s really you.
This is true. I’ve been doing self-portraits for years and years. It’s fun to bring myself in as a reoccurring character in my work, and I have to say the cartoon version of me has sort of taken on a life of its own.

How did you get involved in the Dunny project? That design isn’t exactly a traditional UPSO piece. What inspired you to make it?
I met Tristan a few years ago through my magazine faesthetic. A short time later I was invited to work on a dunny template, and to be honest, at the time, I didn’t know a thing about the designer toy movement. I was lucky to have my design picked, and soon after I started collecting hardcore myself. I know the design isn’t typical of my work, but I’m really happy with how it turned out. It’s nice to have a “cute” piece in my portfolio.

How does it feel to have one of the rarest Dunnys, and how did that come to pass?
Pretty cool. Kid Robot just asked if id be cool if they did a small run of the glow in the darks, and of course I said yes. I think they asked me in part, because I was already an active part of their message board, and the GID version of my dunny was a message board exclusive.

streets.gifYour Kid Robot New York show was very well received. What feelings did you have going into it and what did you think of the turnout?
I was really excited. It was my first solo show in NYC, and so of course I was nervous. Kid Robot is such a cool place to show your work, as the vibe there is so poppy and fun with the toys on display, that it was hard not to have a good time. I sold a good chunk of my work, and I really of course feel great about that too. I really hope I can show again in NYC soon, and if given the chance id show at one of the other KR stores in a heart beat.

How did you get involved with magazine illustrations and is that one of your favorite mediums?
From the beginning of my career I tried to get my stuff in magazines, because I really get a thrill out of seeing my work printed. I think it is still my favorite medium, though I’m getting more into doing shirts, and things like skate boards.

What do you think of people who would call your portrait style caricatures?
I think in some ways my work is caricature work. I mean, I work from photos, so most of my work is based in the way people actually look. But I try really hard to bring their personality in. So, in that way, it ends up boiling them down a little bit.

What does the near future hold for UPSO?
Hopefully more toys, a circus punk, some shirts with a handful of small labels. My own record label (pretend records) will be releasing four CDs this year. Faesthetic will be launching its 6th issue this October (with a big bump in the print run from past years) and um… did I mention id like to do more toys?

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Author: George Koroneos

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