© Deanna Templeton

Interview with Ed Templeton

Ed Templeton is an American photographer, contemporary artist, skateboarder, graphic designer and business owner. Working as a professional skateboarder in the early 90s, Ed quickly gained a reputation as an artist without any formal training. In 2000, his first book, Teenage Smokers, was published by Aaron Rose’s Alleged Press, and in 2002 he won the Italian Search For Art competition. In 1993 he founded the skateboard company, Toy Machine, a company that he still continues to own, design and manage. He lives and works in Huntington Beach, California with his wife, artist Deanna Templeton.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

My Name is Ed Templeton, I have spent most of my life as a professional skateboarder. I run a skateboard company I started in 1993 called Toy Machine Bloodsucking Skateboard Company, and when I’m not doing that I am travelling, painting, and taking photos. I’m married to the beautiful Deanna Templeton, who is also an artist.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Orange County California. When I was born we lived in an apartment in the shadow of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, then we moved into a trailer park in Corona, California.

When did you move to Huntington Beach?

My father walked away from our family chasing a teenage girl and my grandparents stepped in to save us. We moved out of the trailer and into an apartment in Huntington Beach close to their house. That move was pivotal for me, because I found skateboarding there, and ultimately the art world.

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in Art?

I was always drawing, and my grandparents encouraged that and took me to art museums and taught me about art. I started looking at art books and found a book about Egon Schiele in the mall. That small book really got me into the idea of being an artist.

How would you describe your creative process?

Fractured. I have no healthy habits. Photography is a constant for me, I don’t leave the house without a camera and the entire world is open to me as a subject. So the collection of photographs and then archiving and editing them is a big part of my process. I don’t work on any one project at a time but am constantly moving images around and including them in one themed book project or another. When I need to make skateboard graphics I usually drop everything and work on them in an intense deadline situation. Then painting, the thing I want to be doing more, gets the remaining time, if there’s any left. I’m pretty slow with paintings. My process in general is seeing/observing the people and things around me and then responding in some way to them through whatever medium.

Does your city and surroundings influence you as a creative and individual?

Yes, very much so recently. Of course as a photographer I’m often shooting locally and Deanna and I take a daily walk most days out on the pier and the beach. That walk is basically a daily photo mission. I realized that I was building a huge archive of source material for my paintings and started using my own work as sparks for paintings. I have been painting the photographs I missed, or things I see around our suburbia, but adding elements from my photography into them. All of my recent paintings are about the specific place I live in, the people and the architecture. 

What do you struggle with the most in terms of working and living in a city like Huntington Beach?

There’s not too much to complain about, we have space and fewer distractions here as opposed to being in Los Angeles or New York. I don’t know how I’d ever get any work done if I lived there. Luckily we have art and photo supplies not too far of a drive away for us. The downside is nobody wants to do a studio visit when they realize it’s an hours drive by car from LA, we sometimes feel a little left out of the art scene.

The responsibility of the council in every city is to provide a solid foundation of design, art and cultural facilities, is that evident in Huntington Beach?

Ha! No. The US of A is very different from Europe regarding these things! There was an interesting beginning of something cool happening here in the mid 90’s when the Huntington Beach Art Center had a progressive director and made some interesting exhibitions, but the conservatism of HB clipped their wings and drove them away. A few years ago I did an exhibition of my work there, the new director is trying to do what she can with a very limited budget. Orange County is not known for its art, but things are changing. The OC Museum of Art is getting a new building and location, it’s under construction now, and that could really help.

Do you think it is also the responsibility of the designer/creative to improve the quality of peoples lives in their city?

Yes, ideally. I think by living and working in a city that is not a worldwide art capital you end up adding some culture to the city just by being there. But on a practical level you also need the city to be accepting of your contributions. In the USA some small cities and towns see artists as the enemy. It’s usually private businesses that foster art in these smaller cities and the city only realizes after the fact that it’s a positive thing. For the exhibition I did at the HB Art Center, I invited young local photographers to use part of the space to exhibit their work along with mine. Their photos documented the local scene. I thought it would be great if people in HB could see the work of photographers shooting and making art in the very city they live in.

Can you tell us about any current or future projects that you are particularly excited about?

I have been doing many Photo book projects lately! Deanna and I made a book together called Contemporary Suburbium which is photos from our area. I just came out with a book called “Hairdos of Defiance” which is a collection of punk hairdos I have shot over the years. I also just came out with a “B-Sides Boxed Set”, which is a playing-card size selection of outtake photos. In late October my next major photo book will come out, it’s titled “Tangentially Parenthetical.” In May 2019 I will have an exhibition at Nils Steark gallery in Copenhagen.

What is the one thing you can’t live without in Huntington Beach?

Jan’s chips and guacamole. Jan’s health bar is an HB institution, a favorite of locals and surfers.

If you could add or change something about Huntington Beach, what would that be?

I have a Love/Hate relationship with this city, I guess I would add more vegan restaurants and subtract all the bars, but most of the people who live here would hate that idea!

If you could choose any artist/creative from Huntington Beach to collaborate with, who would that be and why? 

I know all of them and have collaborated with most already! It’s a small place art wise.

What do you do to switch off?

Plop on the couch and watch TV, go to Catalina Island, read a book.

Sometimes people relate a specific smell to the city they live in or the place they grew up, does Huntington Beach evoke a personal smell to you?

Yeah, we have a specific beach smell sometimes. The smell of the beer and greasy kitchens and desperation wafting out of the bars is something that would mentally bring me back to HB.  Then we have the smell of the smoke from the wildfires each year.

What is your favourite time of the day?

The end of the day, the hours before dusk and dusk itself.

If you weren’t living in Huntington Beach and could choose any city to live in where would that be, and why?

If cost was no object I’d live in London. We love visiting London for the walking, shooting, eating, and so much art to see!

Huntington Beach by Ed Templeton

A selection of places in Huntington Beach - recommended by artist  Ed Templeton. See all of Ed's favourite places here 


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