Simon Zylstra

In the past few years, we have seen a surge in young self-taught creatives that seem to transcend the boundary of a single creative genre. Simon Zylstra is a prime example. Since coming onto the scene in 2019, the Los Angeles based 23 year old has done design work, artistic direction, painting, and more for a number of brands including Fugazi, Absent, and Blazzy's Nothing Personal.

Simon's path to where he is today started when he was four or five,

“My dad was a pretty creative guy growing up. He would do sculpture and stuff and I would just be drawing along beside him. So that was fun.”

Throughout highschool, he continued on the art path and eventually applied to USC because as he put it -“I felt like I could finesse my way into a good school by applying for art because you know, it’s niche.”- After studying art for a year, he switched to the economics school to finish his degree.

“There was this narrative you know, that you go to art school, work at a gallery as an attendant and then you become a teacher. I didn't find that very inspiring”  

Simon is quick to credit USC with his first connections, -“Yeah, Trevor (Gorji) and Elan (Bia) went to USC. I met Elan and junior year and we just started doing random creative things together. Over winter break he sent me what would be my first commission from Trevor..”- That first commission was an illustration for Gorjis brand North Korea Skate Team, an early project of his that was mainly composed of screen-printed pieces adorned with the acronym NKST.

Although that first project didn’t get released until months later, he had built a connection with Trevor that would crossover to his next brand Fugazi.

One of Trevor's first pieces with Fugazi was a western-inspired version of the infamous “Paris” dunk in which he commissioned Simon to do the artwork.

“The slugs were a huge opportunity for me,We spent a lot of time on those, paying attention to every detail and making sure the pattern of artworks was just right.”

This relationship with Fugazi has continued as they have grown into a prominent streetwear brand over the last year. Simon and his artwork have been featured in many of Fugazi's latest pieces, especially in their latest collection “Veblen”. 

When a new or familiar client approaches Simon with an idea, he normally runs through the same process.

With Art and Design, I look back at 20th century corporate design and typography as references. Old political cartoons are also great. For Painting related commissions, I look back further. I really like the Renaissance, like Dutch Golden Age artwork, that stuff's iconic. Also I'm Dutch" he laughs "that"s the main bias I probably have with the paintings”. 

You can see this influence in many of his recent paintings for artists. A British redcoat turned Lil Yachty, his jester resembling producer Filthy and a crate of wine with the label “Wockhardt” are all part of Simon's unique style. Replacing these paintings of renaissance icons with modern-day cultural icons is his way to convey the importance of his subject. Ironically enough, Lil Yachty has achieved the same level of stardom that a renaissance era artist or war general would have.

One of Simon's favorite paintings of a musician is a recent painting he did for Yeat. -“I guess it was fanart but there's a story behind it. Yeat's manager Nextel was at Blazzy's office, where I have a painting framed, and he really liked it. Blazzy called me and said I should make one for 2 Alivë. His manager (Nextel) reposted it. Then out of nowhere Kankan did too. A couple hours later Lyrical posted it on their timeline. It was a pretty surreal experience.”-

Simon got his start on the music side of things when he became a part of No Soap. Started by Elan Bia and Luke Mero. No Soap is a creative agency that focuses on music video production, creative direction, and events for artists. Started by Elan Bia @elanbia and Luke Mero @nosoapluke, No Soap has quickly become the voice of the underground music scene by working with artists such as SSG Kobe, Autumn, and OnlyBino. 

-“No Soap has been the perfect sandbox for everyone involved. I've learned a lot from working there. Making posters and video title cards, helping with treatments, doing the intro animations. I did animation for a couple videos. I'm still super proud of the Midwxst one..”-

Lately I've been doing a lot more on the clothing side in terms of merch designs and Elan's other project, Local Milfs Wanted. Whatever it may be, I really enjoy working alongside Elan, he's got the vision.

From collage posters like this one done for a YungxChris x Lil Yachty video to more renaissance-style paintings for artists such as Surge, Simon's impact on No Soap and the company's style can be seen throughout their work. 

For now, Simon's workload consists of a constant rotation of clients he works with. “So Fugazi, Blazzy, Absent, Drought (cameupinthedrought) and Austin A.G.” Being a solo artist it's hard to take on many more clients. While a design can be done in a workday, painting takes more time. Those projects take up to "a week grind ”. -''I would say that it takes 35 hours or something and another 5 hours of concept work and whatnot. So like 40 hours total.”- With this in mind, Simon says, his long-term goal is to  -“In addition to establishing myself as an artist, I aim to have my own studio that can take on projects, like a creative agency, I don’t want to start a brand or anything”

In the meantime, Simon's focus is on Fugazi, and the other clients he works with.

My current portfolio isn't the half of it. There's so much I either cant talk about or isn't out yet that I'm so excited for. I've spent the better part of 2022 working on a painting with Blazzy. We've made an 1000 piece puzzle together. It's my biggest project yet, and its coming soon..”

Keep up to date with Simon on Instagram @simonzylstra

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@simonzylstra • Instagram photos and videos

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