To make sure there’s no unpainted corner of the Threadless office, we asked street artist The Lost Cause to turn one of our garage doors into his own personal canvas. Now the once blank, tin square is filled with industrial personality, capping off our arrival to work with a colorful creation. We caught up with The Lost Cause afterwards to ask him about his career, his hometown of Portland, and his recent world tour. Keep reading to learn a little more about The Lost Cause and to check out his awesome handiwork on our garage door!

The Lost Cause’s garage door turned canvas.

Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? How did you begin your career?

I go by “The Lost Cause” and I’m based out of Portland, Oregon. I started painting graffiti when I was about 13 and it evolved into what it is now. I haven’t really considered it a “career” until the last two or three years.

Why did you choose to move forward as an artist without any formal training?

Everything I learned about painting came from self-taught graffiti skills; I never really thought that art school or training made much sense for what I wanted out of painting. If anything, formal training would have only restrained my ability to figure out what I like to do. It’s been a good bit of trial and error, but how do any of us grow as humans without making some mistakes, right?

How did your trademark original character, “Winston the Whale,” come to be?

I was doodling this blob thing I saw on a blog, and I gave it a couple fins and eventually a whale tail. It started off as “Lost at Sea” because it was a whale, but I switched it up to “The Lost Cause” shortly after. I made some hand painted stickers and immediately got responses from all kinds of people within a week or two of putting them up. It all took off from there!

The struggle became real for The Lost Cause as he painted this piece through wind and rain in Chicago’s Pilsen Neighborhood.

Why did you decide to move to Portland, Oregon?

My brother moved out here about 10 years ago and I visited him a couple times. I liked it because it has a mellow mood and plenty of natural beauty. I also wanted to GTFO of my hometown; we all know how that is.

What do you find unique about Portland’s street art scene?

Stickers! Portland has one of the most bangin’ sticker scenes I’ve ever seen, in regard to quality, originality, quantity, and sense of community. Everyone knows each other; we’re all pals and we all push each other creatively to try new things. I’m really stoked to be part of such a great group of individuals. We need more muralists though!

A starry-eyed rendition of The Lost Cause’s trademark character, Winston the Whale.

You write that the sticker culture in Portland is very unique. What role does it play for street art?

Stickers are the easiest and most efficient way to get your message across. You can make thousands of stickers in a short period of time and if enough end up out on the streets, people WILL see them. You can also cover a huge area without much risk. They are less destructive than paint or markers and if someone is really offended, they can peel the sticker off. I think it’s also a great way to make new friends; when I meet someone, I often give them a sticker and boom - instant friend! Who doesn’t like stickers, anyway?!

What influences the work that you do?

I am always looking at art; both older and more contemporary. I am also influenced by my own work; I often go back and look at older photos or sketches of previous work. I feel it helps me stay within my own style.

The spray paint genie. Unfortunately, he doesn’t grant wishes.

You have a unique style relying heavily on rigid geometric shapes. How did you adopt this technique?

I went through a bit of a “crisis” last fall, and wanted to develop a style that felt different from my usual cartoony stuff. I started doodling faces and filling them in with zigzags and triangles and other geometric patterns, then I took those shapes and patterns to the wall and applied them with colors. My goal for now is to work mostly without outlines; it’s challenging for me because that’s how I’ve always painted, but I am figuring out new tricks with every wall I paint.

How did you hear about Threadless?

I actually heard about Threadless when I was in high school. I bought a shirt from you guys like eight years ago! I think a friend told me about it when I saw his shirt at school. Good stuff! I dig what you guys do. :)

When geometric monsters attack!

What inspired the work that you did for Threadless?

The shape of the garage door, to be honest, ha! I had already sketched out the design to initially paint in London, but I got rained out. When I saw the square format of the door at Threadless, I thought it would be perfect for that sketch.

Many street artists deliberately hide or obscure their faces. What made you decide to openly pose in front of the piece you did for Threadless?

I really like it when I can connect a face to the work I admire; it makes the work seem more “human” to me. There are so many artists I have been following for years, and I have no idea what they look like. I want to provide that connection for my audience since it’s important to me. I also like to show the scale of the work, and sometimes a photo of the work itself doesn’t quite illustrate how large the wall is.

The Lost Cause’s finished product falls perfectly in line with the Threadless style.

What is the creative process like for you, from start to finish, when working on a piece of art?

It usually starts off with a good visual of the surface I will be painting, then a rough sketch based on that surface. My sketches tend to be loose and based more on the general composition and shapes rather than the details. After that, I lay down spray-painted sketch lines on the wall and begin to section off the areas and shapes, and then fill those areas in with colors. I add the details as I’m painting, and typically don’t quite know where all of the details are going to end up til I’m doing them. There’s a lot of back-and-forth of cleaning up lines and details to get them just the way I want them… and a ton of self doubt, haha. But, in the end, I’m usually happy with the results.

Where did the idea of going on an international art tour come from? How is the tour going?

I watch all of these artists and muralists who are constantly traveling. I had done a little bit of traveling here in the U.S. and saw an immediate impact on my work and the power of networking, so it only made sense to take it a little further. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made with my work. I got to paint new cities, meet new friends, and learn a whole heckuva lot in the process. I am taking what I’ve learned and applying it to my future work.

The man behind the paint.

Your approach to raising money for your tour through crowdsourcing was very unique. How was the process of raising money for your international tour?

Crowdsourcing is the future of getting projects funded. It allows you to have total control of the content of your project and also lets you do it exactly the way you want without outside influence. It also engages the audience in a unique way. When someone donates their hard-earned money to something like an artist tour, they are going to want to see the results. It definitely puts a bit of pressure on me, but in a good way. I also think it’s a great way to get my work physically in my audience’s hands. When they donate they also get “rewards” for donating, so it’s kind of a win-win situation. It blew my mind when I ended the fundraiser with $1775 over my goal; it was a really humbling experience.

What do all the different cities you’re stopping in bring to the table for street art?

Each city has it’s own set of artists, advocates, and politics. A city is like a venue for street art, and just like different venues host different bands and musicians, so does each city with muralists and street artists. The laws and city politics play a huge roll in each city’s ability to deliver street art in a different way. Some have strict laws that limit the amount of street art and some (like Berlin) are much looser and thus you see a much higher saturation and standard for street art.

I’ve seen pictures of you and other artists working on the same mural. How is it collaborating with another artist while painting a mural together on the same wall?

It’s different with each artist. It’s kind of like dancing; some people like to get real close and squeeze on your butt, some like to square dance, and some just want to look at you and nod to the beat. I like it for the most part. I usually like to have a decent discussion beforehand about what’s the plan, but sometimes I just go with the flow and see what happens.

The Lost Cause playing nice with others.

How has an international tour helped you grow as an artist?

It’s helped me to truly realize how integral street art is to a city. It influences the entire environment and the people living in it. The people who live in neighborhoods with murals and art take great pride in that aspect of their community, and I’m happy to give them something to enjoy and look at on their daily walk to the corner store, bus stop, or wherever they may be going. I’m ready to paint more and paint bigger! Street art is the future and is a movement that will be in history books to come. I am just really happy to be a part of it and a witness to it all.

The Winstons approve. Thanks, homie!