“Destroying so as to Create: Renowned Artist Slick has a Vision”
As published in Skinnie Magazine, October 2010.
With a résumé filled with over twenty years of accomplishments ranging from a televised graffiti battle to numerous clothing lines to artistic culture contributions, street painter and designer Slick is only just getting started.
Strange, coming from a man who claims that, of the seven, the deadliest sin he identifies most with is sloth. “At least, not when it comes to my work. With everything else, definitely. Just ask my wife. No one’s perfect, we’re only human,” he notes with a smirk.
Furthermore, his entire body of work traced back to his youth illustrates the truth in this claim: Slick has dedication. Slick has always known his existence as a creator. Slick designs, Slick paints, and in a sense, Slick destroys.
And Slick has been destroying since he was a toddler. His mother, a painter from China, had an oil paint kit that she used on her pieces at the time. She often urged Slick to go in and test them out, to have at it. Likely, she did not intend for him to take the brushes to her own works of art, improving them as he saw fit, but at such a young age, he instantly found his graffiti talents. “I remember getting into it and messing up her paintings and thinking that I was hooking it up,” he admitted. “So, I owe it a lot to my mom because she was the one who would let me go in there and encourage me to paint. Part of it, too, was when they kicked me out of high school. They were trying to tell my parents they thought I was autistic, and I thought they said ‘artistic’, so I kept going.”
Slick’s father was another story entirely. A Brooklyn police officer who moved to Hawaii for the military, he wasn’t so comfortable with the idea of his son’s street art. With his parents, Slick never lied, and instead remained open about his endeavors, bringing about uneasiness among the family. Granted, over the years, his father has become more accepting of his decisions as they have proven to be lucrative, but Slick knows, deep down, that if his dad actually likes one of his designs, “it’s probably not gonna work.”
When you combine a Chinese painter and a Brooklyn police officer, Slick’s skills seem almost genetic. His dad’s overall point of view of the situation was that they had spent their whole lives working to get out of that culture, yet Slick spent his whole life trying to get back into it. But Slick was not always into graffiti. Before he found his calling, the artist went through phases of dancing (including popping, locking, and miming, as told in a sheepish confession) and behind the scenes in filmmaking, where he worked under renowned makeup artist Bryan D. Furer for several years, making masks and sculpting for horror films. Slick hoped to make a career in both of these things, and instead, a culmination of them arose when breakdancing emerged as a style. Hand-in-hand came along graffiti, and he took to the aerosol.
“It was something I could excel in and still be in that realm and that culture. So, I pulled away from doing the special effects and make-up and went balls-out with the graffiti,” Slick explained.
With the film passion firmly on hold and the focus entirely on “bombing”, he truly began to immerse himself mercilessly within art. He recounted the story of a time in Brooklyn with his crew doing damage. “We were out there maybe like 4 or 5 in the morning, and we got rolled up by the cops. I think it was West, he told ‘em we had permission, that we had fake paperwork that said we had permission, and the cop was just looking at what we were painting, because I was painting this sexy devil kind of character and the pipe that came out of the wall was coming out of her ass, and he goes, ‘Okay, so you guys are telling me, you’re drawing some devil bitch on the wall with a pipe coming out her ass, and this is a rest home, and you guys got permission, right?’ And we were playing it off, but then the cop ended up being cool and said, ‘Well, just paint the sergeant up there!’ So, I did this little pig character, eating some donuts and he goes, ‘Make that the sergeant, make that the sergeant!’ So, they were actually really cool.”
Despite his skill, the days of nightly graffiti outings are scarce as of late. In high school, Slick had his heart broken by his girlfriend and spray-painted a graffiti piece to successfully get her back. He has decorated cakes with graffiti frosting. His dream wall has always been the Great Wall of China. Yet after some time, he moved on to designing clothing, and is already well into his fourth clothing line. This time, the line DISSIZIT is all about Slick and what he wants, where the others have been collaborations, or just for other people. The transition into clothing design opened up numerous other doors for his talent to spread into, such as design jobs for various companies, like the game Gears of War 3.
Although his gaming passions lie more with Dr. Mario and Mario Kart, Slick thoroughly enjoyed working with the Gears of War 3 team and creating a t-shirt to celebrate the Los Angeles release party, complete with a video on the design process. However, Slick was hesitant to emphasize it any further, “I don’t want to build up the shirt so much. Kids are cruel on YouTube and stuff, saying things like ‘Damn, it’s a T-SHIRT!’ And that’s what I’m thinking, but everyone else is hyping it up.” He continued on to note, “I was hoping it would lead to something else, and it did. So, the shirt is just one small part of what we’re doing.” What it lead to was a start in the video gaming industry. At present, Slick and his crew are working closely with the Gears of War 3 game artists to incorporate graffiti into some of the designs for the next game.
“The old me would have been like, hell yeah, I can get up in the game, right? Like ‘Slick, Slick, Slick’! But now that I’m a little older and mature, I’m thinking, I want to give them graffiti that’s going to suit the game. So, that’s going to be a challenge because it’s not all spray-paint either. They’re in the time where materials are hard to come by and scarce, so it might not be colorful spray-paint and murals, you know? It’d probably be done with whatever they had lying around, like ashes or blood.” He added, “You have to be more creative and get into the mindset like you were bombing in that game.”
The step after Gears of War 4 design is, almost inevitably, to design his own Slick video game, or furthermore, returning to his youthful roots of special effects with an entire film. Slick’s restlessness and ever-unquenched thirst for satisfaction is evident in his fast-pasted transitions from art style to art style. “The t-shirt thing [is] cool and everything, but it’s not as rewarding as it used to be. I don’t think it’s as challenging as making a film. Even with the graf, maybe that’s why I don’t paint as much anymore.”
His fulfillment may be rapidly approaching, however. With friends in high industry places, he can already taste his first film production in the coming years. Yet, even if it turns to collapse, Slick isn’t completely concerned, it just isn’t his outlook. “I don’t get stressed out, like I’m happy if I’ve got money or I’m happy if I don’t. I made the best of that day and live the best of everyday. Yeah, I like a lot of material things, but if I didn’t have it, I’m cool. I don’t lose sleep over it.”
At the end of the day, as an artist Slick may never achieve that fulfillment, even though he has accomplished great milestones already. While maintaining his clothing line DISSIZIT, he has successfully teamed up with video games and after that, will collaborate with filmmakers. After a long pause and an exhale of the smoke from his clove cigarette, Slick claimed, “I would like to be remembered as a master of my craft, whatever that’s going to end up being.” Whatever his final area of expertise becomes, one thing is certain: Slick isn’t about to fade into the shadows anytime soon.
Original link: https://issuu.com/skinnie_magazine/docs/skinnie-october-2010-jackass-3d – pages 50–52