Dejon Moore (AKA Virgil Hawk) is a multi-talented visual artist who immediately grabbed my attention with his photo-realistic pieces. He is just beginning to embark on his professional artistic journey. With immense dedication to developing his craft combined with his depth of creativity, this brother is on his way to having a prosperous future with his artistry. Dejon’s passion and enthusiasm made for an exciting interview, discussing his journey so far. Explore Dejon’s background story, and gain some encouragement to apply to your own craft and life path.
Me: Describe Your upbringing, where you’re originally from, and family background.
Dejon: I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York and I went to college in Rochester. Now I live in New York City. I was an athlete in high school, and participated in cross-country, track, football, and basketball. I have 2 younger brothers and 1 younger sister so I’m just trying to pave the way for them. I want to make sure that when they get to this stage or when they get older they have someone to look up to. When I was younger I didn’t have one person or that one guy that I looked up to, to emulate them or follow in their footsteps. I don’t really have a mentor basically, I feel like I have to seek inspiration or find other avenues to stay on the right track. The closest thing I have to that is my group of friends, my boys from college. My group of friends were so strong, that there wasn’t a weak link. We all graduated from school and we all went on to make decent money and have good jobs. We’re all doing different things but we’re all successful in our own way.
[In regards to drawing beginnings]
Dejon: I was always able to draw, but I did it more as a hobby, just for fun. I never really took it that seriously. Being a kid, it was something I’ve always done. I never thought like I wanted to be an artist back then.
Me: Where does your art alias Virgil Hawk come from?
Dejon: When I was younger I heavily related myself to Static Shock. And his name was Virgil Hawkins. From that I shortened it and made Virgil Hawk. I thought it had a nice sound so it stuck with me.
Me: That’s awesome man, I used to love that show as a kid! Where did you go to college and what did you major in?
Dejon: I went to school at Rochester Institute of Technology. I went there for 5 years and my major was New Media Design. It’s funny because when I first went there my whole thing was I wanted to be a game designer. I wanted to create characters, you know, do the cool stuff and create the graphics. I loved playing video games when I was a teenager. But when I got there, I didn’t get accepted into the game developer major, I got accepted into the New Media Interactive Development major. It was basically the same thing but like a step below the game design major.
However, I eventually realized that it was not my cup of tea. I definitely did not want to pursue this because what we were doing was mostly coding. I realized that I hated coding. It was cool seeing what you could do with it but I did not go there with the mindset of being a coder. I wanted to do the graphical stuff. So, towards the end of my first year, I had this one class called typography, which was more of a design-based class that focused on graphics. After taking that class towards the end of the semester, I sat down with the teacher and I asked her if there’s a major that just focused on this. ‘Yea it’s New Media Design,’ she said and told me to talk to my adviser, who was one of the chairmen for that major. So, going into my second year that’s when I really got serious about drawing because I had to provide them with a portfolio and I didn’t have one. Then I ended up meeting up with another faculty member. She was black and I just felt like she really helped me to get accepted into the New Media Design program. So, my second year I was basically a freshman again because I had to start the program from scratch. Everything was sequential; so there were a lot of prerequisites. That’s why it took me 5 years to graduate.
From there, I started off with my 101 art classes. That’s where I learned the basics of the drawing world. Before that I kind of had an idea of how it worked but in those intro classes you learnt the infrastructure of how to create like a face or a head, along with the science of how to do everything the right way and how to perceive whatever you’re looking at and emulate it the right way. The new media design major kind of molded me to what I do now.
Me: Can you talk more about where you work now?
Dejon: Right now I actually work for an advertising agency. My role is a graphic designer but I feel like I focus solely on digital design. I’m basically the guy that focuses on all of the website stuff and anything from social media to websites to 3D pieces on TV spots and commercials. I worked on a lot of different commercials that you might see today on TV.
Me: That sounds really cool, and you mentioned that you do a lot of commercial work, can you speak more about that?
Dejon: I worked on a lot of stuff for Vicks brand. I worked on some things for Heineken, Champion Brand, LG, Cartier, and Honda. My main brand is the Vicks team though. If you see any NyQuil, DayQuil, ZzzQuil, or any products that have to do with Vicks brand on TV, there’s going to be one part of the commercial where it switches to the product and a light passes on the product with the ad copy. I worked on that.
Me: Wow, that’s incredible man, what mediums do you work with?
Dejon: Right now, I actually use a Wacom tablet and a pen and I draw and paint in Photoshop. All of my pieces on Instagram were done in Photoshop. I’m trying to approach this with a business state of mind. I can draw with pen and paper too. I’m more of a new school guy when it comes to creating though because we’re moving towards that digital future so I just feel like why not capitalize on it. I’m very good on Photoshop so I’m comfortable with it. I can produce well with this.
Me: That’s cool, I’m more of a traditional pencil and paper guy with my artwork.
Dejon: I feel you. I had to learn with all the traditional mediums in school. I’m basically just taking that and evolving it and now I’m using this. But I had to come from those traditional mediums in order to get to where I am now. Right now I’m working on a Wu-Tang series called Killa Beez and it’s going to be a nine piece series. My main focus right now is to do my artwork in a series. I’m sketching it all out in pencil right now and using a real big sketchpad. Because it’s a nine piece series, I’m just trying to reverse engineer it and draw everything out first to make sure what I see on the paper looks good to me. If I just did it in Photoshop first, by the time I got to piece number six or seven, I’m pretty sure that piece number one probably wouldn’t be as strong as the pieces I’m doing now. What I’m trying to do is get everything out of my mind and onto the paper before I actually go into the details because I’m trying to make it look like a complete piece. I want everything to be cohesive. I’m also looking for the piece to have a comic book, Afro Samurai type of vibe…at least that’s how I’m thinking about it now.
“My main focus right now is to do my artwork in a series
Me: I can’t wait to see the finished result of that project! I use Photoshop at work but I don’t actually have time to dive in and grasp different concepts since I work for so many different clients in an agency. Do you have any advice for people who are trying to learn more?
Dejon: It’s funny when I first went to college I didn’t know how to do anything in Photoshop. The craziest thing about that is we had trimesters – three, 10-week quarters. So, there was no time for you to really grasp anything. Either you got it with the program or you got left behind. With me not knowing Photoshop at the time, I had to pull all-nighters and just dive into the program. The one thing I learned at school was that the teachers were more of guides or mentors. They just kind of told you what you should and shouldn’t do to keep you in the lines and make sure you didn’t go too far out of the lines. My best advice would just be to watch tutorials on YouTube, dive in and practice.
Me: Describe how you approach your creative process and what’s your ideal environment to bring out your full range of creativity?
Dejon: Throughout the day you kind of have that monotony where you’re following the same routine, you wake up, go to work, you come home etc. When I approach my work, I get inspiration from the smallest things like looking out the window and I’ll see a shadow reflecting off of something and it looks cool, or by reading a book. I read a lot, right now I’m reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. I even have a notebook full of inspirational quotes that I read from time to time and I add to it.
“I get inspiration from the smallest things like looking out the window and I’ll see a shadow reflecting off of something and it looks cool, or by reading a book
Me: If you could collaborate with any visual artists on an upcoming piece who would they be and why?
Dejon: One artist that I really admire is Salvador Dali. His work really moved me in a different way. My favorite piece from him is called, Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening. In that piece it’s a picture of a fish and it’s a tiger coming out of the fish’s mouth and it’s another tiger coming out of that tiger’s mouth. Then, it’s a shotgun coming out of the other tiger’s mouth which is pointing at a floating naked woman with a pomegranate next to her. Besides him, a couple of guys that I admire right now and they’re even more of a reason for me to get into this professionally are – Markus Prime and actionhankbeard (Nuri Durr).
Me: I’ve never heard of actionhankbeard.
Dejon: Awww, Come on MAN! You’ve got to look him up! I actually emailed him and it was titled, You’ve Inspired Me. I was following Markus Prime before him. actionhankbeard to me is probably the best artist when it comes to using markers. All the work that he’s done is basically nostalgic in my life. That’s the reason I like him a lot…I feel like I know him because everything he draws are pieces that I’ve grown up with. I just wanted to let him know that I really respected his work. Both are definitely my top standouts right now. These guys are definitely doing something right, and I’m trying to emulate what they’re doing but in my own way. They’re setting the bar.
All of these guys have their own style. Even though the subject matter of their individual pieces might be different, it all looks like it’s from them. It’s still some type of cohesiveness between all of their work. That’s the one challenge that I have right now is finding my own style. But, big ups to Markus.effin.prime and actionhankbeard! I actually bought Markus Prime’s book, B.R.U.H. and I’ve bought 9 pieces from actionhankbeard as well.
Me: Wow, you’re a true superfan!
Dejon: Man, I appreciate and respect their work, I want to show my support for my brothers. I’m just hoping that I can get to that level where people feel the same way about me.
Me: What has been the best advice you’ve received in regards to developing your artistry?
Dejon: I can’t really quote a direct person who said this but in my mind what I think of is just don’t ever listen to anyone tell you, you can’t do it. You should use that as fuel and just do it. Whatever makes you happy, whatever you want to pursue in life, whatever you need to do, just do it. With practice, patience, repetition, consistency, and discipline, you can get anything done. Never put a label on yourself because there are no limits on anything you can do.
“With practice, patience, repetition, consistency, and discipline, you can get anything done. Never put a label on yourself…
Me: That’s powerful man!
Dejon: Thank you man, I hope I didn’t stray off too much.
Me: Nah, man this is therapy for me too. On my own journey, just going through the ups and downs, the ebbs and flows, you know how it is as a creative. I’ll put something down when life gets too stressful and say I’ll get back to it, then I never get back to it but still in the back of my mind I’m saying “I have to get to it”. Now, I’m starting to get back on that path, slowly get back on my creative journey and be consistent with it.
Dejon: Yea, consistency is a big thing. Not even for yourself but for what other people look to see. Especially in this day in time, in order for you to be relevant in someone’s mind, or in someone’s life, you have to be consistent. I know that’s hard for us though because art can take as much time as it has to take. There’s no rushing art. You do it whenever you get inspiration.
“…In order for you to be relevant in someone’s mind, or in someone’s life, you have to be consistent
Me: Those are some encouraging words man, I’ll definitely continue to pursue my path.
Dejon: Yea man, I’m just trying to look at this from more of a smarter point of view, I would want to do the things that make me happy and make money from them.
Me: Describe a time when you experienced a creative block, and how did you overcome it?
Dejon: With creative blocks, sometimes you just have to take a break, and get some air and go to sleep. Eat. You don’t want to exhaust your mind. Sometimes you get burnt out so you have to take a step back and come back with a fresh mind. On the piece that I’m working on now, I was up super late trying to get as much done as I can but at the same time I got to go to sleep and just know when it’s time to put the pens down. When you come back to it, I feel you’ll have even more or even better ideas. You might also even evolve another piece you had into something you couldn’t think of before because you had a mental block.
“Sometimes you get burnt out so you have to take a step back and come back with a fresh mind
Me: What’s your favorite piece you’ve created and why?
Dejon: In my college we had this underground tunnel system that connected all the dorms on the freshman side. These tunnels had these murals on the walls that featured paintings from different clubs on campus and they were all signed. I’ve seen different murals dating back to the late 80s. Yea, they’ve been there for a while. My most favorite piece so far was one I painted down there before I graduated for my college’s chapter of The National Society of Black Engineers. I designed the new logo and I had it on t-shirts. I was able to paint the logo on the tunnels, sign it and date it.
Me: That’s incredible man to be able to partake in that type of experience.
Dejon: Yea man, after having this conversation, I feel like I’m well on my way man, I got a lot of things I still want to do but I just got to keep pushing and keep pursuing that happiness.
Me: Definitely…what has been your most challenging piece?
Dejon: One of the hardest pieces ever was created when I was a kid (laughing). I tried to draw all of the original 150 Pokémon on one sheet of paper so it was kind of like a collage. I drew every single one of them too, and I thought that was like the sweetest thing ever at the time in like 4th or 5th grade. Now, I don’t approach any piece and look at it like this can’t be done, I look at it as how much time it’s going to take and if I really want to do it.
Me: I wasn’t expecting that answer but it’s cool though, I love it (laughing)!
Dejon: Yea (laughing) that was my hardest piece ever, hands down!
Me: Are there any other artists in your family?
Dejon: Not visual artists. My brother on my father’s side is actually an artist in the sense that he does music. He’s a rapper and has been doing music for some years now.
Me: How has your artwork shaped you as a person?
Dejon: It taught me how to just do my own thing and how to be my own person. With me doing the art now, there wasn’t a real point where I thought I need to do this, I JUST DID IT. It’s molding me into being a fearless man.
Me: What has been your proudest achievement so far as an artist?
Dejon: It would have to be the mural we talked about earlier, since I’ve just started recently promoting my work seriously so I haven’t been in the game long enough to receive any accolades.
Me: In your opinion, what can young black artists do to create more opportunities for themselves?
Dejon: [Uses baseball to illustrate the disadvantages black people face due to historical oppression] We weren’t born on third base, we were born in the dug out so I feel like it’s going to be even harder for us to make it all the way back home. So we have to go harder to get our voices out there. Certain things that can be done are – outsourcing to people that do the same things you do, finding mentors, joining clubs that uplift us as a people. Go out and be a little more social and more approachable. You have to be confident in your abilities. Get your brand out there; at the end of the day YOU are a brand. Paint that picture in people’s minds of what you want your brand to portray. Definitely use social media because you can reach out to so many people. Write your ideas and goals down. It’s something about seeing them that makes them a little easier to reach. Overall, be smart, utilize resources, and support each other. You got to be hungry!
“Get your brand out there, at the end of the day YOU are a brand. Paint that picture in people’s minds of what you want your brand to portray
Me: What’s your vision for the future in terms of your artistry?
Dejon: I want to be able to sustain myself, and be an entrepreneur. I don’t want to have to outsource for anything. I want to be able to print my own prints and have my own canvases. I just want my ideas to come to life on paper, influence and inspire as many people as I can. I want people to recognize my strengths and what I can do. I want to be able to attack you from all different angles with my art, and have a hub of art where people are like ‘yea that’s Virgil Hawk, he has a nice range.’ I want you to look at my art and have your own perception of it. I might’ve drew it or painted it with the intentions of it being this way, but I would love for someone to come to me and tell me that when they see this piece, their interpretation would be totally different then what I intended it to be. I think that’ll be really cool.
Me: Wow, this was a really great discussion, I appreciate you sharing your story and wisdom!
Dejon: Yea it was and thank you, it motivated me as well by getting me more excited to continue doing what I’m doing.
Me: Wow, thank you so much man, I really appreciate that!
Dejon: No problem man, I’ll continue to support you and hopefully you continue to support me.
You can purchase Dejon’s artwork by visiting his website: http://www.virgilhawk.bigcartel.com