By Ivan B. Phifer
Everyone has a talent that they either are or are not aware of. However, there are few gifted individuals who have the ability to teach themselves certain skills, turn them into a hobby or craft, and transition their craft into a career.
Juan Andre Reed, from Cleveland, Ohio, is a self-taught artist and head of Dre One Graphics & Illustrations. He has been an artist since the age of five but has been a professional artist for 20 years.
Reed caught the attention of the MSR at the recent Gathering Women of Color Expo at the Minneapolis Convention Center. There he displayed his paintings of Prince, Muhammed Ali, and other notable figures.
“I know I don’t look like it, but I’m 56 years old,” Reed cheerfully stated.
He started his professional career as an artist by creating greeting cards, birthday cards for family, art on T-shirts and jeans, and even doing outlines for his friends who did graffiti artwork. Dre One Graphics & Illustrations was created in 1996 during a neighborhood event.
“We were doing a session for kids back in Ohio where I’m from. We were teaching little kids about art and graffiti.”
Reed remembers how he transitioned over time among the different types of tools used to create art. “Everything I used to do was with pencil and paper, sketch pad, ink and colored pencils. It was getting expensive,” he said. “When I moved here, my friend Storm from Storm International Design [for whom he is the lead character artist] asked me, “Have you ever been on a computer?”
Reed was unsure at first, but after he was exposed to the different functions involved in using a computer, he became fascinated. “There’s a lot you can put into your art [with a computer]. You can put art anywhere.”
Reed says much of his inspiration comes through music. “It’s more of a culture thing, because the muse moves me,” said Reed. “I’m a hip hop head from way back, so that’s a big influence on me.”
Some of his influences from the old school hip hop era include Run-DMC, Grand Master Flash, LL Cool J, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, just to name a few. “You could feel it, it had substance,” he said of the music genre. “That’s what I listen to when I’m doing my art.
“When Bone Thugs came out it was major,” Reed said ecstatically. “It gave me that push, because they were from where I’m from. So I felt like I could do anything, that I could make it, and legally.”
Reed recalled the biggest project he worked on, which was also one of his favorite pieces, called the Prince Purple Project on June 29, 2016. His paintings of Prince were selected as part of a contest.
“I won, and I had two of my pieces picked out,” explained Reed. “They only used one, because they said it looked too much like the album cover. I took a little bit of an offense to it. It was like I was being punished for being great. All the artwork for the contest were pictures from album covers or pictures. Those are my best sellers.”
Reed is also influenced by neo-soul artists such as Maxwell, Erykah Badu, Chisette Michell and others. He recently did a live painting at a Vibe Out event about a month ago. “I did a live Erykah Badu painting,” he said. “I was kind of nervous at first, ’cause I never had anybody around while I painted. [My friend] Chadwick Phillips just said to me, ‘Once you feel that music, the rest will flow.’”
Reed said in the past he had been much more protective of this work. “I try to hold on to my work. It’s like your kids. You invented it, you put your heart, sweat and tears into it. You don’t want just anybody to see it because they won’t feel it how you feel it.”
However, “I had to come off of that [mindset] because if nobody sees your work, they’re not going to know who you are or what you do.”
Reed’s dedication garnered him a place in the Northside Holiday Boutique, where artists from North Minneapolis are chosen to display their artwork downtown in the Gavidae building. “That’s big,” he said. “We don’t get a venue like that, so when they invite you to come, you know you’re doing something.”
The Northside Holiday Boutique started November 25 and runs until December 23. In the future, Reed’s goal is to have his work in art museums, especially in New York: “They have some bomb artists in New York. I want to be in that family.”
In terms of displaying his work more, Reed is currently working with Camden Community Center on an artist-of-the-month exhibit.
To see displays of work from Dre One Graphics & Illustrations, or to order artwork, contact Juan Andre Reed at DreOne@msn.com, or on Facebook and Instagram. His website is currently in development.
Ivan B. Phifer welcomes readers’ responses to email@example.com.