Written by, Photographed by: Paula Lauren Gibson/AfroPix
How does the world’s youngest professional street artist wind up in the world’s oldest and largest street art gallery? With lots of hard work, practice and perseverance. That has been the key to Skyler Grey’s success. A mere twelve years old, Skyler is an up and coming artist on the roster of the prestigious Lab Art Gallery in Los Angeles. In the same way the venerated Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe piece is viewed, Skyler’s Amy Winehouse piece could someday be described as iconic. Although coloring and drawing since about age two, at age 8, Skyler got a Simpson’s book. He used the book as a guide and practiced reproducing the images time and time again. His father, Holman, immediately noticed something special.
Holman encouraged his son’s abilities by taking him to art galleries and museums galore. After going to a Kehinde Wiley art show, — his all time favorite artist, by the way –, Skyler decided that he wanted to be an artist. In addition to his idol, Andy Warhol, Skyler’s other influences cover a wide range from Jean-Michel Basquiat to photographer Gordon Parks.
It’s not hard to imagine Skyler being influenced by Wiley. Wiley’s larger than life paintings of people, considered fine art, are popping with vibrant colors. Being an artist is more than just being a person who paints, according to Skyler. As of the depth of his influences show, Skyler is just not limited to street art or just painting. Skyler repertoire covers pop art, cartoon art, silk screening, acting and even rap music. Skyler’s Amy Winehouse piece (which has now become several pieces) was done as a tribute to Andy Warhol. Warhol painted his Marilyn Monroe in 1962 a little while after her death from a purported drug overdose. Similarly, after Amy Winehouse died from an overdose, and public mourning that followed, Skyler decided to do a piece around the late singer. In ten years from now, Skyler sees himself as having graduated from college (Yale, if his dad has his way), a world traveller and a famed artist.
As advice for other potential kid street artists out there, Skyler says “practice makes perfect”. Right after Lab Art opened, Skyler started bringing his work to Iskander to view. Iskander advised him to wait and kept making more stuff. Not deterred by apparent rejection, Skyler continued to draw, improve and return for yet another review. Then one day it happened. Iskander viewed the Amy Winehouse piece with interest and gave his instructions as to what Skyler needed to do. Within hours of those Winehouse pieces being hung at the Lab Art Los Angeles Gallery, they sold. Skyler was now a professional street artist. In fact, Iskander asked me to imagine how good Skyler will be in 10 years. The answer is that Skyler is probably seeing himself exactly as he may be. Godspeed!
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