Markeidric Walker is an Atlanta-based painter whose works merge classical art elements with contemporary subjects. Take, for example, his 2017 painting Classical Thug, which features a pared-down portrait of Young Thug clad in a Victorian-era ensemble. Walker says that he juxtaposes these visuals to honor hometown heroes while paying respect to the Old Masters such as Rembrandt, John Singer Sargent and Leonardo da Vinci.
In addition to using traditional canvas, Walker’s practice also involves painting on garments. His wearable art pieces have caught the eye of celebrities such as Rihanna and Mike Will Made It, who have commissioned him for apparel collaborations. Moreover, he has worked with local companies such as WishATL, MCKYS BSTRO and A Ma Maniére, the latter of which he collaborated with on a series of illustrative portraits featuring iconic African-American figures such as Malcolm X, Tupac Shakur and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Read our interview with the artist below to learn more about Walker’s progressive practices, his childhood and what’s next for the Georgia native.
“My fascination with classical paintings comes from my early childhood studies of them and most importantly how they were made.”Tell us about your upbringing.
My creative upbringing in Atlanta started in a small town called Acworth where I took my first art class with teenagers as a seven-year-old boy. From there, I studied with my teacher Phylis Bostar until I was 18 and went to college to further my studies. I knew I wanted to pursue a career as an artist when I was forced to make a decision to either play sports or play a game of the mind (painting). One of which would outlast the other. I chose art.Where did you continue your art studies in college?
I attended the Savannah College of Art and Design. Before that, I was classically trained outside of grade school in traditional drawing, painting, and art history from the age of seven til 18.Why are you so fascinated with classical paintings? Are there any specific artists or works from that period that influence your work?
My fascination with classical paintings comes from my early childhood studies of them and most importantly how they were made. The craftsmanship is totally different than today. Classical painters who I’m inspired by are John Singer Sargent, Rembrandt, David Leffel, Leonardo da Vinci, among many othersWhen did you start painting on fashion products? What made you choose these mediums over the traditional canvas?
I was very short on money in college. So, at times when I didn’t have canvas and needed to get an idea out, I would use anything in arms reach and many times that meant the back of a jacket, a pair of pants, or a T-shirt with a phrase that I would create in my mind and write down. Besides, painted garments simply look cool.
“I would be the quiet art guy that went around with the cool photographer until I built more reputation for my name.”From Rihanna to Mike Will Made It, you’ve collaborated with a number of big musicians. What sparked your involvement with this industry?
Growing up, I hung out with photographers and designers in Atlanta. My buddies, none of who are fellow painters, and I would get together to create projects. We had this sort of left and right brain thinking that merged all of our creative talents, from my best friend who was immersed in Atlanta’s music scene to me accompanying him along the way. We had been going back from home to the city as kids so it was just simply where we were. I would be the quiet art guy that went around with the cool photographer until I built more reputation for my name. Then I became quote on quote “Markeidric The Painter.”What’s the contemporary art scene like in Atlanta right now?
The contemporary art scene in Atlanta is, well, let’s just say colorful. But, there aren’t too many works here that feature classically-enriched colors. Instead, they’re straight from the tube with the pieces very expressive and high-value in color. Or, you get the Downtown Buckhead plastic wash – this is what I call the aesthetics of abstract acrylics.What are your thoughts on the fine art industry as a whole?
My thoughts on the fine art industry: “They need Markeidric to set the record straight.” And, that’s all I can say because the value in skill is diminishing by the day. Taste is gone. Quality over quantity is a foreign concept. But, I’m here to change all of that through re-teaching history in the correct version, repainting this world as we should know it, and deprogramming the simulation of this art world that the rich and tasteless have systematically run into the ground for money.
“The style of my latest portraits evokes a childlike joy and curiosity from its effortless mark making and color palette.”Let’s talk about your latest series of portraits at A Ma Maniére. Is this a new style that you’re developing? Describe your process.
The style of my latest portraits evoke a childlike joy and curiosity from its effortless mark making and color palette. It is a style I came up with back in 2013. The concept of this style comes from a small story I usually tell my audience, which is that I was born left-handed and as I grew up, my grandmother slowly changed me to using my right hand. The transition made me somewhat ambidextrous. As I got older, I started using my left hand and it seemed to become natural. This concept led me to develop these illustrative, childlike portraits.What’s the atmosphere like when you’re painting?
I prefer being alone in my studio and very moody. My music is usually at a comfortable pitch that’s not distracting me from my inner thoughts and adding to the ambiance of my artworks that’s being created from thin air. It’s almost like a hospital room before giving birth. It’s very calm and anticipating of the arrival.If you can collaborate with a brand or celebrity, who would it be and why?
If I could collaborate with any brand or person I’d have to say Gucci on a show, merch, and prints. I admire the limits they are willing to cross to get people’s attention which is more valuable than the dollar. If it was a musician, I’d have to say Kanye West. He’s the best thinker in the music industry and needs to be around other great thinkers that are not in the music business.What projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on my second “One Man Show,” which is projected to launch in the summertime. So, be on the lookout for that.