Thursday, November 6, 2008

Artist: Devon Lawrence

The following feature was conducted by k@t and compiled by Gabe. Please do not copy+paste this feature...instead, direct link to it!

...and now, for your viewing pleasure, Mr. Devon Lawrence.


How long have you been creating?

I've been creating art since I could handle a pencil. I won my first art contest in the third grade, and I knew I wanted to become a professional artist after that. I've basically been working professionally since High School. I started off by designing a series of images for a local clothing line and their clients. My most memorable job around that point was for the Hampton Coalition for Youth. I received a $4000.00 grant to produce a comic book on community issues that affect youth. I organized some local teen artists to work with me, and the project was printed by a professional comic book printer. The grant also opened the door for more work with the Hampton Coalition for Youth. I assisted on a project to paint their logo as a mural at the now demolished Coliseum Mall in Hampton, Virginia.

How would you describe your work?

I would describe my work as pop culture meets realism. I'm really into working with more than one style of art or combining different styles. What doesn't change in my work though is the control that I have of each piece. I'm probably too obsessed with being in control, and I would like to be loose some. I know I would like to work darker as well. My images tend to be too soft.

What are you motivations for creating?

I create art because I can't see myself doing anything else. I know I would never be happy doing anything else. There was a period of time where I wasn't creating, and I was miserable. I just can't live without art. I've always enjoyed the attention that my art attracts to me anyways. I was just an average kid in school, but my art always made me stand out though.

What is a moment that you had a violent clarity and saw something completely different? (saw a movie, news, family event) How did that shape your art?

The way I see the world changed drastically when I became sick 4 yrs ago. I developed a rare muscle disease called Dermatomyositis. Basically, my white blood cells started attacking my muscles. At my lowest point, I couldn't lift my arms over my head, rise out of bed on my own, and I could barely walk up steps. Even the medication to treat my illness has been a major issue to deal with at times. Using a steroid called Prednisone caused bones in my body to decay. So, I've had two bone graft surgeries in the last two years to correct the damaged areas. Under those circumstances, you realize that life is too short to waste. Although I was planning to attend graduate school for art when I first got sick, I still wasn't creating art like I should have been at that time. Now I try to create as much as I can now. A lot of projects and opportunities have actually developed during this period. I'm still not in remission, but I'm not going to let that hold me back from creating. Or hold me back from just enjoying life.

A number of my current projects seem to be influenced by my struggles with my illness. I have an art book that I'm trying to develop that's about my illness. Words and art that outline my struggles with my illness and the side-effects of my medications. My infamous "Crack Babies" are also reappearing in my art. Images of broken, and cracked looking creatures. They could really represent me. Despite the fact that I look normal, I still feel broken at times. At the moment, I still deal with a lot pain, and my strength level isn't 100% yet.

I'm back to the idea of starting a Crack Babies clothing line, and they will continue to appear in my work as well.

What do you find visually stimulating right now? Any local artists that we need to keep an eye on?

Anime/Manga and pop culture from Asia has always been visually stimulating to me over everything else. I am looking at graffiti art again since my Crack Babies were partially influenced by that genre of art.

The only local artists that I really have my eye on attend the Norfolk Drawing Group. Local artists Mark Miltz and Bernard Conda always amaze me with their figure studies. I attend the figure study group as much as I can, and there is so much talent in that one group alone in the area. We need local artists to unite more like this, and more art shows for upcoming local artists. There's so much talent in this area, but many artists don't know how to find each other. There's no reason why this area can't compete against Richmond's art scene. MySpace has been a great tool to connect with other local talent.

What other artists or movements inform your work/aesthetics/sensibilities?

Manga artists continue to influence me a lot. Artists like James Jean
and Audrey Kawasaki definitely have inspired and influenced my work lately.

Do you think that the notion of an artist's "style" is fabricated toboost sales and marketability? Are artists then forced to limit theirbody of work to specific content or media in an effort to facilitate easy recognization?

As a artist who was trained to work commercially, a style is essential to get hired by an art director. Your style can grow, but an art director usually doesn't want to see a sporadic body of work. As for galleries, they obviously try to boost sales with what they think that the market should take notice of. When dealing with the
gallery scene, it's all about who you know it seems. So, artists in this day and age do limit themselves unfortunately at times. As artists though, we should market ourselves more and start our own companies. You should be able to have a successful career if you paint, design furniture, and work with photography. Why would you want to limit your creativity if you're a true artist?

What were your favorite cartoons as a kid??

I grew up on Anime before the US knew what Anime was. Shows like Voltron, Robotech, and Starblazers were a few of my favorites. I also never missed an episode of Transformers and GI. Joe. I'm an 80's kid. The Aeon Flux MTV Liquid television shorts and the show has to be my favorite overall cartoon. There hasn't been an American cartoon to match the creativity of that show in awhile in my opinion.

What do you imagine is the role of your work in the lives of those who
see it? What evidence do you see of your work achieving the goals you have for it?

My work is usually meant to entertain or impress people. If my piece you're viewing can hold your attention for more than a glance, I believe I've done my job. Positive feedback always lets me know for sure if my work is good. I have a popular presence on MySpace somewhat, and when other artists give me positive feedback, I know that I'm doing something right. As of late, I have a growing European fan base. I've recieved a lot of friend requests from France and Italy, and I've discovered a lot of talent that Europe has to offer due to that fact.

If there were no financial limits whatsoever for you, what constraints
would you most like to overstep? Are there other mediums you would

I would love to open a venue for local artists if I didn't have any financial limits. You would have a gallery space to exhibit, a open studio space, and my own private studio space in the building. I'm happy when I'm surrounded by creative individuals, and I couldn't find any artists in the area until I discovered the Norfolk Drawing Group. This area needs a space like this. Especially on the Peninsula. The art scene seems to be dead for young artists like myself.

Did you grow up in Virginia? (If not, when / why did you move here?)

I was born and raised in Virginia. I was born in Hampton, and I spent some time back and forth between Hampton and Newport News. I graduated from Hampton High School, and now I'm living in Newport News again. I spent my college years in Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University, and I moved to Miami, FL for a short period of time after I graduated from college.

Do you do gallery shows?

I'm definitely interested in doing gallery shows. I actually haven't been apart of a show in awhile, but that may change this Spring. I've discussed having a show with another local artist, so it's a serious possibility. The Norfolk Drawing group has also brainstormed on the idea of exhibiting. I will certainly be a part of that show if that happens.

Please finish the following statements...

"You know you've made it when..."

... when your work sells well, and is recognized world wide.

"It'll be time to pack up the gear for good when..."

... it's always cold in the area.

"I'll never forget the first time I..."

... heard about the terrorist attacks on 9/11. I was in my apartment in Miami at the time.

Let's have some fun with word association. Give me your immediate
feelings on the following (if you've got no discernable feelings, make
something up that won't embarrass you in the morning)

Military Ships

Norfolk Naval base

Constant Road Construction

Road construction will probably be finished by the time my 7 yr old neice has grandkids at this rate.

Virginia Beach Oceanfront

Greekfest 1989. I still remember watching young black college kids being hosed down on the news as a kid.


Blogs are a modern day journal/diary, and the common man's forum for thoughts, opinions, and news. I don't blog as much as I use to.

The Norva

Damian Marley and X-Clan. That was the last concert that I attended at the Norva.

The Boathouse

The Boathouse? How about The Beach house... I've never been to the
Boathouse, but I had some interesting moments at the Beach house.


I spend a lot of time in Ghent with the Norfolk Drawing Group. Ghent has a lot of potential, but the cost of living there is too high.


What festivals?

The Block

East End. Downtown Newport News. The last place I want to spend the
rest of my life at.

Granby Street

Confused. Crime, over priced stores and condos occupy the street. Once home to the Norfolk Drawing Group. I had a lot of adventures on Granby St. over the last year.

What's the most played song on your iPod (or an equivalent music playing device) in the past week?

I'm really playing a particular album at the moment. Beat Konducta: India produced by Madlib. Madlib produced a hip-hop instrumental album with samples from Indian music and film.

What was the first/last album you bought on the day it was released?
(What did you think of it?)

It has been awhile since I bought an album on the day that it was released. The last album that I purchased under such circumstances was probably Food and Liquor by Lupe Fiasco. A breath of fresh air from the 50 Cent rhymes that dominate the air waves. It's a fact that the real hip-hop artists with substance usually don't get played like they should. Like Lupe, you have artists that aren't
promoting ignorance and violence. Artists like The Roots, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Common. The industry pushes acts like Soulja Boy Tell 'Em who's talking about "Superman that Ho" though. The problem starts with corporate America, but that's a discussion for another day.

The business side of being an artist: how do you market/promote yourself, and does it work? How do you cope?

At the moment, I'm only promoting my art through word of mouth and the internet. MySpace has actually been a great tool to use. If I decide to return to the commercial industry, I would send out mailers featuring my art and website info. My website is still in the conceptual stage, and I really would like to have an actual site promote my work over a MySpace page. The Crack Babies clothing line will probably have a seperate website as well. I'm content with this scenario for now. Once my true plans are in place though, it's time to get serious and conquer the world.

What local musicians should we keep an eye on?

I'm a huge fan of the Neptunes and N.E.R.D. I wish Pharrell's album with Questlove would be released.

What local artists should we check out?

The artists from the Norfolk Drawing Group should be on everyone's list. You can find links to a number of members here.Photos from each week's sessions are posted here.

And finally...What came first, the art or the misery? (explain)

I would like to believe that the misery came first. Art was a way to express the misery. A form of early therapy.

official myspace page

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