This week’s interview is with emerging artist Kamon Ross who is based in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. Get a more in-depth view of Kamon and his craft in our conversation.
Me: Can you speak on the significance of using art as a form of activism?
Kamon: One way art can be a form of activism is just like it’s easy in art to create what you want to see in the world, and I feel like that’s the main purpose of activism is to try to change the world. I make black characters because I’m black and that’s what I want to see more of.
Me: I feel you on that. I see one character who’s a black Samurai dressed in red, could you dive deeper into that character?
Kamon: That one specifically is a representation of me. I just have a fascination with the traditional Japanese style. I like the whole idea of the Samurai and their honor code with the sword fighting. That one was just a random drawing pretty much, I saw a picture of a guy standing in a similar stance and I liked it so I just made it in my likeness. I develop stories to go with each of the pages in my coloring book. I was a pretty big fan of anime growing up especially through my teenage years, it’s where I drew most of my artistic inspiration from.
Me: That’s dope man. I can definitely see that! (Laughing) Describe your upbringing, where you’re originally from – when you started painting, family background, and education.
Kamon: I’m originally from a really small town in California called San Luis Obispo. Not a lot of people have actually heard of it (laughing). I live in Georgia now, and I’ve been out here for about 16-17 years just outside of the Atlanta metro area. I actually have a total of nine siblings, I’m the youngest.
Me: Wow, there’s a lot of y’all! What was it like growing up in such a huge family like that?
Kamon: It was great because I always had people around to look out for me. I have a brother who’s only like a year and a half older than me so we were always pretty much inseparable. We even started college together.
Kamon: I would always doodle in class all the way through school. I’m a self-taught artist, I’ve never took any formal classes other than a couple high school art classes. I actually didn’t really start coloring my artwork until about a year and a half ago. Then, one day I just picked up some markers and started coloring some drawings and the next thing you know I ordered a better quality of markers online and I’ve been doing that ever since. I was in school for software engineering for 2 years then I got into an accident and got injured so I dropped out of school from there. I wasn’t really passionate about software engineering anyway so between the accident and lack of passion, I just decided not to pursue it anymore. I’ve spent some time doing different things and then eventually focused on just doing my artwork. I went to a fairly small college in Georgia but it was bought up by Kennesaw State University. What I really wanted to do with software engineering is design video games. I actually enjoyed making the graphics to the games.
Me: Wow, that’s great! Describe how you approach your creative process; what’s your ideal environment to bring out your full range of creativity?
Kamon: Usually I’ll just find an image from watching a movie or playing a video game and then I’ll recreate a version of it or I’ll just re-use the idea. Most of my work uses references. I’ve always been really big into Hip-Hop but I’ve branched more out to Neo-Soul like smoother kind of music. I definitely like the jazzy type of Hip-Hop like A Tribe Called Quest and Pharcyde.
Me: Cool, and as far as the culture in Atlanta, I’ve been hearing a lot of people describe it as the “black mecca.”
Kamon: Yea, it is a good place for black creatives to get discovered and make a name for themselves.
Me: And would you say being within that environment has helped fuel your creative growth as well?
Kamon: Yea, even coming from California where I grew up, it was pretty much only white people living in that area so I didn’t really have the experience of being around black people like that until I moved out here. I’m glad I got a chance to experience being around black people in a large capacity. Black people just have a different sense of creativity about them it’s something special about the way we create things. I’m sure it has helped me in the way I create things now.
Me: Nice, and I see another piece on your IG too called the Medusa.
Kamon: Oh yea, that’s a commission I did, she pretty much just told me that she wanted a black Medusa so she sent me a couple of pictures. I found some reference pictures also, so I just designed that for her and came up with the setting.
Me: That’s hot man! What types of mediums were used in this particular image?
Kamon: Thanks, appreciate it! I used copic markers and a little bit of gold tinted paint for the metallic. I’m trying to move more towards painting a bit more and branching out to digital as well.
Me: Awesome! I see that some of your most recent pieces are a collaboration with someone else, could you dive deeper into those?
Kamon: Sure, those pieces were actually done with my girlfriend. She came up with the idea with the love theme to kind of go along with Valentine’s Day. The name of the series is named after her IG @theloveaesthetic.
Me: I can definitely feel the love! (laughing) She’s a poet as well?
Kamon: She’s mostly a writer in general but she definitely does some poetry as well.
Me: Nice! If you could collaborate with any artist on an upcoming piece who would it be and why?
Kamon: It would be with one of my older brothers. He has a clothing line that he’s working on. He’s actually in Japan right now working on a pop-up shop. I definitely would want to design some of the artwork on his clothes. I haven’t done that yet so I’m definitely looking forward to it.
Me: Sounds like an incredible opportunity! It’s another way to get more exposure for your art.
Me: What do you think young black visual artists can do to create more opportunities for themselves?
Kamon: I’m still trying to figure it out myself because I’m a young black visual artist (laughing) but what I’m trying to do is keep improving and keep producing new art. I also recommend trying to do something that’s not being overdone like the coloring book and calendar I put out. Also, another thing I’m working on getting better at is networking even doing stuff like this interview.
Me: Excellent! Would you like to talk more about the calendar?
Kamon: The calendar was just a random idea I came up with when I was working on pieces for the coloring book. I didn’t have a specific use for the digital art that I was creating, so I was on the Vista Print website and I started designing the calendar. I liked the way it was coming out so I decided to start selling them.
Me: Those are great ideas! It’s definitely vital to explore as many avenues that you can for your art.
Kamon: Thank you! Growing up I don’t remember seeing a lot of black art in coloring books.
Me: Exactly! I think what you’re doing with the black Samurai coloring book is impactful because it gives black youth more superhero characters that look like them. Much respect for that!
Kamon: Thank you!
Me: What’s your favorite piece you’ve created so far?
Kamon: The one that I would say is my favorite is the Outkast one. I get a lot of good feedback from that one. I just like the way it came out, I put a lot of work into it, I think you can definitely see my style in it too.
Me: Yea, that’s another hot piece! I know you mentioned your brother earlier, but are there any other artists in your family?
Kamon: Yea, a lot of them are artists in different ways. The brother that’s only a year and a half older than me is a rapper. We’re actually in a rap duo together. My oldest brother raps and produces, he’s been doing that for years. I have a sister that’s a dancer and my Dad is a musician too. My Mom’s actually fairly creative as well, she used to do interior decorating – making pillows and clothes as well. Everyone does something (laughing)!
Me: Wow! There’s so many different layers of creativity within the family that’s awesome!
Kamon: Yea I guess it’s just in the bloodline, even the brothers and sisters that have regular jobs are creative in certain ways.
Me: Just being an art entrepreneur, what are some things that you’ve learned going through the process of selling your artwork, and your creative development?
Kamon: I try to give myself more credit. I always think that I should be better but I just learned to value my time and the energy I put into my artwork. I’m trying to get out there and meet more people – not be so scared to put myself and my work out there.
Me: Excellent! I know with myself and this project, it’s not the easiest task especially being more of an introvert.
Kamon: Me too, I definitely understand.
Me: Yea, so that’s what I’m learning with the interviews as well to hone my own communication skills.
Kamon: Art is definitely a personal thing especially since it has to be sold directly from me to them basically. Not only is the work personal for me but then having to communicate and sell it to someone else directly is something I’m learning to do better.
Me: I feel you. Would you say that you’ve gotten better at pricing your work as well?
Kamon: Yea I think so, even feeling more comfortable with the price that I’m setting without feeling like, ‘oh I don’t know if I should charge as much.’ If they take it cool if not, I still know it’s worth at least as much as I set it for.
Me: Exactly, you don’t want to sell yourself short either.
Kamon: I feel like if someone wants it bad enough then they’ll be willing to pay a certain price for it.
Me: Definitely. What’s the most challenging piece that you’ve done?
Kamon: Most recently I had a commission for someone that was trying to get a Christmas gift for his girlfriend. It was a painting and it was 18 by 24 which is pretty big. He only started messaging me about it like a week before Christmas. I take half up front before I even start the commission so by the time he paid me I only had a like 4 days to do the painting. On top of that, he didn’t know exactly what he wanted. So, I had to design it from scratch and hope that he liked it. Even when I thought it was done he still wanted me to add more but he didn’t know what I should add (laughing). That was pretty much how the whole transaction went. I eventually got it done in time and he was happy with it.
Me: Good, I know you were probably thinking, ‘y’all better be happy with this!’ (laughing) It’s on point though man!
Kamon: Thanks. Yea, I think it came out pretty good a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into it!
Me: So you mentioned that you and your brother were a rap duo. How long have you been rapping?
Kamon: We started rapping as a joke in High School in like 2005 but we let that go until 2011. That’s when we started to get more serious about it.
Me: Cool. Have you ever done a piece or thought about doing a piece based off of your lyrics?
Kamon: No, not specifically, that is something I’d like to do though. I’d like to be able to make song art or album art as well. I don’t really rap that much anymore though. Something I was thinking about doing is making beats to go along with the Street Fighter art series I did. We’ll see if it actually comes to fruition though because I don’t really focus on the music anymore.
Me: I understand. Describe a time when experienced a creative block and how did you overcome it?
Kamon: I feel like I get creative blocks all the time (laughing)! What I’ll do is start working on something even if I’m not inspired by it. If I can’t do that then I just won’t do anything for a few days until I get some more inspiration or motivation to do something.
Me: Okay, yea that makes sense, sometimes you do have to put it down and refocus. How has your artwork shaped you as a person?
Kamon: Typically I wouldn’t really share much about myself or share what I’m working on. It’s forced me to be a more interactive person by getting me to network more and put myself out there.
Me: Nice and what has been your most proud achievement so far as an artist?
Kamon: It would probably be the coloring book. I put a lot of man hours and a lot of energy into making it. Just to see it come from an idea all the way to being completed, I’m really proud of that.
Me: That’s quite an achievement right there. How long did it take you to complete it?
Kamon: It took me at least three months from doing the drawings and inking them. I actually really hated doing the inking. That was my least favorite part of doing artwork (laughing). But, I really took it to the next level with doing this coloring book. I really put a lot of details into the drawings.
Me: Gotcha. That’s dope, takes some serious skills to get those details!
Kamon: Thanks man, appreciate it!
Me: No prob! Would you say Instagram has been your best platform in terms of selling your artwork?
Kamon: Well, I definitely like Instagram the most the way the format is and I definitely connect the most with people there. Facebook I’ve gotten a few people message me about my work as well. I think Instagram is best in showing the work but I think people are more personal on Facebook so they’re more likely to message you about work.
Me: True. Plus you have different groups on Facebook like Black Artists Connected that help you get more exposure as well. Would you like to share any other upcoming projects or exhibitions?
Kamon: I’m still working on the Street Fighter series I talked to you a little bit about earlier and I also have an art show coming up in April. That’s the main thing I have coming up, I’ll let you know once I get more details.
Me: Cool. What’s your vision for the future in terms of your artistry?
Kamon: I really just want to keep creating things that feel good to me and to be able to make money off of those creations. I want to keep improving my craft and experiment with different mediums and various ways to get my artwork out there.
Me: Thanks again for your time, Kamon! I wish you much success in the future!
Kamon: I really appreciate it man, it’s been a pleasure talking to you! I’m looking forward to seeing the interview!