Andrew Yasgar is better known as Sket One, the visual art icon. From graffiti to murals, graphic design and Kidrobot Dunnys, his body of work is expansive. Crafting objects that are intrinsically appealing, the artist has a seemingly effortless understanding of human taste, which in his words boils down to:
Oh, I like that, that’s cool, I’m going to use that.
This innate understanding is perhaps best exemplified in the story of how he got his name. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why ‘Sket One’?
“When I first started graffiti, I was about 15 years old, and there was this process of graffiti that you go through where you try to find a name or a nom de plume or some kind of code name for yourself, because you can’t go around writing your name because then you’ll just get caught. I started playing. Being so close to New York, I would take the train into New York on a constant basis to visit family, and you would see all these names written everywhere. I got the whole gist of it and was like, “Okay, I need a name.”
One of my good friends, Jimmy, who is actually a cop now, he was writing “Sket” and he took it from the first four letters of “sketch.” We were talking and I ended up doing a piece for him. Back then you’d write other peoples’ names, you’d just do all this random stuff, and one day I wrote his name and I did a graffiti piece and I really, really liked it because of the way the letters flowed.
I was like, “Well, he’s not too serious about it.” I was like, “I’m going to see if he wants to give me his name and I’m just going to take it.” I hit him up and I was like, “You know, you’re not too serious about graffiti. You mind if I start writing ‘Sket?’” He was like, “Yeah, go right ahead.” That was around the age of 16, so from that point forward, I would write “Sket.” That’s where it came from.
I laugh because it’s pretty uneventful. Most graffiti writers’ name they were given it or they were handed it down or somebody deemed them that name, and mine was more of like, “Oh, I like that, that’s cool, I’m going to use that.”
The “One” comes from … In graffiti, people end up writing the same name, so basically, when you put a number after it, it tells you or the other graffiti writers where you are in the line of that particular name. If you’re Sket One, you’re the first to use the One. If there was another Sket and he wrote “Two,” technically I couldn’t get mad because he was writing the “Two.” That’s where there’s people that write “Rage Five” or popular names like Seen and other names, if they choose to write those names, they usually will have to change them in some way to make them different from the originator. It’s a respect kind of thing.
We’re curious about your Kidrobot collaborations. What was the first Dunny that you had the chance to work on?
It started all of this, opened the flood gates.
I just laugh because it was so minimal. I just learned Illustrator. I was probably about two or three years into Illustrator, didn’t really know all the bells and whistles. I went to an art show in New York. It was for Mark Bode, who his father is a very well-known artist called Vaughn Bode and he came out with this character, Cheech Wizard. Cheech Wizard was a very influential character in graffiti. Graffiti writers would buy this comic book which Vaughn Bode created, and they would take characters out of that comic book and use them in graffiti pieces on the grain.
At this art show, me and Mark were talking, and that particular night, I met Tristan Eaton, who was a co-founder of Kidrobot. He created a Cheech Wizard toy, which was Kidrobot’s first toy. As I was talking to Tristan back and forth, he said, “You do graffiti?” I said, “Yeah.” He says, “Do you illustrate?” I said, “Yeah,” and I broke down some of my work, knowing I was going to meet him, gave him some of my work. He handed me a DVD and he was like, “Here, there’s templates on here. I’m coming out with a Dunny,” and this other toy called a Toro at the time. He said, “Do some designs and get it back to me.”
Within three days, I turned in my designs. It being Japanese influenced toys and graffiti influenced, growing up I loved Shogun Warriors. There used to be two-foot Shogun Warriors that I had as a kid. So it only felt right to do that particular toy but in this Dunny format. It was a Shogun Warrior. Would it be my first choice now? Definitely not. We all start somewhere I guess. They chose the design. Just because you design something doesn’t mean it was actually going to get made, which has always been a factor of designing toys.
The fact that they chose it and then the night I first saw my sample, it was exciting. I was stoked because I’d made things my whole life. I’ve made art and I built things, and I don’t know, it was different because this was manufactured. This was something that went from the computer and to China and it was actually manufactured. It was a product. That was my first product. That turned around everything.
In graphic design I would see stuff that would be made, but I wouldn’t see it out in the wild, so to say. It was print and that was different. Yeah, you could still touch paper, but it wasn’t a three-dimensional object that had you on it. It was really, really cool.