A little bit of neon, a pinch of Japan and a whole lotta Afrofuturism…if this describes what you are looking at on a wall in Denver then you are probably seeing the work of George Yakubisin aka Akubis. A Jack-Of-All trades specializing in public art, character illustrations, movement related graphic design, and clothing curation. If he is not painting a new mural or debuting a new animation at a gallery, then you can probably find him pouring over fabrics for his vast clothing line. Akubis was raised on the east coast of the US in a very traditional area of Pennsylvania. His ambition was to break free from the traditional moods of the local area and invest into a world where his imagination becomes reality. Akubis’s work includes unique characters and imaginary worlds in paint and pixels. His vision: Creating with imagination is fun because you can live within a story and be somewhere else completely. We were lucky enough to catch up with George between his curation of summer markets and warm weather clothing releases to ask him a bit about the books that inspired his exclusive style.
Akubis on Art, Books, and Libraries
- What book as a kid influenced your imagination to pick up a crayon and begin making art?
I definitely read my fair share of graphic novels and storybooks as a kid but the first book that kind of started giving me ideas to do art was Captain Underpants. It might sound a bit odd at first as it is such a bizarre character but it was the ‘Flip-O-Rama’ that would be hidden within each book that really kickstarted my imagination. Not only was it an interactive attribute to the book but it taught me the basics of animation that started with my own Flip experiments and progressed to the animation I do today. It also had some pretty amazing graphics for a kids book and some weird characters that were influential in the sense that they taught me to color outside of the lines when developing a character for some of my murals.
- What book are you currently reading that influences you in either a creative way or a professional way?
I am currently reading Crushing It by Gary Vaynerchuk, it’s the companion book to Crush It that he put out earlier. It’s a good series of books to help you stay true to you while finding a path to success. It’s not really a ‘get rich quick’ book like a lot of the self-help books out there but more a book that helps you focus on your own path to obtain happiness through your work on your terms. Gary spends some time dissecting different forms of social media and shows you how you can benefit from them in whatever line of work you are in which is incredibly important to many of today's creators.
- What do you think is the most important resource that Libraries provide to you as an artist?
Personally, I think it is the documentation of other artists, from all times and places. To be able to go to an art book section and scroll through books from the Renaissance area to Modern art and even Graffiti is a priceless resource for artists. I also really enjoy the books on Museum collections as they allow you to explore a collection without having to travel or be rushed and most of the photos in those are top notch.
- What is your current/favorite/most-used branch of the Denver Public Library?
I have always liked the Central branch the best, it’s location in the middle of downtown and its proximity to the Art Museum is kind of like one stop shopping for inspiration. You can go browse the gigantic art book collection, grab a few graphic novels, stop by the IdeaLab Maker Space to use a 3D printer and then bounce over to the Art Museum and check some exhibits.
- If you were offered a gigantic wall on the outside of a Library, what would your paint to display what a library means to you?
I think it would be a giant open book on the bottom with three sections over it. The first section would show animal characters reading books with a swirl of pages and imagination above them. The swirl would drift over the middle section that would show animals in headphones busily working on computers with icons of science and history joining the swirl of pages. The third section would show animals playing with drones and making items on a 3D printer, the drone swirling through the pages above. I think using animals (as kids) offers a way for the mural to have equality and kinda show that all these things are available for all to use…even a toothy crocodile character gets a turn on the drone.
Ex Libris: Denver Artists is a series featuring local street artists, focusing on their connection to books and the importance of libraries to the artistic community. Series concept and interview by Sean Ryerson.