Philip Lumbang celebrated his birthday this past weekend with the opening reception of his show, “Adventure!”, at GR2 in West Los Angeles. Paintings of bears, birds and other cute, cartoon characters lined the walls of the store as Lumbang himself mingled with the crowd and signed a few autographs.
Lumbang is riding high on a wave of popularity thanks to the support of Giant Robot owner Eric Nakamura, who discovered his art on walls across Echo Park. Lumbang's work is a departure from stereotypical graffiti art pasted all over the city. His large cartoon characters wave at passers-by and greet them with cheerful slogans such as “Have a nice day” and “Don't worry, be happy.”
“I'm a big nerd and I love cartoons,” said Lumbang. “I draw a lot from my love of cartoons and of how simple the forms were because they had to be animated and you don't want to spend a lot of time animating a cartoon that's only running for 30 minutes for a bunch of kids.
“They stripped it down to the bare essentials and the basic lines and shapes,” he continued. “That's how I developed my style to where there aren't all these bells and whistles.”
Lumbang, who is currently based in Echo Park, moved to San Diego from his hometown of Sacramento to study art and graphic design. He accepted a job at Shepard Fairey's Studio One after earning his Associate's Degree.
One of his first public pieces became a teachable moment for an LAPD officer. “I did this print of these three bears and I wanted to promote it virally so I went out on the street and had people document me painting this mural. In the middle of painting it, this cop comes by and says 'What are you doing? I got a call in for gang graffiti, but it doesn't look like you're doing that.'”
Lumbang explained to the officer he “just came out here to paint some bears, you know, positive message for the people. I was kinda talking out of my ass because I wasn't trying to get in trouble, but the cop really responded to it. Graffiti isn't just reserved for the vigilante types.”
“I'm really thankful that I've had this success,” he said. “I'm just trying to ride this wave and have everyone know about myself, [clothing line] Hug Life and these cute, little teddy bears that bring a smile to people's faces.”