I tried my best. I had a vision in my head for what the next event would be, how it would feel to those performing or those attending and I tried to execute it perfectly. It was a dream, that remained in the forefront of my mind that I chased and tweaked so it could fit the mold and purpose of TGM.
My last two events which took place in Hoboken and New York were dominantly music showcases, a platform for local artists to perform in front of others for pure enjoyment. I wanted the artists’ hunger to take front stage, providing them the perfect outlet to express who they really are. #ViewsFromThaGrey was unique, as artists hit the stage, and artwork hung against the walls, I incorporated local vendors and/ or businesses who are doing something positive with their brand. You see, there are negative connotations about young African Americans, but through these events we are able to start to chip away at them. Ultimately I wanted to shed some light, well major light on young, black-owned businesses who are striving to do something for this community, for the underground.
And you all contributed to making the day beautiful.
So, I wanted to say thank you for coming out to thagreymatter‘s 3rd event at Loft 9 in New Brunswick this past weekend. It was very hot (trust me, I know) but also exhilarating to witness and be a part of. We rejoiced to words of wisdom from poets, we sang alongside a soulful R&B singer and we rapped the bars of some dope lyricists and rappers all for the love of art. We connected, we worked together, we built and are still building.
And I emphasize we because I am not alone; I couldn’t do anything without you all, so Ithank you!
I find creative energy, or better yet creative souls fascinating. They see the world differently and someone how inspire me or ignite a new perspective that I didn’t already have. So it was only right that I took a few minutes to sit and chop it up with 24 year old painter and artist Elijah. With increasing presence of buyers and fans of his artwork on social media, it is almost crazy that is just the beginning for the painter.
Breona: So when did you start painting?
Eli: Um like February of this year.
Breona: I feel like that’s really hard to believe!
Eli: Nobody believes me but, it’s just how it happened. (laughs) Before that, I was doing colored pencils, charcoal and that was it. And then I started doing __ this year, or last year and got back into it. That’s when I started trying new stuff. First I tried markers and basically what happened was, I was kind of afraid to paint because I felt like I wasn’t going to be as good as I was with everything else. And then my friend passed away so I painted a portrait of him for his mother. That was how I started painting basically.
Breona: My condolences man…so it seems that you tried a few different things before really getting into painting.
Eli: Well for five years I didn’t draw at all. And then I just got up and quit my job and started doing it in November of last year.
Breona: So did you draw and paint before those five years, did you take a hiatus?
Eli: Yeah—well I took art class in high school and I would be in all the art shows but that was just class really. After that I went to school for finance and dropped out twice (laughs), and I have like a semester and one class left basically.
Breona: Would you want to go back to finish or are you focusing more on your art?
Eli: I just don’t see a point of finishing because I can’t stand working jobs, so it feels like—you usually end up doing what you spend most of your time doing anyway so me going to school for another year would be me stepping away from being a successful artist.
I see so many people complaining about confederate flags on social media. In my opinion, all American flags represent racism. The 14th amendment was never ratified so slavery was actually never abolished. To make matters worse, the CIA was found guilty of MLK's assassination in 1999. My point is, if you have a problem with the confederate flag but no issue with the American flag.. your logic is questionable.
Breona: So now that you’ve started painting, what are the tools that you use?
Eli: I paint with acrylic paint—I’m really still learning. It’s actually funny, at the last art show, there was a more experienced painter, Albert Joseph, I think that was the name. But he basically taught me how to use all the brushes right before the live art. It probably wouldn’t have happened like the same way if he didn’t explain to me before. The fist two I messed up, I kept messing up and I got really frustrated and I didn’t finish. Then he explained to me how I was using the brushes wrong. I didn’t even have the right brushes. Apparently for acrylic paint, you’re supposed to have the long brushes.
Breona: Is there a specific way you’re supposed to be painting or do you feel as if it is technique?
Eli: It’s all different techniques. I’m glad I didn’t get taught how to paint because the whole process of me messing up over and over again put me in a situation where I learn the techniques that were considered messing up. I do it sometimes just because I’ll learn.
Breona: I understand what you mean. Do you have a favorite type of artwork you like to create?
Eli: My favorite, uhhh. I don’t really have a favorite thing to paint, but when I guess I do love galaxies and universes and stars, stuff like that. Because it’s kind of like if you try to look at something and then paint it, it won’t come out right. So it really it is dope to make it up. I get nervous when I’m creating stars.
Breona: So I was looking at some of the commissioned work you did—specifically the Michael Jackson piece, how long did that take you? That was a huge piece and I always look at it like how did he do this.
Eli: You know what’s funny about that—well before my last art show, after I painted the picture of my friend that passed, that was my first commissioned piece. After not getting paid the entire winter, I quit my job and drew everyday, but no one bought anything, except some cheap tattoo designs so I was struggling. So I did this piece, I under charged for it and it took me like a month. It took me a month, only because—well actually it took me over a month. I was learning the whole time, under the face you see, there’s like 3 faces that I messed up on. The body I basically did that in one setting—it was me all learning. That’s the thing about painting, you can just go over it except when you’re on your last layer.
Breona: (laughs) So how did you get the commission for this one?
Eli: Every single commission I have received has been because of social media or someone that I knew and they just watched my progression and wanted something.
Eli: We’re lucky because social media helps a lot. It used to be that you would be a starving artist and now it’s actually a really good path or gig if you can do it right.
Breona: Yeah that’s true, is there anyone that you look up to when it comes to art?
Eli: That’s ironic because there was three people I was looking at every day when I was drawing over the winter and that’s Marcus Prime, Paper Frank and Sheena Love Art. She’s from Jersey actually. My friend was supposed to do a show but didn’t want to for his own reason so they asked me if I wanted to do the show and it turned out that she was the one doing the show. So I met her, I learned a lot from her actually. Honestly to me, Paper Frank is the most inspirational one of them all because he’s only been painting for 3 years. It’s kind of a similar kind of story, probably a little different. But as far as him being my age and just starting. He’s painted live at AfroPunk on stage, he’s big.
Breona: That is kind of big. I’ve noticed that artists like him have definitely moved to using different mediums to create like graffiti or tattooing. Have you ever considered doing that?
Eli: I have but I don’t know. I kind of just want to explore, like I don’t want to make average money doing it. I want to make a lot of money (laughs) but with the intent to give it back. And you can’t really do that if you’re doing the same thing as everyone else. So like, when I come and do or try something, it’s going to be something nobody’s done.
Breona: How would you want to give back?
Eli: I don’t want to go into too much detail but basically I want my art to uplift the community and expose artists and I don’t know. As an artist you can literally put an idea into someone’s head. It’s almost a different way of inspiring or controlling someone.