Q&A with The Artist Known as TROG
MERRY JANE had the chance to light one up with the artist known as TROG.
Published on May 16, 2016

MERRYJANE: What is the meaning behind the moniker TROG?

TROG: Nothing elaborate — it's just the initials of my real name — shortened. I signed the first few handfuls of my first underground comix with my signature and then thought that it didn't look right so I shortened it and came up with TROG and signed that.

Over time it evolved into the signature I have used for the past 20 years on my artwork. I always look at other artists' signatures now and notice changes over time periods—it's an artist thing, I believe.

MJ: Do you support medical marijuana in Australia?

T: I fully support medical marijuana and the benefits that it holds, however I support "stoner culture" more. There's all the elements of marijuana and the benefits—but with the growth of that and the corporate push into that market as outside people and corporations enter that market purely for financial gain—the one element that is affected is stoner culture. I've experienced this firsthand with companies that want my artwork, but want to clean up the look and make it more medical-looking to appeal to the stores they sell into. It's definitely a changing playing field. As far as in my country, it's still to my knowledge illegal and not passed as medical yet—when the bills are passed, it will still only be for terminally ill patients, which is a benefit to them—but at the end of the day regardless of laws, I will continue to GET HIGH!

MJ: You've drawn trippy poster art for The Offspring, The Family Stone(Sly), the Kottonmouth Kings, Slightly Stoopid, (HED)P.E., Swollen Members and many, many more. How did you get into psychedelic poster art?

T: My first encounter with psychedelic poster art was in art school—I was purely there [because] I didn't want to get a job yet and was just really still being a teenager, and I liked to draw. So it went hand in hand—plus, it fit in with my lifestyle. I had an illustration class and I didn't really pay much attention as I was always drawing my own comics. The teacher of this class knew I had zero interest in what he was trying to teach me, and I was regularly rocking up to his class stoned, so one day he showed me some artwork by Rick Griffin..... I was instantly hooked... I was drawing eyeballs and waves and then seen Rick's eyeballs and waves and was like—who the fuck is this guy, his artwork is insane... From that point I had one artist to aspire to, I couldn't even count the hours I've stared at his work trying to work out how and why he done the linework and inking he did—it works perfectly, he is without a doubt my #1 influence, I've taken influences from other great artists too, however Rick is my personal favorite—his artwork just connects to me in so many ways.

That was the introduction. How did I get into it? Well, I got HIGH and started to work on my own takes on that style and that evolved from being on a couch stoned and dreaming of doing that as a career — to years and years of knock-backs and never losing focus to actually one day going, “Wow, its actually now my career.” The funny thing is,I do get paid to get high and draw artwork for some of the biggest cannabis events and bands on this planet! I get paid to fly to the other side of the planet, to get high and draw in front of people—that's a serious honor and not to be taken for granted.

MJHow many hours a day do you spend drawing?

T: Put it this way—when I want a break from drawing 420 event posters I will sit down and work on a canvas, when I want a break from canvas I will sit down and draw an underground comix page, when I want a break from an underground comix page I will sit down and draw up my next tattoos to do... then when I want a break from that I will be sketching up possible concepts for band stuff. All I do is draw—like seriously all I do is DRAW.

MJ: Do you ink and/or color your artwork yourself?

T: Yes, I do all the stages of my artwork—concepts, pencil sketches, black inking and coloring. I enjoy all those parts and would never want another artist to be bought in to do my artwork for me as that's the moment it no longer becomes your art.. It's not your art if someone else is being hired to do it—it becomes a financial piece over a passion piece. I'm an artist. I live and breathe this and why would I ever want to pay someone to do something in life that brings me so much fulfillment?

However, recently I did just do my first ever piece under/with an art director, but I have so much respect for this guy's artwork that I like to think that I worked under his guidance. My friend Ernie Cefalu and myself teamed up on our first piece together. Ernie would be one of the greatest Rock N Roll art directors of all time—he created the Rolling Stones Logo and a list of pieces that would blow you away, art directed Sabbath BLOODY Sabbath, ya know just some big deal stuff!

MJ: The theme of cannabis is pretty constant in your artwork. Have you ever lost friends or been judged over the topic of cannabis ?

T: I've never lost friends as most of my friends smoke weed—but hey, I've lost some stuff smoking weed. I once lost about 3 years of ink drawings when I cleaned up—made 2 piles and threw the wrong pile out.. (that hurt me). I wouldn't say I was ever judged over the topic of cannabis, or if I was I would have just gone “Who the fuck are you to tell me what's right and wrong!” or if I was it just went straight over my head. I would say the one noticeable thing through my early years was no one ever believed I would make a career out of drug-influenced artwork. I always had a dream, and I could never let go of that dream or lose sight as it was inside me. Sure, a lot of people would comment that my artwork was insane, but still to take it from a couch stoned to the world stage and never sell out and lose sight is a whole new deal. We're not talking a year or five years either—we're talking decades of just blocking all the comments and following that dream. That's a tough thing to do, but if you're meant to do it you will.

MJ: Is cannabis useful when you're creating artwork?

T: Yes it is, it's also useful for me becoming paranoid-—but what I'm doing is creating the artwork for CANNABIS. I still get blocks, like I can be super stoned and ready to do a piece and then it just goes blank—what the fuck, nothing—then I can have like five other pieces stuck in my head just busting to get out and take up my brain etc... it's hard to explain but I get concepts stuck in my head and I need to draw them to get them out ... nothing can help.. it's what I live with. I have that much shit going on in my brain that I forget stuff—forget to do things, forget to change things, forget to hand artwork back in as I have other artworks pushing through trying to get out and take up my time.. I'm not talking small stuff either, I could name off some massive bands and events that I've just totally gone blank on and done the artwork and just forgot to send it back in for deadlines as I was stuck doing a new canvas that was trying to get out of my head etc..

MJ: Smoke, Vape, Dab, Blunt, or Joint? 

T: Yes they ALL work...

MJ: Do you believe that the comix of the 1960's were a precursor or have influenced cannabis media today?

T: I would personally say that the underground comix and rock poster artwork of that time paved the way, you can't go on and create a new frontier until you pay respect and learn from the greats. Names like Rick Griffin, Robert Crumb, Stanley Mouse, Robert Williams, Ed Roth, Gilbert Shelton—they set the bar, they made the rules and created history. However, that ties back to cannabis media of today I'm unsure, today's media/artwork is basically computer generated crap! Ya- know I've deliberately held off handing artwork back to promoters over the years and pushing it and pushing it till I knew they were out of time—purely so they have had to run some of my posters as is without getting to change stuff. I would say the older generation of stoners would be more in touch with the likes of the artists I listed above as in their hearts they would still know the pieces that created history. I was at Seattle Hempfest a few years back and some of the original Hempfest core staff members were talking to me about this exact topic and their exact words were, "YOU'RE THE NEW FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHER!"

MJ: You've spent some serious time working with cannabis-related events. What's next for TROG?

T: Probably working on selling some of my originals to Snoop Dogg after he reads this interview and views my artwork—that would work for me! I'm sure he has some big walls in his house that need some Original TROG canvas works hanging from!

MJ: What advice do you have for starving artists that want to break through?

T: Get the FUCK ready as you're about to have your work used and not paid for, people are going to take advantage of you, people are going to lie to you, people are going to use you, people are going to steal your concepts.. whilst all of that is happening people are going to try and make you change what you think is correct and change your way you do your art, then people are going to try and offer you ways to sidetrack your true path....

I managed to get through all that part by being stoned... so that's the reality of what you're about to enter into, however, there is one thing you need to do—ignore everything and focus and build on what you see your art as, as when you get sidetracked and start to listen and start to be like other artists you lose sight of your own art.

All true artworks are unique, both with faults and difference—that's what makes them unique. Stick to what's inside you as that's what you were put here with so follow it and let it live, art was around long before money was created so never change your true art for financial reasons. Art is art embrace it and take it to the world.

Benjamin M. Adams
Benjamin Adams is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a slew of publications including CULTURE, Cannabis Now Magazine, and Vice. Follow Ben on Twitter @BenBot11
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