Introducing “Modus Operandi”
We teamed up with our good friend Kyle Steed to have him design a series of limited edition tees. “Modus Operandi” means “method of procedure” which characterizes Kyle’s creation of these 3 pieces.
Kyle is an artist and muralist based in Dallas, Texas. I’ve had the privilege of knowing Kyle for the past decade and it’s been fun to watch the progression of Kyle’s career as an artist. I’ve always resonated with his free-flowing, organic style. There’s something so human and honest about Kyle’s work – the beauty in the imperfections.
About the Tees
3 unique designs: Modus Operandi 01, 02, 03
Soft water-based screenprint on Ugmonk Essential tees
Made in Los Angeles. Printed in Pittsburgh
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About the Artist
From painting giant 100 ft walls in Downtown Dallas to being commissioned by the likes of Google, Starbucks, and Mercedes Benz, Kyle’s work continues to challenge the status quo and shine light in the world. See more of Kyle's work here
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About the Collab
Kyle, can you tell us about the inspiration for this collab?
I can only try to put into words what seems to always happen without my true knowing, namely being inspired. So let me back up a second and try to map how this all came to be. I was looking online to purchase some new tees, and that’s when I remembered you (Jeff) had launched an entire new series of essential tees. So this was the genesis of our collab. Without first making the connection between buying new tees and you I’m not sure we’d be where we are today.
Once we hopped on the phone our conversations had a natural flow to it. Catching up on family life and work life. Sharing our successes and struggles in a time of great uncertainty. And then sharing in some imaginative space led us here to doing this special edition t-shirt collab. It really clicked for me that teaming up with Ugmonk would be a great platform to showcase my work. You have established a well curated design and aesthetically minded community, which plays really well to my free-flowing ability of forming lines and shapes into a complex series of connection and integration. Yin and Yang.
How did you make the transition from web designer to fine artist?
First you have to understand, there were many roads before I even stepped into web design. Moving back home from Japan in 2007 I was ready to begin the next new phase of life. After 4 years of active duty service I was having to readjust to life as Kyle, not as another uniform. It’s an odd thing, and so subtle, how the military slowly over time pulls at the threads of your identity. But I digress, here I was, all of 25 years young, and felt like I was just starting my life. Newly married, single upstairs apartment, and 2 months before my military pay would run out. My wife and I had (still have) a good friend who works in web. She first introduced me to CSS, and told me it was the wave of the future. In short, her resume with my name at the top of it was what landed me my first job at a small IT company working as the sole graphic/web designer. Those next 5 years would set me on a path back to where it all started for me…paper and pencil.
To call myself an artist is over-rated. I like to think of myself as an observer. Everything around me. Observing is something so familiar to me, I’ve done it my whole life. But it has taken me my whole life to be right here. Everything has prepared me to do what I am doing now. And I’m not just talking about technique or color theory or what inspires me. But the deeper things. Trusting my gut, learning from mistakes, letting go of self-judgement and the biggest one of all… letting go of the comparisons.
Painting a giant mural on a 5-story building is quite different from designing a t-shirt. How does working at different scales affect your work?
As a long-time doodler and illustrator, working on paper has always had its comforts of home. The page is a nice and safe limitation. But it’s always only an idea on paper. When I was in the thick of web/graphic design I had to learn how to integrate my drawings into my work on the web. It became the tipping point when I discovered how to use my own hand-writing to be the change I wanted to see in typography on the web. And in large part was the genesis to where I am today. Coming out of web work and into more tangible forms of expression, I wanted to find new challenges. By 2012 I was starting to do really small mural jobs. The first one, a free handed drawing on a mirror in a restaurant, was absolutely mind-bending and nerve racking. I was a mess trying to keep the perspective. I was so mentally tied to the rules of working top down, whether on paper or the computer, that I lacked the confidence to approach my work head on (on the wall). And now, 8 years later, it’s a total thrill to approach a blank wall with excitement and confidence to let what happens, happen.
What’s one of the most important things you’ve learned in your career as an artist?
Sometimes I have to just let the work speak to me. Some works are made to be small, on paper or canvas, and others beg to be larger than life. Listening is important to the direction the piece wants to go. It’s why part of my process involves a lot of BAD ideas. I have to be willing to make shitty work in order to gain momentum, and then once my gears are engaged and I am more flexible (both in mind and in practice) I am more open to the good ideas that have been waiting. Sometimes it feels like going full circle. I heard someone say the best ideas are always are first ones, and that rings true a lot of times. The important lesson for me is not to get overwhelmed with trying to make the best work I can, but trusting myself to make honest work.
Any parting words?
Breathing helps. So do long walks and short naps. Taking breaks and stopping the mental battle of beating ourselves up when we get stuck. Lay down and look up. If you have kids, I have two small children, it helps to get down on their level and try to see the world anew. Try to surprise yourself everyday. Drink water. Lots of water. And then once you‘ve tired yourself out, breathe it all in and let it go again. I’m currently learning all this myself.