We recently had the chance to catch up with one of our favorite San Francisco artists, Sirron Norris. For the better part of the past two decades, Norris has brightened The City with eye-catching murals full of colorful creatures, animated robots, and trippy SF architecture. In the interview, Norris opened up about his art, his thoughts on the changing city, and his work with the hit TV show, Bob’s Burgers.
Lucky us, he also designed a shirt just for his SF peeps. Check out Sirron Norris’ “Rent Control” tee and learn more from the man, himself in our exclusive interview below.
Never Elsewhere: One of your most famous murals is the Victorion Defender in the Mission’s Balmy Alley. How have gentrification and rising rent prices affected you, your art, and the art community of San Francisco as a whole?
Sirron: That’s a fair question. It affects me and my community because we will lose our culture, our style, our flavor in all this mess. If we keep this up, the Mission will be represented by recent transplants and people that are not familiar with any kind of true struggle. People used to come to SF to escape to a life of freedom and lack of judgment. They brought their attitude, creativity and style to the City, adding to its culture. Now people come to SF for the money. There is no culture in that.
Never Elsewhere: What’s the story behind your design for Rent Control?
Sirron: I’m always about taking small images to make up one larger image. I came up with the “S” first by accident. It’s something that I’m curious why I didn’t recognize sooner and add it into my art more. Plus, if you can put SF on a shirt and make it unique – I think that’s always good. People in the city always like to represent in an original way.
Never Elsewhere: How has your background of growing up in Ohio influenced your art?
Sirron: I think it’s made me very cynical. I think more importantly it gave me low expectations of human beings. This caused me to have to grow and mature rather quickly once I got to SF. Now 18 years later…I know for sure this city made me a civilized adult.
Never Elsewhere: What do you love about the Bay Area? What has kept you here for so long?
Sirron: I love that we have everything. Literally everything… from every country or culture; we have oceans, forests, deserts; every nationality lives here, and their food. We literally have every form of technology, the best doctors, scientist and educators. What keeps me here so long?’ My whole career is wrapped up in this city – it’s my life. As much as I want hot summers and fewer hipsters waiting in lines for coffee, it’s still perfect no matter what.
Never Elsewhere: How has The City changed since you moved here in ‘97? What are some things that you think have gotten better?
Sirron: Back in the day, Burritos cost $5. Valencia Street was only known for a shitty street to catch a bus on. Phil’s coffee was a convenient store that had two rows of food and the rest of the space was filled with 8-foot palm trees for sale. Phil actually worked behind the counter. Back then we had actual colors on our Victorian houses, not all this gray monotone crap with an orange or brightly colored door.
If I had to say what has gotten better, it would be the safer parks. We have to be concerned about our kids. And some of the parks in the Mission and elsewhere had some elements that restricted our youth from truly exercising and enjoying themselves. The extra policing in these parks has made them far more accessible for our community. Other than that, the nicer the Mission gets, people will expect more and more. That to me isn’t good and the benefits of gentrification are dismal at best.
Never Elsewhere: What is your favorite neighborhood in San Francisco? Why?
Sirron: The Mission…It’s where I lived for most of my time in SF. I’ve painted countless murals throughout its streets. I’ve skateboarded every road. I was here when no one cared about it.
Never Elsewhere: Do you think mural art is an extension of graffiti? Or is it a completely different beast?
Sirron: It’s completely different, or maybe your question bothers me because it should be reversed. Graffiti is an extension of murals. Graffiti is a term bunched together with murals in popular culture now and has been categorized compactly as street or public art.
Never Elsewhere: What and who are your biggest influences?
Sirron: Todd McFarlane, Quentin Tarantino, Ernie Barnes, Eyvind Earle, and Hanna-Barbera.
Never Elsewhere: Even though you are known as a muralist, you are also the lead illustrator on Bob’s Burgers, which we are OBSESSED with. What has that experience been like, and do you plan to keep working on other animation projects?
Sirron: The experience was like no other. I knew as I was drawing, that this would be an opportunity for me. I never expected it to be part of the ethos like it is now. It also took three years for it to go anywhere, so I was rather complacent about it early on. I’m really proud of my “Burger of the Day” sign that gets used everywhere. It was always a running gag in the first script, but to have your actual hand-written text on a sign that people adore is rare and a personal triumph to see every week. I still have hopes for Victorion. I did sell the rights to him and they have now reverted back to me, so hopefully a Victorion TV show would be awesome in the future.
Never Elsewhere: What is your favorite mural or art project that you’ve ever worked on?
Sirron: Right now, it’s my mural on Polk and Sacramento. Hands down my favorite. That will change when I make a new one.
Never Elsewhere: Plans for the future? Long-term life goals?
Sirron: For now, I want to redo my first mural in the Mission. It’s now 15 years old and could use some updating and color. I still want a Victorion show or movie.
Life goals? It’s always hard to drum up goals when you accomplish the hard ones early on. That’s actually my biggest problem right now, thanks for reminding me of my lack of long-term goals.
Amid countless landmarks and famous destinations, Victorian houses remain an essential part of the San Francisco landscape. Sirron’s Rent Control t-shirt was designed to honor the classic and beautiful architecture and culture that make The City so unique. For more info, check out Sirron Norris’ website.