Tony Speirs is a Bay Area painter obsessed with the insidious nature of advertising and the fate of youth in the United States. He studied illustration at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University and counts as his influences L.A.’s pop-surrealism scene and Lowbrow Art figureheads like Mark Ryden, Alex Gross, and the Clayton Brothers.
Tony’s intricate, large-scale acrylic portraits can take several viewings to decode. He begins with a face confronting the viewer, then layers on an avalanche of pop-culture imagery drawn from 1940s-era cartoons, science fiction, and pinball machines. He chooses these images based on whatever pop nugget is rattling in his cranium — this is a man who wakes up dreaming of a Frosted Flakes’ commercial he saw 40 years ago, after all — and also on the hopes and insecurities of his subjects, who he often interviews before painting.
Tony has portrayed people from his personal life, YouTube “influencers” he contacted while late-night browsing music videos, and victims of racial injustice and gun violence. “I like this idea of young people where they’re looking directly at us, and maybe at my generation,” he says. “They’re not smiling or being a snapshot, but more just directly questioning us.” He has artworks in collections at local wineries and the Santa Rosa Junior College, and produces pieces for Burning Man with local collective Art Farm Motel and with his wife and fellow artist, Lisa Beerntsen, in Graton, California.