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Shepard Fairey

Hope Obama.jpg
Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey is a contemporary graphic artist from Charleston, South Carolina who specializes in creating stickers, posters, and silk screen tee shirts with bold and many times political images. Fairey was born and raised in South Carolina. Fairey was into main stream sports like soccer and basketball when he was a child, until some of his friends started skateboarding. A friend of his left his skateboard over at Fairey's house, and from then on he was addicted to skateboarding and the new skateboarding scene. He started making stencils, stickers, and simple graphics for screen print t-shirts for him and his skateboarding buddies during high school. One of his friends saw a picture of Andre the Giant in a magazine and thought it would make a cool stencil/sticker so he told Shepard to make a sticker out of it. Thus the infamous “Andre the Giant has a Posse? sticker was born. This is the first major thing that Shepard did that people started to recognize, and he began making print screen tees and posters of his Andre the Giant stencil and put them up all over the city. The Andre the Giant face was later changed into the Obey stencil that many millions now recognize on posters, tagged on walls, and on t-shirts.
Shepard Fairey is heavily influenced by punk rock and the skateboarding scene in his area and all over. He grew up on listening to punk rock and skateboarding with his friends and it is seen in his artwork. Fairey gets many of his ideas from old propaganda posters from the World War/ World War II era, posters of famous dictators and tyrannical leaders, and other propaganda type artwork done during war time and election time. A recent work of his that is very famous is the colored stencil of Barack Obama's face which reads “HOPE? underneath the stencil of his face, which can be seen on posters, stickers and t-shirts all over the place. Fairey says that he makes art to make people question things such as politics, government policies, and the power of money, so he travels the world putting up posters and tagging walls with his artwork. For this, Shepard Fairey is regarded by many as “The Godfather of Modern Street Art?. Another artist who is seen in this light, and has a large influence on Fairey, is the British street artist known as Banksy.
Shepard Fairey's artwork is not very similar to any of the artists we learned about in class, but the way in which he has changed his outlook and artistic process is somewhat similar to that of Thomas Kinkaid. The way they produce art is similar because Kinkaid mass produces art for the masses so that many people can enjoy and own his art. Shepard also mass produces his artwork through t-shirts, posters, stickers, books, buttons, album artwork, and he now even has his own clothing company called “Obey?. Some people call Shepard Fairey a sellout for this reason, he has used his artwork to turn massive profit and now it seems like the underground nature and purpose of his artwork, and the underlying message of his artwork even, is somewhat lost because it is now massively popular and artwork seems like that of a corporation.
I would definitely recommend the artwork of Shepard Fairey to a friend, because I really enjoy his style of art and the culture behind all of his work. I would recommend to friend to check out the modern street art scene, and also investigate into the artwork of Banksy. Shepard Fairey's artwork has a large influence on my own artwork, as I have tried to get away from merely realistically recreating an image and have tried to get more to the stylistic representation of artists like Shepard Fairey and Banksy.