We came into contact with Pieter van Tongeren, a.k.a Mossy Giant a few months ago, when looking for potential office-space in Amsterdam. We're proud to say that other than sharing an office-space with this natural-born illustrator we also fell in love with his work. Extremely detailed, beautiful while maintaining some sort of story (developing specific fictive characters in different scenarios), Mossy Giant is a talent that everyone should know about. He was nice enough to do a lengthy interview with us. Enjoy!
Explain your body of work to us and our audience? How would you describe your style of art?
I have been making art for quite some time now and I still have the hardest time putting my style into a fancy composition of words. I simply draw that what makes me happy, and what really makes me happy is art that is not too serious but still has a dark undertone. Black ink lines on white paper make me happy, humor makes me happy, detail makes me happy, cannabis makes me happy, exploration of the outer world and inner mind makes me happy, bears and hippies make me extremely happy - but above all, the whole process of creation makes me happy, it is something that I need like a heroin junkie needs his needle.
My art is rough and gentle - Giant and Mossy
You state very eloquently on your website "I pursue more than just a brittle, ephemeral image in the eye. I seek emotive reaction”. What reaction is that? We’re not asking about a specific piece of work, but in general – what are the type of emotions you’re trying to get your audience to feel?
Very nice question, you guys did your research! This piece of poetry was written by a great pal of mine in 2012 - this was the year that I started with my whole endeavour of becoming an “art pro”. I needed some copywriting for me, myself and I - this piece of text could have easily been put as the answer to the first question. I still use it to this day because it is written nicely and I still want people to feel something when they look at my work. I hope that by looking at my art, the spectator is pulled out of his day-to-day struggle, giving the onlooker just a brief moment of happiness in this gloomy world. I guess I want people to be happy…yea happy.
The question on everybody’s mind – explain the name, Mossy Giant to us (haha)?
The name Mossy Giant is very new. I changed my name at the beginning of this year (2016) after a good two years of using PTRTJ (Pietertje). It was a new year and I felt like a big change was needed. There is a story to the name, so here goes. Last year I was in Los Angeles for a month, working with my friends of Recreator Hemp Apparel - we attended an ayuahasca conference to promote the brand and meet some cool people (this conference was, quite comically, right next to the biggest Scientology compound in the world, mental slavery next to spiritual freedom, a nice contrast). The conference was held in an old church, on the wall of this church hung a huge crucifix with our good friend Jesus on it covered in green moss (an awesome image). We saw this and immediately the name Mossy Jesus popped in our minds, it was a funny thing and it stuck. We kept joking with it and at one point my good friend Justin said I should use the name Mossy Jesus as my artist name. But naming myself after the son of god was a little much, plus I can’t turn water into wine - only wine into piss. The change from Jesus to Giant was an easy one since I truly am a giant in stature, a behemoth living in the land of the wicked and small. And so the name Mossy Giant was born.
You’re a pretty busy guy – from illustrations you make for companies all over the world, to working closely together with Recreator Hemp Apparel. How is the fashion world any different, if at all, from your other work? Is it more fast moving and demanding (as we’d imagine)? What’s your own favourite piece of work of yourself? One you’re most proud of? Explain why?
This changes every time I make a new piece, my favourite piece is always my latest one. From time to time I look back at drawings and some jump out more then others. My Volkswagen trip is one of the highlights lately. I like this piece because it embodies everything I like in drawing. There is movement, it is detailed, it is happy, there are drugs, there is a transportation device (I like drawing those things). To me it is a complete image and I had a lot of joy making this piece.
You’ve developed yourself from a street artist (graffiti), to an illustrator as well as a logo concept designer – which of these comes easiest and most difficult to you? What are the key differences?
I would not call myself a street artist or a graffiti artist. Although I have done stuff in the streets of Indianapolis, some things in Los Angeles and also some stuff here and there in Amsterdam. Street Art & graffiti is a small part of Mossy Giant. That being said, it is a part I do for fun and on the side. I think graffiti is something that comes hardest to me. I can make a cool looking piece but it is never up to par with the work I do with pen and ink. It all comes down to mastering the tools, and I have mastered pen and ink much more than the aerosol can. I rather use the illustrations from my black book and use them as posters and paste ups. I think my skills as an artist and designer are better portrayed that way.
Logo and visual identity design is something that I really love to do as well, it is a complete opposite of what I do with my illustration - with logo development one has to keep things as basic as possible while still conveying the complete message of a brand! Very challenging but very satisfying when done right.
Could you elaborate on your first couple of years of working as an illustrator? Are you self-taught? How did you go about becoming a full-time illustrator? What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during this transition?
I am a self taught illustrator - growing up my parents always had me around art and I developed a love for drawing at a very young age. I have been drawing all my life. For a long time basketball took over which landed me in the USA. There I started studying graphic design in college, soon my drawing and design was more important than playing basketball. After graduating I turned down a few opportunities to play pro-basketball in Europe to pursue a life in art!!! Still the best decision I made in my young life. As for graphic-design I actually have a formal education from an American University - This formal education helps me combine my detailed and elaborate illustration work with fresh and clean design - which always turns heads.
What can we expect from you in 2016?
May 16th 2016 I will be showing my work at Cafe Struik in Amsterdam, which is going to be awesome - so please come by to drink a beer and smoke a spliff. Be on the look out for t-shirts, stickers and a new mossy booklet containing my latest pieces. I will continue to collaborate with my awesome clients who pay my bills hehe, and I will keep filling black books and cashing cheque books, shaking hands and kissing babies - living life and making art. Stay mossy my friends.