Skyler Grey: The Prince of Street Art .
One of the best influencers right now is 17 Year old street artist from Los Angel, Skyler Grey, AKA @SkylerGreyStreetArt (as his 30,000 followers on Instagram call him). Skyler Grey has been blowing up in the art scenes with his colorful paintings from Miami to LA. Skyler has most recently made it in Forbes 30under30, where he is being regarded as the “Fresh Prince of Art, Soon-To-Be-King of Street Art”.
Skyler Grey started working in spray-paint, silkscreen, and acrylic, when he began exhibiting his work and receiving international acclaim at the age of 13. Citing Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring as artistic influences, Grey makes colorful, large-scale paintings that frequently depict celebrities or cartoon characters. He has exhibited both nationally and internationally. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the 11th Annual 365 Black Awards in 2014.
He began painting when he was 10 years old, and had his first commissioned work aged 13. Rearranging pop cultural icons with bursts of vivid color, Grey’s works have been acquired by Hip-Hop artist The Game and pop singer Ashlee Simpson. Grey’s most widely-circulated work, “Queen Amy” (appropriating late singer Amy Winehouse as the Queen Elizabeth II), has appeared in galleries and private viewings worldwide. In 2014, he was honored by McDonald’s at the 11th Annual 365 Black Awards, which recognizes outstanding African Americans aiding their home communities. His work has been exhibited at venues in London, Vancouver, Miami, Los Angeles, and Dubai. Grey lives and works in Los Angeles.
Skyler Grey goes through the usual morning routine of waking up, checking his phone, watching TV and grabbing breakfast. But unlike most high school grads his age who are now hitting the books in college, Grey heads to his home studio in Los Angeles each day, flips on his favorite music and starts painting.
“There’s no day in Skyler Grey’s studio in which there will be sad, mad or weird vibes,”
stated Grey. “It’s always happy, always nice and always creative. That’s the only way you can make wonderful artwork.”
The so-called “Fresh Prince of Street Art” has gained worldwide recognition for his distinct style. His mixed medium paintings are a blend of bold colors, 3-D textures and street art techniques. The paintings’ overlapping layers of colors and patterns reveal new discoveries the longer they are studied.
At the center of his work are images of famous pop culture icons such as Popeye and Mickey Mouse, as well as high-fashion logos like that of Chanel and Louis Vuitton. “These are things that bring you back to happy times. I like to make people happy when they look at my artwork,” said Grey.
“I feel like you can put me under the street art category; you can put me under the pop art category; but at the end of the day, my artwork is so unique that it has its own genre,” he said.
“I was put on this earth to create.”
Grey was encouraged to start drawing at the age of two, to help him cope with the death of his mother. As he got a little older, his father noticed a raw talent emerging and nourished his son’s artistic gift by showing him art documentaries, taking him to galleries and enrolling him in art classes.
In 2013, Grey hosted his first solo art show and received his first commission from a street art collector in Switzerland named Hacky Cakmak. The only instructions Cakmak gave the budding artist were, “Just make sure I like it.”
Grey studied the collector’s Instagram account and discovered he owned a tattoo and piercing parlor and was a huge fan of Disney. “So I basically made him in Mickey Mouse form.” The end result shows the familiar mouse with psychedelic eyes, round ear gauges and a chest tattoo. Grey said the collector was blown away. “I bring something new, something fresh, something authentic, and people love it.”
The artist’s popularity skyrocketed and, before long, his art was in high demand among top musicians like The Game, Snoop Dogg and Ashlee Simpson. His paintings currently hang in Miami’s Avant Gallery, and his work has appeared in London’s Graffik Gallery as well as the Four Seasons Jumeirah in Dubai. A Skyler Grey original can fetch anywhere from $6,000 to $60,000.
Free from the daily routine of high school classes, tests and homework, Grey can now fully immerse himself in his art. He typically works on multiple canvasses at a time, carefully crafting each vibrant layer. His materials include spray paint, acrylics, house paint and, most recently, diamond dust for a bit of added flare. Grey says it takes him roughly three to four weeks to complete a piece.
“I master every part of giving the painting life and adding a third dimension to the painting rather than just making it flat and lifeless,” Grey said.
“When you touch the painting you can feel the life in the painting. You can feel every part of the process, and you can see it too.”
In addition to his one-of-a-kind paintings, Grey has created a personal brand that is also gaining wide recognition. His embellished jeans, Jeremy Scott Adidas shoes and dyed hair are all part of the empire he’s building. “There’s a lot of things that set me apart from other artists,” said Grey.
“People know my look. Every time I roll out, I roll out fresh. When people see me, it’s obvious that I’m an artist because I look different than everyone else.”
In 2018, Grey will release a high-end line of jewelry art pieces in partnership with Jason of Beverly Hills. He also has plans for a musical album and would love to someday dabble in the acting world.
In the meantime, his artistic talents continue to garner him exposure within the art world’s most prominent spaces, such as the 2017 edition of Scope Basel with Avant Gallery and the sacred Wynwood Walls in Miami.
“Life is too short just to do one thing,” Grey stated frankly. “I am an artist, but Skyler Grey is actually a brand.” A brand with incredible potential and staying power.
“My definition of street art is something that’s not entirely legal, that uses wheat paste in the streets on walls that are not approved. I no longer do that,” Grey says. “With my gallery and project commitments, I don’t have time to do something that could land me in jail. There are too many people that will pay me to paint their walls all over the world.”
Though graffiti and other forms of street art evolved as counter-establishment forms of expression, they’re now fully embraced by gallery owners, collectors, and dealers. It’s a win-win. The artists can paint without fear of imprisonment, the dealers make money, and spectators get to admire and take photos of work that resonates with them.