I’ve been admiring the script-style lettering of Jon Contino and Dan Cassaro lately, and while I haven’t used cursive much since elementary school, I’ve attempted to work the style into some of my stencils. I have kids, and I am not a preachy person, so there are very few bits of wisdom that I feel my kids absolutely must know that I can pass down. One of them is this:

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It says “You Are Irreplaceable”. Some people on this planet will contribute to society in a huge way, and some in a microscopic way, but none of us are replaceable. I want my kids to understand the intrinsic value of each human being, including themselves.

I initially drew the scripted type, then cut it into a stencil. I spray painted white onto a scrap piece of some particle board.

I discovered underground (or alternative) hip hop far too late in life, when I was about 26 years old. The incredible diversity of styles, sounds and personalities blew me away, and made me swear off mainstream rap radio for good. Maybe the most surprising thing about this new scene was where these artists came from. An L.A. duo…with a Peruvian MC? Tight beats out of Minneapolis? A super clean black/white team from Kentucky? Not exactly your traditional hip hop hotbeds. But it was all real, and none of these guys were getting filthy rich.

United States of Hip Hop

The title “The United States of Hip Hop” on this piece is used very literally. There is hip hop talent in every single state (I’m sure there is in AK and HI, too – maybe they’ll be in the next version).  While I didn’t know all of these groups before I started working on the project, and some are pretty raw, they all have something to contribute to the rap scene because of where they come from.

United States of Hip Hop

To create this piece, I drew the map outline and hand-lettered each artist into the general shape of their home state. Then I enlarged it to the size I wanted for the stencil and carefully cut each name. The painting itself was created with one big, intricate stencil.

United States of Hip Hop

I really feel this piece represents the spread of a powerful music and style that cuts through popular American culture. You can purchase The United States of Hip Hop here. Also considering doing individual states, which would allow me to add more artists to big rap states like CA and NY. Let me know what you think.

United States of Hip Hop

I’ve been obsessed with big city skylines since I was kid, staring out the wide windows of my family’s caravan as we drove all over the country. The skyscrapers of Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and NYC represented power, life and creativity. Because of their iconic status, urban skylines tend to be over-represented in photography and artwork. That doesn’t mean there aren’t more ways to interpret them, and I’m trying my hand at a stencil of my hometown, Denver. Not exactly a legendary skyline, but it’s got a couple of unique structures (not to mention the Rocky Mountains) that make it worth a tribute.

I spent a lot of time giving the mountains texture.

I like how the different building types turned out.

I made this with five separate stencils: Mountains outline, mountains detail, clouds outline, city outline, city detail. The colors are Ivory white on dark gray.

This isn’t up in my Etsy shop yet, but once I clean it up I may throw it up there.

* Denverites, this isn’t meant to be a literal image of the skyline. I got the cash register building, Republic Plaza and the new Four Seasons, then made up the rest.

Being a city boy, I was pretty much raised to assume that whatever’s between Denver and Chicago is tractor and trailer park country. While a recent train trip through that part of the country did feature its share rough spots, I found a lot of beauty in that vast section of the country as well. Iowa was especially charming, with its rolling green hills and postcard-pretty small towns. But I was struck by the vibrancy and youth in cities like Des Moines and Iowa City as well.

That’s where this contemporary ode to the state came from. Made with a hand-cut stencil, it gives a nod to Iowa’s agricultural foundation with a vibrant green color, and patterns reminiscent of neat rows of corn. But the geometric layout of the lettering suggests a progressive new crop of young Iowans who are ready to lead the state to increased relevance.

See some of my other map-inspired work, or purchase this piece, here.

I’ve done a lot of bikes over the past few years, partly because it feels like we’re immersed in bike culture in Colorado, and partly because bikes are great to look at. But I had yet to create a women’s version, relying primarily on images of my classic English-made Raleigh.

Last week I received a request to create a custom stencil featuring a ladies cruiser. It was fun, what with all the elegant ladylike curves. Wish I had done it sooner.

Take a look at some of my other bike work here.

Welcome to Hecho en Denver. I’ll be using this blog to talk about my latest artwork and fresh urban art I’m seeing around my city and on the web.

I became fascinated with urban art (graffiti) when I moved to an inner-city area ten years ago. As I walked and biked the streets and alleys, I was amazed at the talented artists giving away their work on utility boxes, train cars and buildings, not knowing if it would be there the next day. The idea of using a stencil to quickly cover a city with a message or image was incredibly empowering.

While you won’t be seeing any of my stencils on the street,  I hope you get the same sense of discovery and wonder looking at my work as you would seeing a nicely crafted piece placed perfectly the night before on the dumpster you walk by every day on your way to the bus stop.

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