Art with a heart
American artist and adventurer Tyler Ramsey has had a lengthy relationship with philanthropic footwear brand TOMS. Since he met TOMS Chief Shoe Giver Blake Mycoskie, he has collaborated with the company, designing limited-edition hand-painted pairs of TOMS.
“My relationship with TOMS is one of the most important things that has ever happened to me,” said Ramsey. “The entire experience of creating art on TOMS is special. Knowing that each pair of shoes I paint will not only be bringing a sense of joy to a TOMS fan, with a style and personality of their own, but that it will also be directly impacting a child in need—that’s real and meaningful.”
TOMS matches every pair of shoes sold with a new pair given to a child in need.
Ramsey was in the country this past week for a special live art event at Fully Booked’s Top Shelf to benefit the flood relief operations of the Philippine Red Cross.
He is no stranger to using his talent for a good cause. He has created art for the United Nations and Global Creative Forum.
Super spoke to Tyler about TOMS, his art and why he doesn’t like using a paintbrush.
When did you discover your passion for creating art?
When I was a kid, but didn’t embrace art as a life until over a decade ago.
I was having a difficult time with alcohol when I took up art. It took some time and tons of help before I quit for good, but without art I could not have remained okay. Art is the only career I’ve felt free.
Why did you say yes to this collaboration with TOMS?
Saying yes to TOMS and the Asia tour was easy, especially the Philippines. It’s all so rich with culture and that inspires me!
Is it your first time in the Philippines? How has Manila been for you?
First time in the Philippines. Manila rocks! I’ve already started planning my next show here. I’ve met the warmest and kindest people. This has been an incredibly special trip for me.
What was it like painting 3,000 TOMS shoes in one day?
Like riding a bull. It was fun but it beat me up.
The garage idea sounded great at the time. I love performance art and it was a unique idea. More than anything, I love crazy new experiences. I spent a year hosting an extreme sports show, jumping out of planes and using jetpacks like James Bond. The garage didn’t worry me.
Do you have any favorites from the designs you made for TOMS?
I love a design I especially made for a Berlin NGO called Laughing Hearts. Red, white and grey on a tan shoe. They turned out fantastic and raised tons of money for disadvantaged youth in Berlin.
What inspires you?
Right now, adventure inspires me. Exploring inspires me. I love people and travel and that’s got me pumped up for now. I’m filled with inspiration after leaving the Philippines. That dude Carlos (Celdran), the history tour guide, he inspires me!
I wouldn’t mind making art for Kim Jong Un. I’ve made several paintings about him and his father for a group called The Human Rights Foundation, but I’m pretty certain Kim Jong Un would not appreciate them. They are not flattering. I pray he doesn’t continue to hold that country like a prison forever.
My hero right now is the actor who played Robocop, Peter Weller. He is an actor but he also got his doctorate in history and now he hosts my favorite history documentaries and you can really tell he’s passionate about what he does.
Do you think you’ll ever decide to use a paintbrush one day?
Paintbrushes are too fussy and dainty for me. I doubt I’ll change my mind.
What would you like to tell aspiring artists?
I would tell any new artist to charge! Tell the world the moment you love creating and charge life like a crazy bull! Do what you love, unless you love kicking your younger brother.
Aside from art, what else are you passionate about?
My wife and I are traveling with a group of doctors to an orphanage in India for a few weeks in October. I’m wild about helping kids and I’m planning to paint a mural for the orphanage and do some performance art with the kids. I think we’re doing some wild stuff also, like rafting with elephants. Of course I’m passionate about that!