Prairie Dogs and Pizza Rats: A Q&A with Rob Wilson
Rob Wilson’s art seems to have sprung from a light-infused prism, crowded with shapes and colors and the joy you feel when you find a rainbow on the floor or the wall, cast by a window that the sun hit just so. During the early days of the pandemic, after we had closed our stores, we turned to Rob for help with a creative expression of the support and unity that we were seeing around the world during this global health crisis.
Originally from Texas but now residing in New York, Rob understands that as different cities have cultures and sayings that are unique to them, they also have their own way of supporting each other. Out of this perspective came the inspiration for an illustrative collaboration with our creative team at Neighborhood Goods. In this limited edition release of prints and tees, Rob explores Texas and New York communities, leaning on each other in a time of COVID-19 and social distancing, through smiley cacti and skyscrapers.
This project started as a way to boost morale during the pandemic, but has evolved into an opportunity to support Pride month by donating 20% of all proceeds from these prints to The Okra Project, a collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by Black Trans People by bringing home cooked, healthy, and culturally specific meals and resources.
It has been a pleasure to work with him since the beginning of Neighborhood Goods. In our first location at Plano, Texas, we asked Rob to create prints that represented some of our founding brands while still being able to live on their own in someone’s home. His work is still featured in our store to this day and you can check them out here.
To help you get better acquainted with him, here is an informal, speed-dating-esque introduction to the artist behind our new collaboration:
Your work is very witty and distinctive, where do you normally get your inspiration from?
I find a lot of inspiration on dog walks, wandering the city, looking at architecture and observing people. The moments when you’re occupied with a task, but not focusing on it, are the times when the best ideas come about. Images or concepts just appear, and I get to my sketchbook quickly to jot them down. I also watch a lot of films, read and go to museums. It’s about staying curious with an open mind.
Do you have any books or films you turn to when you need to get the creative juices flowing?
Movies and books are always good inspiration. I have a number of visually-arresting films that are transporting, and I return to them when I need a creative boost. Given the state of the world, I’ve had a more difficult time reading, but there are a few I’ve read over the past months here.
Circe by Madeleine Miller
The Un-Cure Rest by Saki
Arturo’s Island by Elsa Morante
A Time to Be Born by Dawn Powell
The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories edited by Jhumpa Lahiri
I Am Love by Luca Guadagnino
Volver by Pedro Almodóvar
Contempt by Jean-Luc Godard
Mon Once by Jaques Tati
In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-wai
The American Friend by Wim Wenders
The Great Beauty by Paolo Sorrentino
How has your art changed with each location that you move to? I can imagine the contrast between West Texas and New York City being pretty drastic.
I am easily inspired by my surroundings, whether it’s where I live or where I’m traveling. Each city has its own idiosyncrasies—whether it’s Ralls, Texas or New York City—and the juxtapositions of these places are what excites me. I’m equally happy looking out for prairie dogs or pizza rats.
What has it been like to collaborate with Neighborhood Goods?
The enthusiasm and energy that Neighborhood Goods puts into discovering and supporting new creative work make any collaboration with them fun.
What initially sparked the idea for this capsule series?
When Neighborhood Goods approached me to talk about this project, I wasn’t sure how I could visually tie in the idea of community with each of the places where they had stores. But after spending time with my sketchpad, I realized each place offered ways to get at this concept of people—whether personified as a prickly pear or skyscrapers—supporting each other.
Do you have a favorite place you like to walk in your neighborhood?
I live in Manhattan and often meander down through Chelsea into the West Village. I usually stop at my favorite coffee shops, bookstores, bakeries and parks, hoping to walk off the calories of all the lattes and chocolate croissants as I go. Abington Square is particularly charming and reminds me of a park from Mary Poppins. Last time I was there I saw a man wheeling a cage with two cockatiels taking them for a walk.
Do you have a favorite story about a neighbor that helped you or showed you kindness?
In most all of the places I’ve lived, there have been neighbors who have offered a helping hand. Unfortunately, none have ever shown up at my door holding a freshly baked pie.