Hey, You’re Cool! Sam Nygard of Rebel Child Designs
When my daughter was three she would get so excited and yell "gwafeeti dad!"
There’s a little rebel child in all of us, so much so that Jersey-based graffiti artist Sam Nygard named his whole company after them. His art house, Rebel Child Designs, brings everything from graffiti pieces for kids to even a graffiti coloring book. It’s all a testament to Nygard’s conviction that art must reach the youth to help them grow into awesome adults. The full-time artist also penned the book How To Make Money Online As An Artist: An In-Depth Guide On How I Use The Internet To Make Money With Art, a guide for every creative to not only penetrate the oversaturated internet, but to actually cake off it. With non-conformism as his mantra, Nygard is an artist for all ages.
MASS APPEAL spoke with the original rebel child himself about his creative ventures, how passion turned to profit, and how being a father helped him realize that we must instill art into the human mind at a young age.
What was your history in the graffiti space prior to starting your own company?
I started hitting the streets, tagging with my older brother at roughly age 10. By age 12, I had caught two cases and decided to chill out a bit. Not even a year had passed when I relapsed and found myself exploring freight train yards looking for a clean spot to destroy. I had a lot of crazy ass adventures doing graffiti in freight yards late at night. I eventually had a few eye-openers as to how dangerous it was, including being shot at by the cops. I started to transition the use of my spare time at about 14-15 years old, focusing more on rapping than doing graffiti. But clearly, the bug never left!
When did you start Rebel Child Designs?
Rebel Child Designs came to exist back in ’08 or ’09. I used to design t-shirts with images of child soldiers that said “Save Our Souls” below them. I’m a typical scatterbrained artist, and my work tends to change with emotion, so my designs ended up evolving into different themes. I branded myself Rebel Child Designs partially because of my original child soldier designs, but also to embrace the concept of being a standout.
Did you initially come up with the graffiti coloring book for kids or adults?
To be honest, I really wanted to jump on the adult coloring book bandwagon! It’s become such a “thing” these days and I knew I could create something unique for that market. In the beginning, I didn’t have kids in mind at all, but the more I consulted with my business manager—aka my six-year-old daughter—I realized that this might be something that everyone can enjoy.
Who has been using them more?
It’s hard to say. I get a lot of great feedback via social media from younger adults. But I do know that a lot of my friends with kids have had to surrender their copies to the little ones. This is why I recommend buying at least two copies!
There’s something therapeutic about coloring for adults and graffiti seems like the perfect canvas, right?
Absolutely! No disrespect to all the whimsical mandala coloring books, but fuck those books! Graffiti is dope because there’s no right or wrong way to color it. You can be as meticulous or as carefree as you want.
You also have a 420-friendly coloring book too, correct?
I do, although it’s different than most people would think. “Infused” is a coloring/activity book that I created to entertain cannabis enthusiasts, as well as educate people on the benefits of the plant. My brother is an Afghanistan/Iraq combat vet who, like many other vets, suffers from PTSD. He is also a cannabis enthusiast and uses it to self-medicate. He started a company called NJ Green Scene, and in watching his growth, I’ve learned so many dope things about what weed can do. Personally, I rarely even smoke, but I felt it was important to help spread the awareness in my own way.
So you have a book called How To Make Money Online As An Artist. In the length of a tweet, how do you make money online as an artist?
Outside the box thinking/marketing/consistency/marketing…also marketing! That doesn’t explain it at all, does it?
A lot of your graffiti has moved from walls in public spaces to walls in children’s rooms. How has being a dad played into you bringing graffiti to the youth?
Kids love graffiti. My daughter grew up around it, so she had an earlier introduction as to what it was. I remember driving down the highway with her when she was three years old and she would get so excited and yell “gwafeeti dad!” every time she saw something. Kids relate to the crazy lettering and the vibrant colors. It’s important for us as adults to embrace creativity amongst the youth, especially with the less cliché methods. I’ve always been passionate about sharing my art form with the youth, but seeing first hand how it has shaped my daughter definitely heightened the emotion.
Have you taught your kids to tag?
Hell yea! I taught my daughter early on how to transform letters and do simple outlines. She is extremely artistic and definitely enjoys lettering, but her favorite thing is to get in the studio with me and throw paint around. I’m a bit hesitant to teach my son because he’s already a little rebel child in his own way!
What’s next for you?
I’m dropping another book in the Spring ’17…oh shit I missed that deadline! But yea…new book called Never Conform, not sure about the release date yet but hopefully mid ’18. It’s basically a coffee tableish book combining photos of unique and awesome human beings with stories and ideas that support the concept of non-conformity in a positive way. I currently have some art on display at Sticks and Stones in Hawthorne, NJ and will be taking part in another group show in December. Also, plenty of new items to come on my website.
Visit www.rebelchilddesigns.com to purchase books, clothes, and art