Thursday, December 06, 2007

Cleveland Graffiti: Off the Wall - Part 1

I met Jon Carlo Vega a couple of years before he was scheduled into my art class. Students had been asking,

"Do you know JC, that Puerto Rican kid who can really draw?"

"No, I haven't met him yet. Tell him to come up and introduce himself."

Our first meeting went badly. I don't recall who brought him up to my room, most likely it was Po-Po. I do recall he brought some artwork for me to admire, and I made the unforgivable mistake of suggesting something he could do to improve his composition. I immediately regretted my faux pas. He glared at me and walked away, giving me the cold shoulder when I saw him in the hallway for the remainder of the school year.

Like all students at Max Hayes, he eventually had to take a fine arts credit to graduate, and being the only art teacher in the building he was assigned to my class. Having learned from our first encounter, I was always very careful when critiquing his art. His work was consistently superior to most of his classmates, and he seemed to thrive on praise, which I was always happy to bestow. After a month or two of cautious observation, he let down his shield of self-defense, and we became friends. JC was especially good at portraits, and having a strong streak of entrepreneurism, he kept himself in pocket money by commissioning portrait drawings. He found that celebrity portraits were very popular, and had a steady stream of customers for images of rap stars and Hollywood icons. The graffiti I always heard about, or looked at the drafts for the pieces in his sketch book, but I never saw the finished work unless he brought me a photograph. To this day I've not seen any of his graffiti in person.

I rarely ever give out my phone number to my students because I don't particularly enjoy being pranked. I've broken my rule only a few times, and JC was one of the kids I gave my phone number to once when I needed to get in touch with him regarding an art exhibit.
He has been pranking me ever since.
...I kinda like it

JC is currently working to complete his bachelors degree at Kent State University, and when I told him I would be writing this series of posts, he sent me pictures of some of the paintings he has been working on lately. The graffiti influence still dominates his art work, and it is interesting to see how he has begun to form his messages around political themes.

Jon Carlo Vega is an emerging young artist with lots of talent, energy, an opinion, and a head for business. He's one to watch.
And remember I told you so
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♥ Baby C™ said...

Wow, I love this kid's work! If you are still in contact with him, please pass on the compliments.

I own a graphic t-shirt line and I like putting others' artwork on t-shirts. If you could please have him contact me, I would love to get permission to put that Lady Liberty image printed on a tee.

- Corazon

Isaac said...

My clothing line is holding a competition of my 30 favorite artists to design hats "the peoples collection" each of five winners will receive $500 USD for there designs and national recognition. I would love if you would pass this message along to carlos vega and any other artists you would concider worthy. if interested contact my personal email thank you -Isaac Stout