Wayne White reflects on 20 years of his word paintings

Combining found paintings with pithy words and phrases, Wayne White’s artworks have become ready-to-use memes for the internet age. CR speaks to the artist about how the project has developed since 1999

Since I was three, I was always going to be an artist. Nothing else,” says American artist Wayne White over email one August evening. “I saw people’s faces when they looked at my drawings. I knew I was one.”

You will probably have seen White’s brash, trippy word paintings. They often pop up on the internet via various Tumblr sites, pinned as inspiration or tweeted as ready-made memes. This ongoing series of paintings that contain words emblazoned across non-specific landscapes has been chugging along for an impressive 20 years now, with White starting it in 1999 as just “an experiment”. These artworks have become a defining part of White’s career but he has had significant success as an illustrator, set designer and art director among many other things. 

Fake, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist and Joshua Liner Gallery