Thursday, June 20, 2024

15 Minutes With…Visual Artist Blue the Great

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The Dallas area-born, Los Angeles-raised artist Blue the Great has been shelling out captivating work for nearly a decade. Between crafting the iconic cover for Isaiah Rashad’s debut album, The Sun’s Tirade, to defacing a police patrol car for Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 BET Awards performance, Blue has something that other artists strive for: impact in expression.

Blue defacing a police car to be used in Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 BET Awards. (Photo by Blue the Great)

His most recent project is a bold, glistening, Alice in Wonderland-like pedestal for footwear. Five shoes were produced and all will be auctioned off with the launch of “The Final Touch,” and all proceeds will go toward the art program at Cedar High School, where the artist started out while growing up in Cedar Hill, Texas. We sat beside Blue and picked his brain at a recent event in DTLA to celebrate his collaboration with eBay sneakers.

LAMag: There seems to always be this consistent theme of mummification in your art. What is the inspiration behind this motif?

Blue the Great: In the beginning, it was just me playing with ideas and going through a bunch of different concepts—just learning about art. Then, I was able to build meaning into it and as I continued to do it, it just felt right for me. So now I use it to kind of play with a few different ideas, whether that be preservation or decay or the opposite—sometimes is a signature.

I’ve also noticed that you’re very proficient in an array of mediums. What drove you to expand your toolkit when it came to approaching art?

For me—I didn’t go to art school but I genuinely love learning. So, I do have a general interest in a lot of mediums. And that’s something where I’ve been challenging myself to be better at different things. Some things are more efficient than other things and other things are fun to play with. I try not to lock myself into one medium.

This event is a huge celebration of your collaboration with eBay. Tell me what’s going on with that.

The collaboration with eBay is super cool, we’ve been working on it for a very long time—a year plus. I got a chance to put down a lot of big ideas. I fail fast and come up and see what works—what can work. But being able to make something that displays a grail shoe or a real item, something I’ve never been able to do before, is definitely a challenge. I’m super excited about how it came out and excited for people to get their hands on it.

A lot of your work is incredibly vibrant, in contrast to a selection of washed-out tones. What’s behind the choice to utilize these different, bright colors?

When I paint, I like to think about what I would envision, like how I dream, and things don’t always have to make sense with that. I love old-school cartoons, so being able to mess with color in a similar way is just fun.

There’s obviously a lot of gravity behind your work with both Isaiah Rashad and Kendrick Lamar. What was the experience behind producing art for them?

It was a super amazing experience. Our first album cover was with Isaiah and getting to do a bunch of different random projects with Kendrick, some of them being very crazy. I think if you’re passionate about something, you treat it just like you treat every project where you want to make the best thing possible. I think if the passion is consistent, whether it’s for your best friend, or it’s for Obama, you should still try to go crazy.

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