Sweyda talks art styles, dream projects and his addiction to drawing
A graffiti artist by training, an illustrator by passion, and a digital artist by trade
Pencil or pixel?
Pencil! I am a traditional illustrator first. I have spent decades in an intimate relationship with that tool refining my mind, eyes and my hand to work seamlessly together. It’s my roots, the place my first ideas came to life. With that said I am very fond of my digital tools. They are a potent arsenal that has both challenged me and shaped me creatively!
Drink of choice:
I drink water constantly. Not a big fan of sugar drinks. My drink after hours though is a Rusty nail! 2 ounces scotch, 1 ounce Drambuie, Light ice (1 cube) Garnish with a small slice orange rind. Yeah... It’s good!
No favorites here. They all have their place and purpose.
What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
I decided at a very early age I wanted to do art. Their was no “Plan B” it was just “I’M GOING TO BE AN ARTIST” This shaped a great deal of my decisions in life and ultimately me. From High School on it was any job that would give me the opportunity to create and get paid for it.
Why did you ultimately choose to be an artist?
I believe I’m very fortunate here. I grew up in a home where “You can be anyone you wish” was a mantra. This created an open forum to both express ideas and work them out. Fertile ground for a creative mind. I knew I was creative in the manner in which I could see the world. This touched a multitude of areas but around 6 or 7 is when drawing started to accelerate. It was addictive. To begin translating ideas to actual life. I was home!
Favorite tunes to listen to while you work?
I’m definitely a fan of most any genres. In my everyday life it varies considerably based on what I’m doing BUT... When drawing or designing it’s mostly breakbeat! (Florida breakbeat)
Any shows you’re currently binging?
My early twenties I got rid of the only TV I had. It was an easy decision considering each commercial and show was telling you what to buy, how to act an attempting to define you at every step. It was then I lost any major interest for TV. Such a considerable investment of time for very little (to no) payoff. I would rather sit for a movie. Sci fi, action, dramas!
You’ve worked with some huge brands! Which one would the 12-year-old-you be the most proud of?
Currently it’s Ruroc (motorcycle helmet company) It’s potent when a client gives you freedom to explore their brand and backs you up. The projects have challenged me in a variety of ways from both a technical standpoint to my creativity. We’ve created some awesome stuff over the last year!
Who are some of the artists you look up to? Dead or alive.
This is a hard question since I am influenced by everything... literally! Music, movies, conversations, books, other artists and the world around me. If anyone cares to look (and see) their is inspiration everywhere. In regards to my art though I would have to say the following:
Herb Lubalin (Design and lettering)
Michael Manoogian (Design and lettering)
David Quay (lettering)
Jordan Jelev (Calligraphy)
Niels Shoe Meulman (Calligraffiti)
House industries (type foundry)
David A Smith (Sign Maker)
VCJ (Vernon Courtland Johnson) Illustrator (older illustrations for Powell & Peralta)
Joe Madureira (Comic illustrator)
Elvin Yong (Tattoo illustrator)
Gregory Titus (Illustration)
And then another 50 or so!
Were you a graffiti artist in a past life?
Depends on who’s asking, you a cop? lol. My first introduction to lettering was a Graffiti artist who lived on my block back in NY. He was older than me. I once had a opportunity to talk with him and when he showed my his black book I was BLOWN AWAY. He took the written word (which is already extremely powerful ) and gave it a personality, a character with it’s form. He broke rules and boundaries (what all creative’s should do) but with a fluidity. I was mesmerized. It set me on that path back then that still has a place now both in me and in the market.
Charles Xaiver. One of the most powerful superheroes who rarely needs to use those powers. That’s real power.
Do you prefer 2D art, or 3D art?
I prefer all forms of creation. As for 3D I love it but have zero knowledge or experience with it.
Favorite Star Wars character:
Darth Vader. Simultaneously the galxy’s greatest villian and hero.
What’s your process look like?
This in large part is determined by the client and project. 10,000 foot view though goes something like this: I open the project file and look through the references the client has supplied and the ones I added. I read through the brief and take note of the imagery in my mind, the direction and ideas I see. This is an immediate jump to pencil and paper. I always start loose. I want the form to find itself. This lasts anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. Once I “see” the form in the loose sketch I turn on the light table, get a fresh piece of paper and produce the clean illustration. Their is an entire process here with the client, refining / revisions etc. Once approved I scan and move to the computer. Black line (Pen tool and mouse, that’s it!) The next steps vary depending on the complexity of the design and what’s needed by the client but usually follows the design elements, the custom lettering, the coloring, revisions etc etc.
What’s your favorite piece you’ve done to date?
I’ll let you know when that happens! I’m considerably difficult with my art. My OCD accompanied by an insatiable appetite for growth makes looking at anything I’ve done with satisfaction almost impossible. It’s both a blessing and a curse honestly. While one aspect of it keeps me constantly pushing and discovering new frontiers the apposing force is a heavy burden. Not feeling satisfied can be crippling.
Dream project. Money is no object. What would you create?
My dream project is creating for me. My idea and my timeline! I look forward to the day (hopefully soon) that I am creating with the intention to look upon it once completed and say “THAT’S IT!” I want to reach my potential, craft my ideas without any pressure.
Do you have traditional training or are you self taught?
I always think this is an interesting question. I believe we are all “self” taught. I know people who have attended universities but gained nothing. They never engaged the information, went through the motions. I also know people with no ability or access to higher education but utilize every opportunity (even their failures) to grow. I have had countless opportunities to grow in both my knowledge base and craft and believe I’ve taken each of them. I think I’m engaged at every level knowing that I need to sit in the posture of a student at all times.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve been blessed with many individuals in my personal life who have shared great advice. I could never elevate one piece above the other.
What’s your favorite thing to draw for fun?
Tigers! Their is something intense about a creature that is simply beautiful to look at and equally ferocious.