I don’t ordinarily ask the creatives I interview which design trends are gay. In fact, I would have guessed questions like that are offensive. But when talking to Nicholas Scheppard and Jenson Titus, Founders, Co-Owners, and comedians who paint at Very Gay Paint, it feels like the right thing to do.
Helvetica? So very straight (but thank you for being an ally). Compostable packaging? Gay as hell. (“I’d go so far as to say queer,” Jenson said.) A pastel color palette? Nicholas and Jenson didn’t totally agree there, but they did say the Easter bunny is a raging homo.
Nicholas and Jenson have a background in performing and moved to Los Angeles three years ago to work in the comedy scene. They’ve done stand-up shows, clowning, and produced a popular monthly show at the Lyric Hyperion Theater & Cafe. At the beginning of 2020, they were booked almost every night of the week.
And then the pandemic happened.
“We were sitting in our apartment, trapped like everyone else, and I started painting one of our walls based on something I saw on Pinterest,” Nicholas said. “Then Jenson jumped in and helped paint our other walls, and then we ran out of walls in our apartment. We painted a little bit for friends, and then friends of friends, and then businesses. It’s just been this snowball.”
Their Instagram showcases some of their past work, with bold color-blocked designs, thick, curving lines that stretch from one end of a room to the other, and even the occasional landscape piece. But that’s just one part of what Very Gay Paint does—they’re part painters-for-hire and part comedy duo. Tongue-in-cheek captions highlight their inspiration (“ancient gay runes used in elaborate rituals to help the user digest dairy well into their 50’s”) or give a very gay history lesson (“The three lines in this mural represent the three lines a gay character was legally allowed to say in any film from the early 2000s”). Videos hilariously depict how you paint based on your zodiac sign or, on the more practical end of things, offer painting tutorials.
“We knew pretty early on that this thing was going really fast and in a lot of different directions,” Jenson said. “So we wanted to hook our skills onto this, which are being hosts, performers, comedians, and writers. I wanted to make sure we didn’t just get known as painters, so we put up videos and tried to integrate the comedy into it.”
Nicholas added that neither of them has a visual art background, so they didn’t feel like they could lead their business with that. “Our attention span sort of demands that we add another layer to it, just so that we get to be stupid and have fun,” he said.
The brand is inherently playful and silly, and Nicholas and Jenson have enjoyed the confidence that comes with bringing their talents to a new audience. Their previous work has been well-received at comedy or stand-up shows, but the concept for two gay men who paint things in a very gay way is nothing the interior design and art world has really ever seen before. People haven’t been able to get enough of them.
And while Very Gay Paint is supposed to make you laugh, Nicholas and Jenson put serious thought into this brand they have created. It’s just as much fun and games as it is a social commentary.
“I remember growing up and at a time when saying things were gay was used derogatorily,” Nicholas explained. “And there was this huge fear that if I come out, then it means I’m automatically submitting to being this secondary character in my life, or I’m submitting to just being like a joke. To turn that whole thing on its head and poke fun at that is something I find very empowering.”
“So much representation in media has been so intense,” Jenson said. “Gay films are always very intense, like about AIDS, or there’s Queer Eye. But you don’t get to see this down-to-earth view of gay people poking fun of themselves.”
Very Gay Paint came about in the pandemic, and they’ve got a solid process down for creating murals and pieces in people’s homes. They typically do a consultation over Zoom, do brief, socially distanced introductions, and then reveal the mural once it’s done. They’re excited to have more casual face-to-face interactions with their clients in the future, though. And aside from getting back to putting live shows together once it’s safe to, they’re also currently pitching a show as well as a book. The dream is for Very Gay Paint to expand into a Very Gay World—one where Nicholas and Jenson show what it’s like when the hierarchy gets flipped, and gay people become the masters and innovators of their worlds.
“It’s fun to turn the tables on bullies’ straightness and straight people,” Nicholas said. “What a dream to grow up on the playground and be like, ‘Oh no, I’m not gay, I’d never want to do that,’ and then now as an adult to create this fantasy world where we’re like, ‘Are you straight? That’s fucking weird.’”