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About Us

(The story of Misfit Press is inextricably linked to the story of Misfit Incorporated, which is inextricably linked to the story of AJ and Melissa Leon. These fascinating stories have been told at length on many other occasions – in newspapers, on TEDx stages, during numerous interviews and chance meetings in wine bars. If you want to explore the weird and wonderful company that is Misfit Incorporated, peruse our site. For the full backstory, check out this video interview.)

Misfit Press itself was established in 2014, with the publication of AJ Leon’s The Life & Times of a Remarkable Misfit. The little-known backstory to The Life & Times is that it was originally slated to be published by a major American publisher, who headhunted AJ after noticing the popularity of his blog, The Pursuit of Everything. About a third of the way through the writing of the book, AJ began to get twitchy about the compromises involved in traditional publishing: uncompromising editorial pressure, a lack of say on issues such as design and artwork. Not long later, AJ bailed on the contract, and decided to publish the book himself. The Misfit team created and ran a Kickstarter, aimed at raising $15,000 to cover publishing costs. By the time the fundraising had run its course, pledges totalled more than treble that amount. With the excess funds, AJ and Misfit decided to go one better than just publishing a book, and also founded a publishing house.

Since its founding, Misfit Press has steadily flourished. In 2015, we took under our wing Wolftree, the finest arts journal in the American Midwest; we released our 2015 Anthology, featuring the finest creative work we encountered over the preceding year; and The Life & Times of a Remarkable Misfit continued to find readers across the globe. In 2016 we published Destination Shakespeare, the debut poetry collection from esteemed Shakespeare academic Paul Edmondson; and we have more Shakespeare-related publications in the works for 2017, including Shakespeare On The Road, a tale of a Shakespearian adventure across the US.

Last  year was a big growth period for the Press, and there is lots more on the way for 2017. As you’ll see from our Forthcoming Publications section, over the next twelve months we will be publishing Saya Sayama: Three Years in Myanmar by incredible photojournalist Spike Johnson, a photonarrative account documenting a unique moment in Myanmar’s history: the violent shift from General Ne Win’s fifty-year dictatorship to the country’s first steps towards democracy. Also imminent is Tangentially Reading, featuring some of the most insightful, shocking, touching, and hilarious moments from the first 200 episodes of Christopher Ryan’s much-loved podcast, Tangentially Speaking.

These are exciting times at Misfit Press. To keep up to date with everything that’s going on, follow us at our blogFacebook, Twitter and/or Instagram. Into the future, we will always continue to work in the fashion we do right now: with authors we like, on projects that matter, in a way that leaves writer, reader and everyone in-between satisfied. We will also never renege on our One-for-One pledge; for every publication we ever sell, a child in India will receive money towards prescription eyeglasses, via the Misfit Foundation.

w: Clare

Graffiti Worlds: Andrew “Apse” Horner

Misfit Press’s series on graffiti is a new blog series based around illuminating interviews with graffiti artists. This series follows on from our recent publication, the Misfit Anthology 2015, which features prose, poetry, photography and artwork by artists from all four corners of the globe. Our intention is for the Misfit Press blog to gradually evolve into a mirror of the Anthology, by showcasing artists and shedding light on art in all of its forms: beginning with graffiti art in this new series.

 



Andrew “APSE” Horner. Apse is the name I sign, and the Color Cartel 
is my crew and company. I’m a full-time graffiti artist in Austin, Texas. My mission is to help people rise above poverty, ignorance, and despair. I was born in Tucson, Arizona (1989), then I spent my my teenage years in Rigby, Idaho, which is near Yellowstone. In 2008, I volunteered for two years in Louisiana as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After that, I got a Bachelor of Science in Economics, with a minor in Mathematics, from Brigham Young University, Idaho.

I moved to Austin in 2014, pursuing a career as Policy Analyst. Shortly after getting here, Texas A&M University asked if I would produce a pretty big solo show. Hundreds of people turned out to see my work, setting a gallery attendance record at the 4th largest university in America. After that, I decided to be an artist full-time. My murals and illustrations are fun and colorful, and have a unique combination of that urban class and grungy punk.

The majority of my income is from painting massive murals for boutique inns, clubs, and restaurants. I also do a lot of digital paintings, and I occasionally paint canvases and humans.


We’d love to know about your history as a graffiti artist. How you find yourself in the world of graffiti?

I’ve never taken an art class, but my entire life I’ve gotten an unusual kick out of making slick letters and drawing on things. Even back in 3rd grade kids were commenting that my drawing looked like graffiti, though I don’t think I was even aware of graffiti art at that time. It wasn’t until after high school I really started to draw graffiti art on purpose.

During my time as a missionary, for two years I didn’t use the internet; didn’t Google a single word. While I was there, I wrote at least a few pages a day by hand. Studying scriptures, writing, and drawing were my only pastimes. I got very good at handwriting and exploring what I was capable of. I lived by an active train track and studied the freights that rolled by almost every day.

In 2010 I really started tagging and “bombing,” as we call it, and that’s when I’d say I starting painting graffiti. Going out and bombing genuinely gave me relief from the stress of school and the occasional heartbreaks. I don’t think I can overstate the impact it had on the way I see the world. It was transformative.

A few months later a designer hired me to paint 2,000 square feet of a brand new boutique hotel in Portland – an opportunity I wouldn’t have ever imagined I’d get in my life.


What does graffiti mean to you?

When I was out painting, I stepped outside the world I knew and into one where there were no masters, no prejudices, no bull. The entire world belonged to nobody but me. It felt pure. I brought those lessons back home with me at the end of the night. It isn’t about rebellion, fame, or telling the system to go screw itself. It’s about sharing my soul, humor, and thoughts. And then inviting other people into a freer state of mind; to look above the cubicle and beyond the rat race.

In the dark ages, as the power of the political church grew, the cathedrals became gigantic. The stone walls grew taller and heavier, too heavy for glass windows, so windows often became limited to the apse – my namesake. The apse contained statues and paintings that became the source of learning and inspiration for the masses unable to read for themselves. I saw a powerful metaphor for graffiti art in all that, so I started going by Apse.


How was your work initially received? Did you encounter any hurdles in being taken seriously as an artist?

When I painted illegally I didn’t consider myself an artist, really. There was no graffiti scene out there, I didn’t have anything to prove. It wasn’t a contest, it was an experience. But when I started seeking permission to paint graffiti pieces, nobody took my requests seriously. So I promoted myself as a “pro graffiti artist,” charged for it, and I got a lot more takers.

Interacting with various circles of artists,  I’ve seen that every group has their own entirely subjective standards for legitimacy.  I never thought that I’d make tens of thousands of dollars on a single mural, or be asked to produce a solo gallery show. But when you get opportunities like that, not everyone is happy for you. I just try not to take myself too seriously, and try enjoy the life of a creator.


How do you think attitudes towards graffiti have changed since you first started out?

Innovations in spray paint pigments and cans have made them drier, more controllable, and more opaque. That means an artist no longer gets a pass on refinement or cleanliness just because they use spray paint as their medium. We’ve got brilliant artists from other mediums and genres picking up the can, and new fans following us. This is creating incredible opportunities for artists. My work is in some real snazzy hotels that cost thousands per night. The hotels aren’t graffiti or hip-hop themed, people just look at graffiti as elegant and edgy now. Twenty years ago, before this new age of graff was introduced, it wouldn’t have worked in places like that.


If you could choose any place, or city, in the world to paint in, where would it be and why?

I’d have to say Dubai or Tokyo. Dubai has some huge graff fans – the right kind of graff fans! They like the words, big and exciting letters. A lot of places in the world have gotten over big graffiti words and have taken more of a taste for street art or just tags. Both of which I do, but those word pieces are my love. Tokyo is an old city, with a strong underground culture and lots of subcultures. I’m very active in the car scene, and Tokyo’s car scene loves graffiti. Drives and painting sound like a lot of fun to me.

 

Share with us up to 5 images of your favourite pieces and a little bit of the story behind your most ambitious / recent / absolutely favourite piece.

apse1apse2b                                           apse4 apse3

The first two images are pieces I’ve really loved doing, and are pretty typical of my style. The Apse piece is in Phoenix, AZ. The motorcycle rider is a self portrait I digitally painted. The others are from a set of murals I painted in San Francisco.

apse5b

Hotel Zeppelin in San Francisco was not typical of my style, but it was certainly my most ambitious and dramatic mural – 2,000 square feet of a ceiling and another 1,800 square feet of wall space. I used spray paint and paint marker (spray paint won’t work properly upside down). I told them, with some real hesitation that I could get it done in a month. They said I had 15 days max. I said that if Nikki (my wife) and I worked 13+ hour days, and had an assistant, we could get it done on time. That still sounded a bit optimistic.

Days before we started painting we had found out Nikki was pregnant. She was not feeling up to much exertion. Then three days into the project, our scaffold fell over (someone had apparently borrowed the stabilizers from it). Nikki fell head first onto a steel saw. She was bleeding from so many places I didn’t even know where to hold her. I thought she was dead. I thought I lost my love, our baby, and my whole future. I screamed and screamed for help until I remembered to call 911. Within a minute or two I heard sirens, they took us to San Francisco General Hospital, and an amazing team of head trauma specialists and neurosurgeons helped her. She had a blood transfusion, over 35 stitches, and eventually recovered from the concussion with a relatively small amount of nerve damage.

Friends and family flew in to help take care of Nikki and assist me as I painted. I finished the whole project in 13 days, which includes the two days I spent in the hospital with Nikki. I remember every day that Nikki and my brand new daughter, Paisley, are with me by a small, blessed nudge of fortune to this side of disaster.


Do you have any advice for any aspiring graffiti artists out there?

Develop fantastic handwriting. Then practice letters with a Jumbo (Wide & Broad) Pilot marker. That will be a solid foundation on which your larger and more complex letters can be built. We all know what happens to a house without a foundation. Also, when designing, focus on neat counter-space (in typography that’s the negative or empty areas in and around a letter).

1597 words

Like words?

W:

10.22.16

ClareClare is Assistant Editor at Misfit Press. She enjoys taking pictures with a variety of strange cameras, chasing after cats, drinking pale ale and exploring new places.

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