Why did you choose to become an artist?
I have always wanted to be an entertainer. I have been a performer, a musician, and a spoken word artist. But, ultimately art is the medium where I have found myself and have become an entertainer. I like to entertain with how I see and morph the world. All the pieces I create are really me. Art is my identity.
When did you first know you were an artist?
I had a lot of time to myself growing up, and I would doodle and could put colors together. I had a driving force in me to want to create from a young age. I truly realized I was ready to be an artist after my son passed away. I lost me in the whole grand scheme of the trauma of his death. I needed to recreate myself and find myself. And I did in this through art. I found the little kid who loved to create and wanted to be an artist and I channeled him into my adulthood.
I knew when I did my first doodle, at a young age, that I loved it. Then the challenge became to prove that I could be good at it, and now, to strive to always do my best. The goal for me is to be like the Renaissance artist, not to strive to be successful in a monetary way, but to be successful in a creative way. When I received my first commission work, it was an encouraging moment. But, whether a piece is for $5 or $5,000, you have to see the value in it.
I was told in the 6th grade that I was not going to be a good artist at all. At first this discouraged me. But, later this comment motivated me more than anything. What would this teacher say now if they saw my art today? I am a self-taught artist. I have learned all the hardships of art through my 3 teachers: trial, error, and motivation. I am self-taught because I do not want to be influenced where my style may resemble someone else. For example, when I was a hip hop poet, I did not listen to hip hop to inspire me. I listened to jazz so I could come up with a unique concept. I have learned, that in art, it does not matter who you are-- you are relevant, in what you do and how you do it. We all have a creative nature. Some of us choose to use it, some of us do not.
You had some rough years in your late teens and early 20s living in the rougher areas of Brooklyn. How or do you think these years affected your art?
My years in the streets of Brooklyn were rough ones for me. I saw and experienced many things that have shaped me, to this day. During my years in Brooklyn, I met some graffiti artists who were highly skilled. I was drawn to learn graffiti. To me, graffiti is about design and flow. I think this is why I am drawn to it. Meeting these artists were like having mentors. Some of them had gone through art school, but that was good for them. For me, learning techniques that school can't teach works best. They say the self-taught artist is the best art student. They are not trained to do it… they just do it. They learn their way. Sometimes the hard way is not always a bad way. It is the lifestyle of trials and errors that I apply and bring to the table. Those who view my work not only see the image before them, but they can see all the design elements that I bring from street art. I am bringing me to the table. I have nothing to hide.
What have you found to be the biggest challenge in using caricature as your main artistic expression?
Many artists say practice makes perfect. You can practice the wrong thing and be the perfect person doing the wrong perfect thing. You need to know what is real in order to make an honest rendition. In my struggle of being a caricaturist, finding the connections to make an honest rendition in the face is the biggest challenge. There are so many different faces out there. A rule does not apply to all faces. It is about understanding the structure. But… if you do not know the rules, you cannot break them.
My process is basically trying to inject as much personality into the caricature of the person, as I can. I try to become the person, be the actor, direct my shots, and get my angles right. My drawing is my movie. My creation. Something I learned in movies… is faces, and all the different types of faces. To take a face I see in a movie and then make it into its own new movie, is my goal. My goal is to show you the world from my eyes. If I choose to make eyes bigger, this is because this is what my eyes were drawn to and I want you to see what I see. But, the basis of any drawing is getting the structure right, and make sure all the features coincide.
One medium you are known for creating in is the ballpoint pen. What drew you to this medium?
I chose ballpoint pen because I needed patience in my life and the ballpoint pen is a tool that has given me patience. Because of the time the precision it takes to finish a piece, you have to have a lot of patience. I’m also striving for perfection. Initially, I saw some phenomenal artists, like Thierry Colquelet, doing work with the ballpoint pen, and their skill drew me in. If anyone tries to do a detailed piece with pen, they will understand how time consuming it is. I also like lines. I am a linear perspective person and it does not get any more linear than the lines of a ballpoint pen.
I saw something in other pen artists that I admired and wanted to now if I could achieve the look within the world of caricature. The more time I spend doing it, I learn better and more efficient techniques. I am from the school of Kathy Collowitz and Thomas Naste-- people who were editorialists. I love their work. The pen seems to me to be more editorial; but, in this digital age the art form does not hold much weight.
When I create a piece and someone says, “Wow, you made that with a ballpoint pen?” ; and I can say “yes”...this motivates me to keep going!
Could any other medium challenge one’s patience?
Sure.. painting can do it, pencil can do it...it is the detail within the work that pulls out my patience. It depends on the level of patience you have. I needed more time to be inside myself. I do not like the speediness of today’s world. For example, I never liked doing amusement park caricatures because it demanded speed. It was like fast food art. Honestly when you are in your studio, it is the true you creating. When you are in pubic creating it is about money, and sustaining yourself. I want to spend my time in solace with art. There is not a right or wrong tool you use. You can use a crayon.
What do you see in your future as an artist?
I see in the future for me constant evolving. Always wanting to learn. I never feel like I have learned enough. And, I am always trying to pass forward whatever I know to other people.