Trains, Cans, and Fine Art With Denver Artist Aaron Golbeck
Aaron Golbeck, aka AG_PNT, has had a unique journey into becoming a full time artist. From a young age, he was doodling and painting on anything he could. Eventually his love for the mountains and snowboarding brought him to Colorado, but after a long series of injuries trying to go pro as a snowboarder forced him to reconsider his course in life, he found healing and a renewed passion for art along the way... and he couldn't be happier.
What brought you to Colorado?
I never really traveled much outside of Michigan growing up so when I graduated high school, I was looking for any excuse to get out. I visited one of my best friends who was living in Breckenridge and I dropped everything as soon as I got back, packed my stuff, and drove out to live in the mountains and snowboard. That was about 9 years ago. Shout out to GK!
What kind of music do you listen to?
I listen to a bunch of different music, but the genres I mostly cycle through are hip-hop, alternative rock, and some chill electronic vibes. My playlists are really all over the place. Just depends on what mood I’m in, and if I’m trying to get stoked or mellow out.
Favorite way to spend time off?
If I’m not making art, I love to be outside. I love to skate or I’ll whip around my lil’ moped if it’s nice out. If I’m really feeling lazy, I’ll get down on some video games. I try to find a healthy balance of being productive and having time to do things that I enjoy.
What’s the best advice as an artist you’ve ever received?
I’ve had a bunch of good advice over these past years but the ones that stuck with me that I had to write down were “Stay true to what your inner real tells you and don’t listen to others. Work hard and the rest will come by itself.” The other is “I know it’s necessary but don’t get consumed by the need of money in your artistic universe. It's not about that. It will come to you when you put out that right energy.”
You were a professional snowboarder, tell us how you went from that to being a full-time artist:
I don’t think that I can fully claim being a pro, because it takes a lot to truly earn that title in the snowboard world, but I was riding at an am/pro level when I had to pivot into a new direction with art. I was living up in Breckenridge, riding everyday, and I had some great sponsors that helped support me to snowboard and be able to travel and shred with my friends. I was able to go to events like Superpark 21 and 22, which really opened my eyes to the craziness and dedication it takes to ride at that level. Those were some of the best times honestly. I was committed to pushing for that life, but I had to make a decision to rethink my future when my concussions started to stack up and become noticeable to my overall health.
In 2018, I had a concussion that I had to take 3 months off my board to recover from, and in that time I realized I needed to do something productive with my time. I grew up doing art for fun and painting with spray, but I had been so focused on boarding at the time that when I was forced to step back and recover, I thought picking up some cans would help me through those times. I went to Denver, grabbed some paint from LowBrow, came back home, wrapped two trees in the backyard with plastic wrap to make a wall, and painted an octopus I had in my sketchbook. It was a real awakening moment for me, and it became all I could think about. I started to paint as much as I could on some walls I built in my backyard, to the point where I had two jobs and my second job entirely went towards my paint fund. I was still boarding as much as I could, but I would spend my down time experimenting with cans. On a trip to Denver to pick up paint, I met Chad Bolsinger at a wall he was working on, and through a shared passion for shredding and painting, we started hanging out and I would help him with mural projects he needed an extra hand with. I was painting as much as I could, helping out with projects, as well as finding my own style and that summer of 2019, I had a few opportunities that showed me it could be possible to make a living making art. As that started to develop, I went into the next winter season feeling good on my board, and that November, I fell and hit my head on some ice riding away from a trick and it put me out for the rest of the season. After visits with my doctor, and going to physical therapy for my neck and head, I was told I needed to take 2 years off. That winter was tough for me, but at that moment I knew that I needed to take my life in a new direction and I realized my art was going to take me there. I decided to put a plan together to move out of Breckenridge and live on the road to chase work and paint as much as possible.
What was wild is a couple weeks into the search for something to live in, a wrecked van came through the shop my dad worked at that was the perfect model, size, and price to fix up and build out to live in. At the end of that winter season, I quit my job, sold everything worth selling, and loaded up my 1984 Chevy Suburban, and started driving to NC where my family was living and where the van was. About half way through Kansas, I blew a gasket in my transmission, had to sell my truck, and rent a uhaul truck to drive the rest of the distance to NC. To add insult to injury, the day I arrived COVID shut down everything. So for the next 5 months I lived in my parents driveway building out this van I was going to live in while dealing with all the craziness that was unraveling in the world and not really knowing what the future was going to hold. It was a long build that came with some low points, but I was grateful to have a project that I was able to work on. By the time summer came around, and I was finishing up the build, all I could think of was to get out and paint anything I could. It was crazy because the first opportunity to paint was for Marty Kotis out of Greensboro, NC who became a big contributor in my artistic journey. He curates Kotis Street Art, and when we connected he gave me the space, resources, and the artistic freedom to paint what I wanted to. Ever since I got on the road, I’ve been able to hustle and find opportunities to put myself on a healthier path towards success and happiness with my art and I’m so grateful for this new direction with life. I still snowboard from time to time, but my art has been my main focus since I picked a spray can back up and I couldn’t be happier.
What is your earliest memory of discovering art?
I was always drawing when I was little, but when I found out about street art it was through this older kid my mom used to look over as a probation officer. We would hang out at the local boys and girls club or the skatepark and he would teach me about skateboarding, and show me whatever music and art he was into. Plus the internet was starting to develop so I would just see things on graffiti.org or at the local book store in print that blew my mind. The first book I saw that really opened my eyes to art was Graffiti World by Nicholas Ganz. I remember getting my parents or grandma to take us to the mall so I could go to the book store and look through it any chance I could. It was funny because in 4th or 5th grade we had this thing called Micro Society where you would work for fake money then be able to spend it on snacks or playing in the gym, or whatever little businesses were available. Me and a couple of my friends created a business called Direct Drawing which was named after the local skateboard shop, and it was basically me drawing pictures of whatever kids wanted. My favorite memory was this one girl came up and wanted a drawing that said “Big Pimpin” and after I drew it for her she set it up on the front of her desk next to her name tag. I remember my teacher freaked out and pulled us out of class to yell at us “Do you know what a pimp is?!” and informed us of what they were and why I shouldn’t write things like that. It makes me laugh to see that I basically do the same thing now except for real money. I wonder if it would make her feel better knowing I never gave it up.
How did you know you wanted to become an artist?
I never really thought about it much when I was young, but ever since I could hold a crayon, I loved to draw on everything I could. I would doodle on every surface I could; books, desktops, walls, white boards, skate ramps, didn’t matter. Art was always a major part of my life but I never saw it as a career choice. I just loved it, no rules, no one told me what to do, I could just create whatever I liked. It wasn’t until I was older, working shitty jobs, and rediscovering my art where I realized the potential to make a career out of it. It seemed like the only path where I felt I could be passionate about my work and enjoy everyday instead of giving up my time to dead end jobs. Life is too short and unpredictable to not chase your dreams.
Your style is heavily influenced by street art, do you have a graffiti background?
For sure, graffiti is a major influence on my art. I’m fascinated by people’s will to leave their mark behind and the various ways and styles they do so. When I was young and turned on to spray, there really wasn’t anyone into graffiti that I knew of so I learned about different styles and techniques of painting through surfing the internet and exploring around for graffiti on trains and bridges. I would work on little sketches in my black book of the names I had then get my best friend's older sister to buy me spray paint so we could go out and paint the trains parked in the woods north of my neighborhood. There is a limestone quarry that was a big part of the economy in my hometown so I would go out and paint trains by myself. Eventually my mom caught me because they saw one of my names go by on a cart and made it very clear they would only support me if I made out legally. Keep in mind I was like 12 or 13 at the time so my parents were freaked out a little. From that point I started to explore different aspects of art and focus on drawing portraits and characters. Which was needed in my artistic journey, but it always seemed to circle back to my influences of graffiti. It wasn’t until the past couple years, experimenting with concepts that I found a way to integrate my tags, with my attraction to realism and structure.
What kind of shenanigans have you gotten yourself into in this line of work?
Everyday is an adventure. I have been able to travel the states more than I ever did in my youth, to the point where I have put about 60,000+ miles on my van over the past two years traveling to paint murals. Countless long nights and early mornings busting out massive walls on the thinnest of budgets. I’ve met some incredibly talented and motivated artists from all walks of life that I’m happy to call my friends. I have been able to paint at events like Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas and Art Week in Miami. I even created a mural festival in my hometown that is coming up on its 4th year of bringing murals to my small community. And that’s not even mentioning all the wild shit that I’ve seen being in the street painting. This life is wild and I’m constantly seeing things, meeting people, and discovering new things that inspire and expand my mind as well as my art.
In what ways do you feel your art has evolved over the years?
I would say the biggest things that have evolved in my art over the years are my capabilities and quality painting with a can, and the understanding of my relationship with my art and the world that it exists in. I was lucky to discover my passion for art at a young age, and I knew that I could develop my skills into something worthy of sharing, but ever since I really focused my energy on painting I have learned to be confident with a can and paint anything I put my time into. With that skill, I’ve also learned the importance of my intentions behind my work. In the beginning of this journey, I dreamed of simply just being able to paint, to now, traveling around the states painting 2000+ sq. ft. murals of the various things that inspire me. There have been many mistakes, but I constantly push the craft and my mind, and it’s exciting to see things grow.
Do you have a piece you’re particularly fond of?
I have a few pieces that mean a lot to me from over the years, but if I had to pick one, it would be the first robot I painted that was covered in my tags. I was rained out of a wall in NC for Kotis Street Art, and I painted the piece inside the barn I was staying in. It was a lightbulb moment because it was an experimental concept that I had been thinking on and it came together so organically just having fun on the wall. As soon as I started getting into it I knew I had struck something that I needed to give more attention. That one was big for me.
What’s your artistic weapon of choice?
Spray can, all day, everyday.
Can you describe your creative process?
I feel like my process is my take on fulfilling both sides of the brain. On one side I am big about planning out my design both aesthetically and conceptually, I like to use imagery high in contrast or that has connections to my personal life or things that influence me. I need to have a plan before I put paint on the wall. On the other end, once I have a plan on the concept and lay out of the wall, I get my pre sketch on the wall, and unless I have a specific color I need to replicate, I just start to fill my pieces up with tags and illustrations that come to mind in the colors that I have available. 90% of the time they are all spontaneous, but I try to place them in a way that compliments the shape and dimension of my figures. Then when I have all the tags layered in, I come in with black and white paint and shape out and refine my pieces. I’m big about layering my pieces up with tags or illustrations, and it gives a certain energy to the wall that I love and I feel like people enjoy seeing something new every time they look at a piece of mine.
Do you have a dream location you’d like to paint?
I want to travel the world and leave behind something everywhere I go! I have never been overseas so it would be dope to travel to paint. But really I just want to paint some of the biggest structures imaginable. I want to paint a skyscraper someday so that you can see the piece for miles. I want to paint abandoned buildings top to bottom with art in vibrant colors. I just want to paint everywhere I possibly can. There are far too many blank walls out there for my liking.
Do you have any upcoming projects we can look forward to?
I have some stuff in the works like painting for this year's Electric Daisy Carnival and a couple murals around the states. Schedule is starting to fill up but the good ones usually just come out of the blue when I’m in the right place, at the right time.
Follow me on IG @ag_pnt or check my website ag-pnt.com for murals coming up, merch dropping, and some original works of art and prints I’ll be releasing. Working on putting together another solo show here in Denver so keep an eye out. Thank you for the opportunity to share my work and shout out to everyone who has supported me over the years, can’t wait for this summer season!