by Deiona Monroe
Not bound by one type of medium, LaVan Wright is a tattoo artist, graphic designer and painter; he enjoys embracing the exploration of boundaries. Queens, New York born but raised throughout the city, his first exposure came from the launch of a clothing brand entitled Kreemo. Currently, LaVan is running Lone Wolf: a design business with a long list of successful projects and executions.
He always knew he loved art and loved transcending his thoughts onto a canvas, using his creations to help him overcome the obstacles he’s faced and keep him balanced in—what can be—a chaotic world:
“Using my art to help overcome anything in my life? Hhhmmmmm, hmmmm that’s a good question to start with. I feel like…I do that with all of them, all of my artwork. It’s always inspired by something that I’m going through. So, like, every single piece that I do, it has to do with something that I’m going through; like even if it’s for someone else, which is weird. It’s like, I’ll look back on [my work] and I’ll just see that I was kinda telling a story about my life in something that I’ve just created; I do that a lot."
With so many different mediums that he uses to express his inner most thoughts to his many audiences, LaVan stepped into the art world originally with a love of music and using this love to create, execute and form a piece that—unexpectedly—got him some well-earned recognition. This was one of the first pieces he ever created:
“One that I can remember was a Lupe Fiasco piece, it was like a graphic design piece. It was a piece where it was just him, and like tentacles wrapped around his head. It was just a big crazy piece. The reason why I did it is because I love music and I was listening to his music—I was a big Lupe fan in high school, still am—but while I was listening to it the idea just came to my head. And I was just by myself. And in the moments that I’m by myself and don’t have to think about anything else or get distracted by anything else I kinda just zone in on my artwork. A lot of my best art comes from the times that I’m isolated. That was the first one I did, and we actually got Lupe to see it, which was dope. We made like buttons and other paraphernalia; we brought it down to Atlanta for him; that was the first time a celebrity saw my work. This was like in 2009 or 2010.”
Though acknowledged for his amazing work, that wasn’t—and isn’t—why LaVan does what he does. Rather, his work is a visual representation of what is going on in his life and using these various mediums to transcend his life to the people who view it.
“Ok. I think…ight let me handle the first question. Do I transcend my life into my work? Yeah, I do. I feel like the best form of inspiration is, literally, the stuff that I go through. Whatever I go through I kinda like, feel it, 100%, and I don’t try to hide myself from it and I take everything in. and from there, I just stare at a blank piece of paper or just let myself process it, and just let myself create whatever comes to mind. So, literally, everything that I create has something to do with how I’m feeling”.
“Ok, part 2 [how do you do so and why do you do it]. It’d be easier if I broke everything down. As you already know, I do paintings, tattoos, graphic design work; those are the three pillars I use right now. For the graphic design work, that’s mostly me communicating with people and figuring out their ideas and figuring out a way to take what’s in their head and putting it out on a piece of paper. With that, that’s more of connecting with people, understanding their dreams and how they want their dreams to be illustrated to everybody else. When it comes to painting, that’s more or less my life. Whatever I feel; whatever my emotions are. If I’m sad, Ima paint something sad with a lot of blue colors; if I’m happy Ima paint with more lively colors. The painting is the stronger conduit for like my feelings and my life. For tattooing, it’s another connecting. Graphic designing is a connecting over the phone; tattooing is more of a connecting in person. I get to learn about people’s lives and become sort of like a part-time therapist”.
With producing work that captures his own life and illustrating the lives of all those he comes into contact with, it is inevitable that stress occurs when interacting with so many different people on numerous mediums. Though a headache, stress isn’t something that is impossible to deal with, because it’s impossible to not encounter it:
“This is going to sound weird, but the main thing that gives me stress is dealing with people that don’t understand the art. Cause, uh, it be cool if I was just doing art and selling it, but I’m working with people. I do paintings and sell the paintings; that’s me doing whatever I want and people buying it. But, when it’s a situation when I’m actually doing services, like tattooing or graphic design…tattooing not so much but graphic design is the biggest headache. Cause I don’t think people really understand how much time it takes to actually design something, especially when you’re doing it from scratch. The biggest thing is that people don’t know what they want. So, you as the graphic designer, you’re supposed to be able to pull that out of them. But the thing that gets me mad—which you have to have like rules of how you handle it—is that sometimes when you show somebody something, they’ll get inspired by it and either completely change their idea or try to make too many changes”.
“Graphic design is more impersonal than all the other mediums that I do. I’m not face-to-face with people; I can meet with them one time, get all their ideas, but after the fact it’s like I still have to get the work done on my own time. with tattooing, I meet up with them, we sit down, we come up with the idea, I tattoo them, everybody goes about their day. The most stressful one is just reaching a bridge in communication so that everybody is happy. Cause it’s already hard for me to try to pull an idea out of somebody else’s head, but if they don’t know the whole process, then it makes it even worse”.
“I try to deal with it by trying to communicate with them or like punch a wall… nah I’m playing. But forreal, I try to figure out what I’m not doing to, like, convey the message. ‘What am I missing? Am I not explaining this properly?’ And if that doesn’t work, then I just take a break and go for a walk or something”.