Walter May and Tyler Ramsey on Their Dynamic Collaboration

Walter May and Tyler Ramsey

Photos Credit: Walter May and Tyler Ramsey

Walter May and Tyler Ramsey are both recognized for their creative day jobs, but the duo recently teamed up to create “Friendship Is Magic,” a celebration of what they each do best.

Ramsey is known for his vibrant use of color, which has earned him acclaim for both his paintings and his performance pieces, not to mention his work with Tom’s Shoes. May, a filmmaker with a celebrity roster that includes Katy Perry, LeBron James, and Eminem, went viral when he created a YouTube love video for his wife. Together, this “magical” duo embodies the spirit of collaboration that has long been a part of the art world. We sat down with them to discuss how their experiences have brought them to this moment.

Walter May and Tyler Ramsey

What is your first art memory?

WM: My first art memory was from the early 80s. I was three at the time and my parents used to give me their 'Paint With Water' books for long car rides. They had all my favorite characters: Mickey, Superman, and Bugs. I was mesmerized by the patterns and colors, which I had to fill in as fast a possible. Looking back, I know I didn't quite understand how it worked, but I knew that I was doing something to make the pictures beautiful. I knew mine looked different from my older sister's. I saw that we had our own techniques.

TR: My grandfather is an incredible painter. My first memory of art was getting caught sneaking into his studio. He didn't get mad and instead took the time to explain what his abstract paintings meant to him.

How is your work similar from one another?

WM: Our techniques couldn't be more different but I feel like the energy is the same. We come from a place of positive inspiration. We try to ride the wave and build on momentum when it happens.

TR: We work together because of a shared determination not to remain stagnate.

Walter May and Tyler Ramsey

How is your work different from one another?

WM: Our work is very personal to ourselves. You can see that Tyler has taken years mastering 'throwing' paint: he is as much in control as he can be of something so chaotic. It’s an organic process driven by the emotion and the feelings he has for the subject, whereas I approach art from a technical, mechanical standpoint. I use machines that require a form of precision: cameras, computers, printers, etc. How the piece is created is hugely important to the statement I am trying to convey.

What do you admire about your friend/partner/collaborator?

WM: Tyler brings a positive outlook and energy. He lives in a free way that the majority of people are afraid to. He is highly approachable and collaborative. He looks at the world through a different lens, which allows him to explore ideas I never could have dreamed of.

TR: Walter is filled with brilliant ideas and he has them well organized. He loves music and he comes with a flair that reminds me of why I loved ghetto blasters!

Walter May and Tyler Ramsey

What is the process of working together?

WM: We first approach a topic. Most of the time, we explore the idea of 'Organic vs. Mechanic.' How does abstract expressionist painting marry with technology, and how does that theme work with different ideas, techniques, imagery, and materials? From there, we have conversations and we have a series of trial-and-error explorations. I may take pictures and do some graphic design work, while Tyler will explore how paint reacts to different materials or what color palettes are appropriate for the message we want to achieve. It's a leapfrog experience from there. We will go back and forth creating and adding to the piece until it’s complete.

TR: We fight until one of us wins.

How does your work in different mediums inform the collaboration?

WM: One of our goals is to use materials and techniques in a different way than they were intended. The medium helps determine the process. Sometimes painting needs to come first and then the technical aspect may need to happen. Other times, we may need to build or print on things before Tyler can paint. The process and message of collaboration is the art.

TR: I think it is more fair to say that our personalities inform the collaboration. Neither of us cares to get stuck in one particular medium. Most everything has some paint thrown somewhere; I suppose I still cling to my roots. Walter doesn't do anything without stamping it with his own personality. Walter approaches each piece with a thoughtfulness that often impresses me: he has also done a terrific job keeping our work rooted in a singular theme. We are better for it. I tend to enjoy a more scattered approach.

Walter May and Tyler Ramsey

How did the decision to collaborate come about?

WM: It happened naturally over the years. We both admired each other's work and recognized each other’s growth separately. There was a time, at least for me, where I was intoxicated by what Tyler was doing and I wanted to contribute. Conversations became actions and we started exploring ideas. We still maintain our own identity and craft, but the art we were doing together was definitely different and exciting. There is an idea that we each have our own strengths and that what we make together, we could never think of or do separately.

TR: Initially, Walter approached me with some terrific ideas and a great way to document the process of an abstract, splashy painter. I was incredibly flattered at the time because I think his work was directing commercials and videos for artists like Katy Perry. I never get tired of referencing peanut butter cups and the wonderful Reese's commercials. 'You got your chocolate in my peanut butter.'

Walter May and Tyler Ramsey

Where do you find inspiration?

WM: I see a lot of what we are completing coming from our unique experiences. We've used pictures I've taken of celebrities & priceless cars. Tyler's paintings are being used to wrap sailboats hulls and even their sails. We have access to technology such as Virtual Reality, laser cutters, and giant flatbed printers. Tyler's charity work has also put him in unique situations, meeting people of all origins with different realities across the world. And the most priceless and personal thing of all, Tyler painting my wife's wedding dress as she wore it and I took stills and video. There is something interesting in the 'rare' that allows people to open up and explore their own opinions. We would like to help start those conversations.

TR: My wife and I just had our first baby boy—his name is River—and we took him on an RV trip to Tahoe and Yosemite. Right now, I am inspired by family, friends, love, and nature. Crazy inspired. I also recently took a guided tour of the Petersen Museum. Beautiful machines make me want to invent a way to properly hug them. I adore a beautiful machine.

Walter May and Tyler Ramsey

Is there any crossover between your more corporate collaborations and this project?

WM: Sure, there are obviously skills and techniques like photography, graphic design, and editing that I use for both, but more importantly it's the approach. When collaborating on any project, you need to have an open mind to everyone's goal. You can't be close-minded or you will miss out on the opportunity to do something fresh. When you align on a common goal, the work will be exponentially more rewarding for everyone.

Walter May and Tyler Ramsey

Do you have any more projects planned?

WM: We are hoping to expand techniques and explore larger pieces. With scale, there are infinitely more challenging obstacles, but also the potential to make a bigger statement (pun not intended). We hope to be making pieces for museums, hotels, airports, you name it. We have a few things in the works but in this case, secrets can be pretty fun.

Carly Zinderman

Carly Zinderman is a Senior Staff Writer for JustLuxe, based just outside of Los Angeles, CA. Since graduating from Occidental College with a degree in English and Comparative Literary Studies, she has written on a variety of topics for books, magazines and online publications, but loves fashion and style best. In her spare time, when she?s not writing, Carly enjoys watching old movies, reading an...(Read More)

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