We’re smitten with the bike illustrations Roman Murdov created for our Minerals, Rock! campaign supporting our glittery, Limited Edition bike colors named after precious minerals. Roman is an acclaimed artist and author (his latest book came out in November 2016), whose illustrations have been featured in the NY Times (most recently here), Vogue, The New Yorker and countless other publications. Roman is based in San Francisco (home of our flagship store) and we were able to catch up with him over a cup of coffee to learn more about his creative process and, of course, what bikes mean to him.
PUBLIC: Who is Roman?
ROMAN: Author, illustrator, originally from Russia, living in San Francisco for the last 8 years. I do illustration for the NY Times, the New Yorker, Penguin, and many other magazines and publishers. I’ve also written and drawn several books of my own. They are hard to classify, I suppose they fall somewhere between graphic novels and visual poetry.
PUBLIC: How did you get your start?
ROMAN: I was first a Petroleum Engineer back in Russia. Fortunately or unfortunately I had a somewhat late start, and began working on my art only in my mid 20s. All hardships aside, I think it made me appreciate drawing for a living way more than if I’d started early on. I tried a lot of things and worked a ton of odd (and very odd) jobs, so maybe my current work is also another protracted stage. Initially, drawing was a way to attract people to my writing, but now it’s an important part of my life.
My first big break was with the New Yorker. My career was slow to develop, but after several years I picked up more and more magazine work. Because of my literary obsessions I’m often pigeonholed for fiction and conceptual assignments, which is my favorite thing to do.
PUBLIC: Proudest art moment?
ROMAN: My books. I think the latest one, Jacob Bladders & the State Of Art, turned out quite well. I wrote, illustrated and designed the whole thing, and the book does feel like a manifestation of my personality. It was an intense labor of love.
PUBLIC: You also teach art?
ROMAN: I teach at California College of the Arts. Usually I do an illustration class, and my own elective class that explores the intersection of writing and drawing.
I think it’s a strange and exciting time for illustration, old models give way to new ones and no one knows what will happen tomorrow. We live in a predominantly visual culture, but we still cling dearly to language, so when the two intersect in a new way it pushes the whole industry forward.
Considering that my work can be pretty melancholy, I guess I’m fairly optimistic about the state of the art.
PUBLIC: What does the bicycle represent for you?
ROMAN: The bicycle is something of a childhood dream for me. I never had one as a child and I’ve always wanted one. Then there’s a lot of bikes in my favorite books, Beckett for instance and Alfred Jarry.
The walking rhythm is a big influence on my writing, so I write most of my stuff on walks. Bikes seem to be a good a mid-point between walking and in a car. You still have a connection to the rhythm when biking. I’m curious to see how cycling will affect my sentences.
PUBLIC: What’s your favorite public space? Place to relax/play/be
ROMAN: I’m fond of Ina Coolbrith park, it has a great view of San Francisco. When I lived near in the area, I walked to that park nearly every day. All the abundance of shifting lights and smells in that little space is very unique, even for San Francisco, a city that has no shortage of neat places.
I am interested to explore the different places that a bike will be able to take me. Seeing how one neighborhood flows into the other and so forth.
PUBLIC: What’s up next for you?
ROMAN: Writing my first non-fiction book on the subject of doing nothing. Absurdly, I am working very hard on it. We live in a world, where the business of life is replacing life itself. I’m hoping this book will remind people to take a pause for contemplation whenever possible.
Also I’m writing and drawing an encyclopedic comic book about the flood.
Now, listen to the rap + video featuring Roman’s illustrations!