Dutch illustrator, painter, and animator Parra (b. 1976) grew up in a town on the outskirts of Amsterdam. At seventeen, he decided he wanted to be an artist, but he was rejected from art school. He was too young to work, so he found a different kind of school. “I went to some stupid school where they taught drawing to be a teacher. Drawing teacher. Did that for like one year and then switched the course to free art, and then basically did nothing for 2 years. I just skated. I never visited the place. And then they said well you have to intern now, well cool, so I called a lot of people from skateboarding and eventually got work at a web place in the center of Amsterdam.” He found work as an editor for a Dutch hip-hop website, and eventually he and three friends founded Lacebag, the first Dutch website and forum solely dedicated to sneakers and streetwear.
Parra is known as much for skateboarding as for his vibrant post-pop imagery. Before he was Piet Parra, he was Pieter Janssen, a talented and well-respected skater. He was one of the earliest pros for the Dutch skateboard brand Colorblind, and eventually he transitioned into the brand’s art director. Parra has also done board graphics for brands like enjoi, Skate Mental and Zoo York. He now owns his own skateboard brand, Tired Skateboards.
His career has long been connected to music. He started out making flyers and posters for clubs and dance festivals, which eventually became iconic and ubiquitous around Amsterdam. He made artwork for the musical duo Rednose Distrikt. His first work was on the label of the Scumbag promo 12 inch and continued onto the Rock Your Rednose Well In The Distrikt album (2003) and 2005’s Denk Ik EP, which previews an early version of Parra’s beaked creatures on the cover. Parra also founded Rockwell Records, a small imprint that released a total of three highly limited LP’s between 2003 and 2005. In 2008 Stones Throw recruited Parra to design James Pants’ album artwork, as well as various T-shirts for label greats like Madlib, J Dilla and Charizma. Rockwell was also a clothing label For the first two years Parra made only T-shirts , but eventually he also offered items such as sweaters, jackets, hats, bags, and eventually even bed covers and shower curtains.
Parra has only been making “conventional” art for a relatively short time. Until 2009, his shows featured one-off drawings or prints. During an exposition in Berlin, called I Like the Tee Shirt but I Will Get the Painting, Parra showed new work consisting of paintings and polyurethane sculptures. Ever since, there’s been a more steady output of Parra canvases and sculptures, including limited edition porcelain dogs and Christ-like busts, created for commercial retail.
Today his fine art has garnered him international acclaim and gallery shows around the world, including Juxtapoz x Superflat at Vancouver Art Gallery, November 5, 2016–February 5, 2017 and a solo show at Joshua Liner Gallery in NYC on November 17, 2016.