Creative Spotlight with Borbay
"I treat my art business like the rap game, not so much the money, bitches and guns aspect; but definitely the hustle. It's all about the hustle." -Borbay Interview by Coe Lottis
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I first met Borbay in 2001 when he was on a running pilgrimage to Oregon for the summer. We spent the summer drawing in sketchbooks, discussing creativity and, perhaps most importantly, trying to break 200 at Emerald Lanes. When he returned to Boston MA, I immediately booked a plane ticket, addicted to the world Borbay lived in filled with drawing, photography and girls. At the time I was unaware of the impact this experience would have in the development of my creative process.
Borbay oozes creativity. His collage style approach fostered from years of sketch booking is both unique and refreshing. Today, Borbay is generating a buzz on the streets of NY where he currently lives with his fiancée. There is much to learn form his combination of creative and business practices that have helped skyrocket his career in the past year. Fellow New Yorker Jay-Z said, "You can't mix business and art. You have to make art first then figure out how to be a businessman after that". Well Borbay has done just that - as he lives up to his reputation as Time Out New York's most creative New Yorker. If that title doesn't make you jealous, you better check your pulse.
JL: In college you were a track star. Post college you worked in business development for a large agency. How did you end up a recognized artist in New York of all places?
The journey from college to artist was just that. Short story long, I jumped from newspaper designer, to reality tv personality, stand-up comic, Legal/Development Associate at The Trump Organization, Creative Recruiter, Advertising Business Director and, finally, artist. It took 28 years of real-life experience and a leap of faith to find my path. Recognition really has nothing to do with anything.
JL: Did you always know the agency life was not for you and work toward being a full time creative? Or did you have enough dealing with clients one day and walk out?
My life goal was to quit advertising a millionaire at 40 to be a full-time artist. After mentioning this to fellow artist and hockey teammate Ari Lankin, he asked, "if you know you want to be an artist, why wait?"
My gig in advertising was both fortunate and exciting. I was making good bank, traveled around the world and worked with clients like Electronic Arts, Nintendo and Porsche. "It" didn't happen until I was on a two-week holiday in Maui. There I was, plein-air painting a water tomb on Big Beach, sipping a sixer and listening to music in a persistent summer mist. At that moment, I realized the world doesn't need another jerk selling websites.
JL: What was your experience like carving a niche for yourself on the streets of NY? That sounds like a grueling task.
Carving a niche anywhere in any sphere is challenging. There is no "key" to success - rather, thus you choose a path to best facilitate the possibility of success. Mine was simple: resolutely declare what I love, do it every day, do it well, and keep on doing it. Painting on the street brings along inherent risks: territoriality, thugs, grifters, drug addicts, the rat man and the like; but that's a different story all together.
JL: Your last name is Borbet, but you go by Borbay, any specific reason?
Seven years ago, in the midst of a cannon-ball infused painting session in the basement of my reality tv home on a hot sticky East Boston summer night, I wrote my name Borbet reflected with "Borbay" - it was my visual way of educating people on the pronunciation of my true last name. From there, it became my artistic signature. Now - it's a whole lot more.
JL: When we first met back in 2001, you had a sketchbook with you 24 hours a day, constantly"sketch-booking"Is that still the case, or do you work primarily on larger pieces now?
Sketchbooks have been my life since I was 10. As you know, it's practically religion. It wasn't until I became a full-time artist that I significantly shifted how I use this vital tool. In the past, a sketchbook page was considered ground for a final piece of art. Now, it's more of an idea book, where I do quick sketches, belt out ideas or write bizarre poetry, particularly when I am swerved on the six train.
Touching on your visit, it's still hard to believe the events that transpired the day you were scheduled to fly home. Talk about a life changer.
JL: Yes, I think about that often. My memory of 9/11 will forever be stuck on the east coast with you documenting the events in our sketch books. Did your strong past in "sketchbooking" build a foundation for your creative path to being a professional artist?
Sketchbooking builds a strong foundation for life. It is your deepest thoughts, ideas and inspirations - It's a visual diary, and one I recommend everyone keeps. Art therapy gets bigger each year, and I believe if people let themselves go artistically from time-to-time, they would not only deal better, they would have a visual reference to analyze when a certain feeling resurfaces.
JL: You have a very unique style that has evolved over the years. What are major influencers in your life?
My artistic influences are as plentiful and diverse as athletic inspirations. As a collage artist, I love Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Kurt Schwitters, Romaire Bearden, David Hockney... and many of my peers, good friends Jeremy Penn, Ari Lankin as well as a hoard of amazing artists I have discovered online. Beyond that, newspapers, the death of print, digital living, New York City, coffee, booze, streets, humanity, energy and life.
JL: You do an outstanding job marketing yourself. Something you do not often see with artists. Do you chalk this up to your agency experience?
It's a combination of the work ethic required to be a Division One athlete, plus life experience. Spending two years listening to Donald Trump work his magic down the hall didn't hurt. Advertising was key. Each artist is different. I am fortunate to realize marketing is not a necessary evil, rather a creative component no different than priming a canvas. Ultimately, I am hungry to be successful and I am going to better myself each minute of the day. I'm not competing against other artists, I don't beg museums or galleries to recognize me; none of that matters. I treat my art business like the rap game, not so much the money, bitches and guns aspect; but definitely the hustle. It's all about the hustle.
JL: Any advice can you give up and coming Creatives trying to make a name for themselves?
Anything you can fathom creating is worth creating, don't always think of end value. I've made some terrible paintings. While planning, strive to create multiple-work series, as opposed to making whatever comes into your mind scattershot. Be consistent in everything you do, nothing turns me off more than going to a blog and seeing an entry apologizing for not blogging in, like, forever.
Believe in yourself and your value; if you leave a job making 60k a year, break that down hourly, and start intelligently calculating your hourly and yearly value. Finally, listen to, but don't hear anything negative people say about following your dream; you will be baffled at how many turn on you when you take the plunge. If you believe they are wrong, they will be, and when you make it, they will be blown away... and simultaneously claim, "I knew you could do it."
JL: 5 things Borbay cant live without.
Creating art. My fiancée Erin. My family. Ice Hockey. Consumerism.
JL: What is next for Borbay? Any current projects we should look for?
I am currently working on my hip-hop series, which I am tentatively planning to show in April. Later that month, I am spending eight days painting on-location in Vegas. In July, I am getting married to my love. I will also be working on TV sitcom pilot. After that, lots of location work and a big painting trip between then and the end of 2011. A potential documentary film, possibly another short film. Also on the back burner: a cross-country painting road trip, where I will do one painting on-location in each state. For that, I might need a sponsor... let's circle back to consumerism, shall we?
Thank you for the interview Coe.