Betterism
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Betterism

Q & A with Sean Bernhardt, aka Space Bat Killer, artist

Space Bat Studio, NJ

Sean Bernhardt — aka Space Bat Killer — is an artist born and raised in New Jersey. He currently resides in Monmouth County where he creates drawings and collages. He’s the mastermind behind Evil Paradise and has done work for Billabong, Reef, Globe, Dark Seas, Loser Machine, and Imperial Motion, among others. Find him online: seanbernhardt.com / IG: @space_bat_killer & @evilparadise

GB: Sean, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. Can you share a bit about yourself? Any background info that’s NOT in the bio?

SB: I’ve been freelancing for a while now, since 2012 or so. That’s when I really got into the drawings you see, but back then mostly just black and white drawings for shirt graphics. I was living in Nicaragua for a few months during winter around that time and was contacted by Vissla and a surf shop in Japan as well to make some art. Before the art came about I worked retail for a few years, sitting at the register losing my mind. I never wanted to be at a job, at all. Same with school and homework. As a grom, I worked in a pizza joint and also washed dishes for a few years. I am a super clean freak so I don’t mind doing that type of stuff at all. Another fun fact is I am a huge animal lover, cats are the best!

GB: When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

SB: I kind of always just doodled on shit like an average kid. But I realize, and was sort of told around 8th grade or so, that I was always the top artist in my class. I always loved being in the art room. In high school, I stepped up my game and worked super hard being in AP art and trying to get into colleges. I never ended up going away at all or anything, but I experimented so often and made so much art / sold a ton of stuff. The motivation was through the roof back then. People would always be asking me to go to parties and I would always opt out to create. I don’t know, winter just sucks here in terms of having the motivation to do much. I always made art. It just comes naturally out of my head and inspiration always flows pretty decently. I went through some dark times and it helped morph me.

GB: As a fellow New Jerseyian, do you find it inspiring your work at all? Care to share any stories that some of our local squad might eNJoy?

SB: For me, it’s hard to say, but as of lately I am trying to relate more to our coast and produce more NJ style works. Winter surf always inspires me because it’s always going off with nobody around. I am not a huge people person, so I fucking love it. Pisces over here — I like to keep to myself at all times. I don’t think I have any epic stories, but I think I might hold the record for most broken surfboard fins on Squan beach. Every quad set up I put in I snap a fin off. I am that one guy that just sits on the jetty at all times and rides past the rocks and somehow manages to make almost every wave… haha

GB: On top of being a prolific artist, you maintain a growing company, Evil Paradise. How does that inspire your own art? What impacts does that have on your work?

SB: So, to me, EP was just a doodle and I ended up producing some shirts, putting ’em locally in a few shops when I was working retail. I never wanted it to be anything at all. I just ended up choosing to make more and the demand was higher so I kept pushing. It revolves around just having fun, not giving a shit about true name brands and being a surfer/skater and artist. I love the Dark Beach, creepy vibes, vintage ’70s style images in old mags, skulls, nude babes. All that stuff combined, drawings and collage, with a more toned-down playful vibe is what you get from me. It’s all about not giving a fuck. It’s pretty easy for me to choose graphics to put onto tees or hoodies and stuff. I kind of just have whatever drawn up already (I’m sitting on shit-loads of art at all times) in stacks at my space. Then just jam a rad font/wording combo and figure out placement/sizing, send it to my printer. It’s natural and easy. I don’t really know where I am heading with it, I still consider it to be just for fun and to get people stoked on some different/limited goods.

GB: What’s your creative process like? Do you have any takeaway routines or strategies?

SB: I don’t really have much of a process, other than just crank some tunes and chill for a bit, get my mind right and dive in. I never really think of the outcome, it just happens. I have a good eye for what I do and I guess that’s why companies pay me to make stuff for them. I either go super simple or just go wild on stuff. It’s fun to get lost when cutting up mags and collaging. All my stuff is handmade paper collages, sharpie drawings, etc. Nothing is really made on my laptop, at all. Gotta pay to play? Well, not really, I buy materials once a year, I’m a cheap bastard…

GB: Which artists have had the most profound influences on your work?

SB: Sounds corny to me, maybe to you as well, but Shephard Fairey with Obey… and also, Insight clothing, when they existed. That’s all I used to want to buy in surf shops. That raw, hand-done goodness. Chopped-up images and spray-paint. I was super into that kind of stuff and used to mess around back during high-school / early community college days. I love street art and stickers. I put stickers on everything I own. I had one of their tank tops as well and wore it from age 18–25 I’m pretty sure. Thing was rad.

GB: What does “success” mean to you?

SB: Being happy with who you are and what you do!

GB: If you could use one word or phrase to describe your art’s message, what would it be and why?

SB: Weirdo — I have such a random mix of work haha. Maybe: go dance with the skullz in the graveyard, buy a surfboard / kill your surfboard, sk8 forever, freak out from anxiety, hmm endless possibilities.

GB: What’s next for Sean Bernhardt? Got any upcoming projects we can keep an eye out for?

SB: Been jamming on a bunch of stuff with Dark Seas and happy to be working with such a rad company (who has pretty much the same dark beach visions as I do). Expect to see more goodness from me next year, I think things are only getting better for sure. I really just want to surf and skate though. Trying to get out more and work less.

Interview originally published in January 2019 at ONLY HUMAN. If you enjoyed this conversation, please recommend, comment, 👏👏👏 and share. Sign up for the Bing Bang Co. newsletter to see more!

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