A self-taught New York artist is getting ready for a big solo exhibition. His passion for art was inspired by his daughter's interest in skateboards.
When you see him work you might think Rafael Colon is an avid skateboarder and a trained artist. He is neither. And yet his East Harlem apartment is filled with more than 50 works of art on skateboards.
It all started with a request from his 10-year-old daughter Erin 10 years ago.
“She wanted to have just drawings on her sneakers, and so she's the first one that exposed me to art,” Colon said.
A fitness trainer who served in the Marines, Colon had no formal art training. But his daughter and her friends loved his drawings. A few years later, another request followed.
“It was my daughter's idea to match a sneaker to a skateboard. She specifically asked for a Frankenstein. That was the first skateboard that I ever created and the first skateboard that I sold,” Colon continued.
Originally he wanted to paint dinosaurs on skateboards, but after seeing paintings on wood at local museums, Colon came up with a new plan.
“It just gave me the idea that I could do masterpieces on skateboards. It's just a wood panel,” Colon said.
Rafael recreates works by Michelangelo, Van Gough, Picasso and more. He sketches the image, burns the wood, and uses paint markers to finish. He also does original designs. He's had several gallery shows and often works with young people.
“It’s fun, it's exciting, it's energetic, you get to meet people and you get to talk about art. It's always exciting,” Colon said.
Even though Rafael has been very successful with his original artworks he continues to make re-creations like this one to inspire young people.
“First they see this skateboard and then they're curious about the image and once they're curious you give them an art history lesson,” Colon added.
Rafael said he had never even heard of Picasso since growing up in the South Bronx. So he loves lugging around the boards so people can see them and ask him questions.
Rafael finally learned to skateboard, a little, and now that he's also painting violins, he just may take a few lessons.
All of these works will be exhibited next month in the East Village.
For more information, go to artonagallery.com