Once considered an underground movement, graffiti is quickly becoming an exalted art form
By Kim Henry
Over the last 40 years graffiti art has transformed its image from that of an underground movement of hoodlums vandalizing the side of buildings, to being a recognized artistic genre. With iconic artists such as Bansky holding their own prestigious exhibits and selling their work for thousands of dollars, this art form has arrived at a whole new level. A peak moment in the graffiti art timeline was when Shepard Fairey’s graffiti-style ‘Hope’ poster was officially adopted by the Obama campaign. Following this, graffiti art found itself accepted by the mainstream as a credible and increasingly popular artistic expression, full of exceptionally talented artists. Keeping its sandy shores firmly on the popular culture pulse, Wilmington has its very own graffiti artist. 32-year-old Dajael may steer clear of walls and trains, but his graffiti-inspired art is prolific and thriving.
Honoring the graffiti artist tradition of creating a ‘street name’ and then keeping ones identity anonymous, Dajael does not disclose his real name or identity to many. What we do know is that he was born and raised in Goldsboro, NC and came to Wilmington in 2003 to be closer to the ocean. He studied Marine Technology, fell in love with the town and has been here ever since.
“Art was always a big part of my life growing up, although I’ve never received any formal training,” divulges the bearded artist from the red sofa of a local Downtown Gallery.
So how did he discover his passion for graffiti art and develop his very own technique? Health issues and a diagnosis of Crohns Disease forced Dajael to reign in his Marine Technology ambitions and to take his love of art more seriously. He began combining his other interests in order to nurture his creative outlet. Having always been a comic geek and major sci-fi fan, particularly of the original Star Wars trilogy, Dajael had long been drawn to the iconic images of his favorite characters and heroes. He was also an avid photographer and follower of the graffiti art movement. Fusing these passions with his desire to create sharp, crisp images, he knew he wanted to work with stencils. Lo and behold, following his Marine Technology graduation, Dajael had an excess of thin plastic sheets called mylar, a material used to plot courses in Marine Technology, left lying around his apartment.
His health condition meant he had to focus on what he could do, rather than on what he couldn’t do and his stencils began to emerge. “I was hooked from the very first one,” smiles Dajael, “it’s very exciting to see how it will come out, especially when you’ve spent hours creating the stencil and are working with layers.”
He began to develop his own process. Once he’s decided which one of his icons he wants to portray, Dajael will use a light table to study the image and work out whether to remove the light or the dark aspects. “You spend so much time looking at the details of an image that you begin to see all faces in terms of dark and light and how you would bring out the character of that face,” laughs the artist.
Working strictly with canvass (no walls or subways involved) Dajael does use spray paint for a majority of his work. Creating layers of color on a single image involves creating multiple stencils and building up the layers one at a time. The trick is working out how to keep a stencil in tact when it can involve meticulous details and wafer thin lines, and ensure that each layer is placed in exactly the right spot.
Much of his work features Star Wars figures, famous musicians and Marvel Comic heroes – all the things he’s most passionate about. “Swamp Thing is my next project! It’s exciting that they are filming this series right here in Wilmington and that it originates from a comic book,” reveals Dajael.
Dajael’s cutting edge images can be viewed in Memory Lane Comic Store, Bottega on 4th and in various galleries and coffee houses in Ashville and Boone. His ever evolving work keeps him positive and is gaining more and more recognition. The question is, will he manage to remain anonymous here in Wilmington and keep his identity a mystery?!