LA based artist Tanner McCardle works in many mediums, but his hand painted denim jackets are beyond an obsession of ours. Combining art history, storytelling, and customization, he creates one of a kind pieces that are sure to be some of the most coveted in your closet. We sat down with him recently to find out what inspires him and what's next.
Labeling Men: All right, so give us a little background about yourself and how you got into art.
Tanner McCardle: I grew up in North Carolina and I've always drawn, but when I lived out there, sports was definitely a much larger part of my life than it ever was out here. When I came here, music opened up sort of the creative world for me and then from music, it kind of led into art. I started off doing illustration for friends' bands and things like that and then kind of branched off into more abstract or more personal sort of work and trying to connect with art on a more personal level from there.
Labeling Men: Are you still doing music?
Tanner McCardle: No, not really. I still try to stay in touch. I have friends who still make music and things like that and most of the music that I listen to, I try to at least have some sort of personal connection to it.
Labeling Men: What would you say your primary medium is?
Tanner McCardle: I guess drawing and I guess I kind of try to incorporate aspects of that into all the rest of the work that I do. The jackets, it's just another forum that I don't think a lot of people take too seriously to express through drawing or something like that. It's usually through a print. I don't know, people will print t-shirts or make patches or something like that. Definitely trying to use jackets as a canvas but it still basically comes down to drawing.
Labeling Men: How did the denim come about?
Tanner McCardle: I got the one that I made from my dad and it's such a good surface and they make inexpensive paints that you can use. It just seemed really accessible and when I started making them, people were reacting a lot more strongly to those than to a lot of the other stuff that I was making either on canvas or on paper. It's nice not to have to print 30 of something and then try to sell it. You're kind of designing it on a person-to-person basis instead of producing something.
Labeling Men: I love how you are able to take personal commissions; what was your thought process behind mine? [photographed above]
Tanner McCardle: Some of them, like yours and the one that I made originally, kind of come through flipping through books. Zoe and I, we're always going to library book sales and as you can see, there's stacks everywhere. We flip through them and stuff like that and you get drawn to images. Both yours and mine are based on classical designs but I try to design it in a little more of a modern way or a looser way in trying to update it at least a little bit. Then, other ones, sometimes people are like, "Oh, I would like to see these symbols in it. These mean something to me. I really like this animal, this flower," or something like that. I love symbolism. I went to school for poetry so it's very much like a visual poetry, symbolism for me which I really like and drawing ties there.
Labeling Men: Are you interested in making this kind of a thing?
Tanner McCardle: I love making them and so far making it economically viable hasn't really been the main focus. Everyone that I've made them for has been insanely supportive and just very, very encouraging. I don't know, that seems indicative that it's a good direction to go and I love making them.
Labeling Men: Out of everything I have, if I wear it, I get a million compliments.
Tanner McCardle: Thank you.
Labeling Men: It just speaks to people.
Tanner McCardle: That makes me really glad to hear. That's kind of what I want from it too. When you wear it, you feel like it's something made special, different than just another piece of clothing.
Labeling Men: It's a very accessible way to incorporate art into your wardrobe, I think. I don't know. There's no pretension with denim, it seems like.
Tanner McCardle: I personally am vegetarian but I've had friends who are like, "Oh, I want you to do leather,” and I'm happy to, I just really haven't yet. Denim, it's the best fabric that I've worked with as far as it doesn't have super huge ridges,that it will hold the paint and hold up over time without cracking. I love the accessibility of denim too.
Labeling Men: Besides leather, have you thought of other avenues?
Tanner McCardle: Not really. No. Fabric design and prints and things like that are always insanely interesting to me but it's not something that I'm really trained in. That's just more things that I'm drawn to in the fashion side or the artistic side of fashion I guess or other ways that I try to connect with fashion. Not really something I've thought about designing myself.
Labeling Men: Besides the kind of classical, I guess research, what other things inspire you in general?
Tanner McCardle: Oh, my gosh. Music does it a lot, just as far as things that are nice to have on when you're working that make you feel good while you're working. We live in a city where there's art everywhere and there's all sorts of art everywhere. Even if you're having negative reactions to those things, it's still a great experience to be able to do out and see that. A lot of places you have to work a lot harder to get to those sorts of things. There's always things going on like that. Images are everywhere so you can always try and make use out of the stuff that's coming at you. Sometimes I'm better at it than others though.
Labeling Men: How would you describe your personal style?
Tanner McCardle: I try to keep it pretty simple. I used to wear just a lot more black and t-shirts but I like light canvases and khakis, pants, collared shirts. That's more just because the people that I'm around for work, I have to look at least a little nice. I don't have to, but it's good to or it's nice to but still without being overdressed. I don't know. I don't like wearing ties and things like that but I think you can still look presentable without it.
Labeling Men: Do you have any fashion tips or style tips?
Tanner McCardle: I don't know. Thrift shopping I think is the best place to go, especially if you're looking for basic items. You might have to look at the more mid-level stores now instead of the Goodwill because it seems like a lot of those places get to the good stuff first. Getting a used item like that, I can sometimes get a lot more quality materials and a lot of this stuff that gets made that you would get at a store or something like that.
Labeling Men: Like Topshop or something like that.
Tanner McCardle: I don't know, just a lot of the Levi's factories get varied and sometimes you get a really good pair of 501s and sometimes they fall apart in a couple of months. It's still indicative of quality but not quite the same as it used to be.
Labeling Men: I think that's good.
Tanner McCardle: Cool. I hope that it wasn't too spacey.
Labeling Men: No, no.
For inquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Instagram @TANNERMCCARDLE
By Eric Fulcher