by The People’s Minister of Information JR
Since losing interest in air brushing T-shirts, De Andre closed his storefront, The Ave., and has graduated to body art, where he paints on bodies. Hear one of Oakland’s premiere artists talk about his career and this new genre of spray-painting.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell the people how you became aware that you had the gift of creating visual art?
De Andre: I’ve been blessed in my art career. I’ve met a lot of good people. A lot of people find the time to take interest in my art and spread the word about my art. Word of mouth has been the most beneficial to my art career. Word of mouth is what has enabled me to make a full time living as an artist. I am so grateful for the people I have encountered along my journey.
M.O.I. JR: When did you consider yourself good enough to make money off of your art? When did it become a business?
De Andre: There was never a specific moment I considered myself good enough to make money. The money part just kinda fell into my lap. My art started as a hobby in prison to help me pass my time. And it turned into a paying pastime while I was in prison. I came to the conclusion, “If I could sell art to such a small percentage of a controlled population, imagine what I could do once exposed to the whole world.” I had no idea at this point that the internet would be so integral in my art career.
De Andre: The Ave.? I closed The Ave. for a couple of reasons. One I was just tired of airbrushing T-shirts. I felt it was stifling my creativity and holding me back from greater success, because I was being pigeon holed as “an airbrush T-shirt artist.” I didn’t want that. I felt what I could do was a little bit bigger than that. Also, me being the business man that I am, from noticing the over saturation of the number of T-shirt artists that were popping up, I could tell T-shirt airbrushing was soon to be a dying art form.
M.O.I. JR: When did you get interested in body painting?
De Andre: I had always been interested in body painting. I had just never had the chance or taken the initiative to try to indulge into it. Again, body painting just kind of fell into my lap at the right time too, just as airbrushed T-shirts were dying out.
M.O.I. JR: How long does something like this take? Where do people wear body paint to?
De Andre: A typical full body paint job can take anywhere from four to six hours. I have worked on eight-hour projects, 10-hour projects. The project I just recently did with Fiat was a 13-hour process. People wear body painting to all sorts of things, some for their own personal enjoyment, for parties, events, promotions, photo shoots etc. – and the list goes on.
De Andre: I typically paint what I get paid to show up and paint for the most part. On my own personal projects, I paint what I want to paint.
M.O.I. JR: Is airbrushing body paint easier or more difficult than regular airbrushing?
De Andre: My body paintings are a combination of airbrush, sponge and paint brush. People tend to think that because I am primarily an airbrush artist that my body paintings are all airbrushed. They are not. Most of my body paintings are about 85 percent paint brush, just using the airbrush for highlights and shadows. Painting on people is no different than painting on a canvas, T-shirt, car, motorcycle. It’s just another surface for me.
M.O.I. JR: How do you stay professional around beautiful naked women?
De Andre: I feel so lucky and honored that I get to work around so many beautiful women daily. It’s one of the perks of the job. But when I’m painting, I’m focused intently on my painting and making sure I do a good job. The artist in me takes over, and I no longer see a beautiful naked woman in front of me, all I see is a blank canvas that I need to get this artwork on.
The People’s Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He also hosts two weekly shows on KPFA 94.1 FM and kpfa.org: The Morning Mix every Wednesday, 8-9 a.m., and The Block Report every other Friday night-Saturday morning, midnight-2 a.m. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.