Some people just know how to make you smile. That’s how we feel about Holden Mesk.
We were first introduced to Holden, an artist based in Asheville, North Carolina, when we found this video unveiling his new online shop. Give it a watch and don’t be shy about playing it back a few times. We did.
Needless to say, we were big fans from the moment we hit play. Holden’s designs cover everything from water bottles to albums with a ’90s nostalgia that brings a special kind of comfort, like watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reruns or listening to a Boyz II Men cassette tape.
Holden was kind enough to chat with us to share a bit about the art scene in Asheville, his influences, and where he turns when he needs inspiration.
We’ve noticed more makers popping up from the Asheville area. What’s the art scene like there?
Heck yeah, the Asheville art scene is super awesome and varied. There are so many talented people in this town and I am grateful to have some of them as my friends and supporters. I recently was lucky enough to participate in The Big Crafty (a big local arts festival here) and met Justin and Brandy who own the coolest indie art gallery called Horse + Hero. My work is now for sale in their shop downtown and they’re both shining examples of what my experience with the art scene here has been. Everyone has been so responsive and kind and it’s such a genuine pleasure to be part of this community.
How has living in Asheville shaped your work?
Living here has put me in a place where I am surrounded by constant creativity. From new murals popping up all the time to the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains, the vibes in the air are nonstop artistry. Every day driving around town or walking around my neighborhood I get inspired by something new. While things always seem to be changing here, the shifting energy definitely keeps me and my art changing along with it.
Have you ever felt the lure to go to a bigger city for work?
I’m totally open to moving somewhere else one day, but for now Asheville feels like home to me. Our little mountain town is growing rapidly with new hotels being built and the tourist industry booming, so more and more each day it’s beginning to feel like a bigger city. Working online has definitely been ideal for me in terms of connecting with people all over the world, especially on Instagram where I’ve done work for clients internationally. It’s the wildest thing to be able to share my art with so many people and for them to feel a connection to it.
Photos of Holden by Leslie Frempong
Do you have any formal art training or are you self-taught? And how would you say that’s impacted how you work?
I am self-taught! I went to college for Mass Communication and never took any formal art classes or anything. In a way I am thankful that I never went to art school because I’ve never had my ideas confined or changed based off what a certain professor likes. Not that this is the case with everybody who goes to art school, I’m just happy that I’ve been able to guide myself throughout my career thus far.
Who are some of your influences?
One of my biggest influences overall is the whole Memphis Group from the eighties, which was a collective of Italian designers who played with bold colors and simple graphic shapes. As far as individual people go, I am always inspired by Chaz Bundick from Toro Y Moi, Lilian Martinez, Will Bryant, Amelia Giller, Claire Shadomy, Tim Lahan, Gabriel Alcala, Agathe Sorlet, Keith Haring, and Saul Bass. On top of those folks, all my friends and family are hugely influential to me. My parents raised me in a household that valued creativity and I am forever thankful to them for that.
What’s your favorite memory of working on an art project when you were young?
Every Halloween my mom and I would go crazy on some construction paper decorations and that was always a personal fave. I would also make comics all the time and had a running series called Captain Banana about a banana with superpowers. They’re all still in a plastic bin somewhere over in my parent’s basement. I need to go dig them up!
What influenced your use of such vivid color in your work?
Well I grew up in South Florida surrounded by super tropical loud colors. All the Art Deco architecture that’s down there also really had an effect on me and how I saw things. There was this one fast food chain near my old house called Miami Subs and even as a little kid I was really drawn to their aesthetic. They had the super nineties teal and pink color palette that’s stuck with me in my head to this day. Color to me signifies a place in time and a distinct mood, so much so that sometimes I’ll start a piece just based off the colors I know that I want to use.
What’s your day-to-day workflow look like?
I work from home doing graphic design for a local web development company so I am lucky enough to get to do art all day. When I’m not doing specific work for them I am listening to music while filling up my sketchbook and/or doing work for various clients. I obviously take breaks, but most days I am pretty much creating all day because that’s what makes me feel alive and happiest.
Do you have any unconventional sources of inspiration to go to when you’re working on a new project or in a creative rut?
I have a growing collection of vintage design books that are always inspiring to flip through. One of my favorite finds of late is a huge branding guide for restaurants from 1991 that is chock full of amazingness. Beyond that: walking around my neighborhood, listening to music, or scrolling through tumblr are my go to sources for inspiration.
Collaboration with the Oak City Cycling Project
You do a lot of collaborations. What’s your favorite thing about working with other artists?
Yeah! I am really proud of all the collaborations I’ve been able to do so far. That magic moment when you’re working with someone and your aesthetic vision intersects with theirs is pretty awesome. It’s a different way of communicating that is very unique.
Is there a particular project you hope to work on in the future?
I would love to do work with a brand like Only NY! They’re killing it all the time and to be able to collaborate on some cool clothing together would be sick. Locally, I think it’d be awesome to collab with a brand like Old North. But really, I am open to anything and everything!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
As cheesy as it sounds, I feel like the greatest bit of advice I’ve ever gotten is to just be a nice person. It’s applicable to every situation you could ever have in your life and I feel like it’s personally served me well with all the connections I’ve made and the people I’ve been able to have a relationship with.