Keith Vlahakis is an illustrator and custom letterer based Cape Town (his Behance page states; “I am a perversely optimistic and passionate illustrator/ graphic designer currently working in the beautiful city of Cape Town”)
Working with bright and colors, he illustrates pop-culture icons, rappers and film characters.
Recently, we were able to ask him a few questions about himself and his art, including his inspirations and creative process
1. Tell us about Keith Vlahakis
Keith vlahakis is a one man illustration studio, A perverse optimist, sneaker enthusiast, a pop artist, a comic book nerd, a proliferator of good vibes.
2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
I’d say it was a very organic start, a transitional period where i went from looking at stuff i desired to draw, (epic characters from scifi movies, and fantastical robots) and then slowly and persistently working on my craft after hours till the point I was able to be “fluent ” in my own style and just draw the content I wanted to draw. i have this saying that I went from having a day job i never liked in the advertising industry as a designer, and i was a “vigilante” illustrator, drawing at night and then with time i became a “daytime superhero” when I began to do what i loved full time
3. Please, describe your style of art?
It has two facets to it the first is focused on lettering and hand crafted typography. I work in a number of Typographic and lettering styles. I also do typographic murals. My signature lettering style is inspired by a mixture of classic serif looped typography and the fluid daintiness of late nineteenth century Art Nouveau Poster Design. Hip hop and graffiti are huge influences to one of my other styles, so everything from bubble 1980s graffiti to corner store shop signs and old album cover designs influence my work. As far as lettering and type, my influences are eclectic, which then inform my various styles.
The second part is pop art, Its work is focused on popular culture and nostalgia. Digital Pop Art re interpreting movies, games, music, icons, branding, consumerism etc. It’s a direct artistic reaction and response to everything pop. Past and present.
A lot of discussion is going on now about what it means to be an african artist/illustrator, I embrace the fact that most of my work is inspired by my childhood obsessions with primarily Western entertainment, my style is ” im finding my style” so in the meantime I just draw what i like. Shamelessly. It has identity crisis issues, thats its identity. That its a style which has an identity crisis because of where im from, but i earnestly embrace that identity crisis.
4. What’s your ultimate goal as an illustrator?
My goal at this stage is get an international rep/agent to be able to work on gigantic brands like Nike or apple. Also with time start an illustration studio that champions for people of colour here in capetown.
5. At what stage in your life did you decide that it was illustrating for you?
As cliche as it sounds, I’d say that illustration chose me, way back when i first watched ” STAR WARS : empire strikes back” as a kid and I knew i had to be a part of this greater universe of expression, escapism and profound storytelling. a pen and pad was my best way to start on that journey.
— Keith Vlahakis (@KeithVlahakis) February 25, 2016
6. What do you do for inspiration?
I buy action figures, binge watch movies, go to the arcade and read comic books.
7. If not illustrating, which other career path would you have chosen?
Maybe try the culinary arts? I enjoy cooking too. I could do that. Yes I would be a Chef.
8. Can you describe your creative process when illustrating a concept or an idea you are passionate about?
It usually starts with me obsessing over that idea for hours , watching interviews. Most of my ideas that im very very passionate about stem from my interest in cult movies from the 80s/90s. Star wars, aliens, back to the future, terminator, etc. I will just watch and research for hours then illustrate late into the night and often till the early morning.
If its a commissioned piece usually custom typography/ lettering, then its starts with research too, style of fonts , time period, music that accompanies that period. My process is all about immersing oneself totally with anything that will help reach a great end result with undiluted creative energy in it.
9. What materials do you use to make your illustrations look the way they do?
Its mostly all digital now besides the murals, for the typographic murals its montana spray paint and posca markers. the program i use is manga studio for my digital work
10. 5 artists that have influenced you?
keith harring, kaws, james jean, andy warhol and shephaird fairey.
11. what was the inspiration for your Halloween Horror Series Illustrations?
Purely my obsession with horror movie characters and the fact that i could binge watch horror movies over the month of October with a contextual goal to illustrate them for the project with “between 10 and five”.
12. Any art project in the future that we should look foward to?
Yes there is project i may do with WWF Zambia, so im holding thumbs that that one actually happens.