Photo by Eyesquid

Graffiti Artist to Web Designer

I always have had a love for art. At an early age I loved to draw and create things with blocks. When I was in first or second-grade graffiti and hip hop came into the limelight with movies like “Style Wars” and “Beat Street”. I sought out books like “Subway Art” and “Spray Can Art”. I’m not sure if it was the colors or the rebellion, but from the moment I saw people were writing their name on walls and subway trains I was hooked.

When I moved to San Jose, CA as a teen I met kids that were catching tags and “Bus Hopping”. I tried to learn and master the local hand styles. I moved to North Jersey in 1992-1993 and realized that no one that I knew was doing graffiti. So I stopped but continued to draw in my sketchbook. It really wasn’t until I moved to Trenton in 1997 that I started to pick up paint again.

In the early 2000’s I decided to try and make something from my art and I started to study graphic design at Mercer County Community College. I learned computer design programs like Photoshop, Illustrator and Freehand. I also started to learn about web design. I learned HTML, CSS and some Javascript. During this era Flash intros were all the rage.

I started doing my first murals and canvases in Downtown Trenton at this time. I also started interning with Tramp Steamer Media and learned about content creation. After that ended I met Dana Hutchins and started working at Inforest Communications.

A section of one of the first murals created in Trenton, NJ by Leon Rainbow Circa 2001
A section of one of the first murals created in Trenton, NJ by Leon Rainbow – Circa 2001

 

Working at Inforest really helped me bridge the gap of how websites worked and best practices. I learned skills that I still use today. I learned how to use CSS and PHP to pull pages together. Using Photoshop and Fireworks for graphics. Keeping file sizes down and working with a limited palette was a must.

Around the same time I met Pose 2, Sew, and  Base SM. They taught me the foundations of creating graffiti productions (murals). They taught me letter style, colors, backgrounds, and characters. I was able to bring those concepts into the designs that I was creating at my job at Inforest Communications. This also allowed me to showcase and promote my artwork and create my own personal websites. Over the years my website LeonRainbow.com has gone thru several iterations.

At this point, I just look at myself as an Artist. I have never been great with programming, but I love working with CSS and HTML to create designs that are beautiful and effective. In web development, creating a great design is just the beginning of the project, making it function and still look beautiful-across all platforms and devices is the tricky part.

Check out some of my recent website designs:

One of the most important things I’ve learned in graffiti and web design is to be adaptive and flexible. A lot of the designs that we do at Inforest is for small to medium-sized businesses. So I have had to change my approach to fit the needs of our clients. Most business sites today are pretty nuetral toned with maybe one or 2 strong colors. I am still using letters as the feature in the design but instead of it being my graffiti moniker it is our clients name/logo and headlines. I enjoy using type in a different way to create effective graphics.

Recent graffiti piece painted during Jersey Fresh Jam 2018 at TerraCycle in Trenton, NJ
Recent graffiti piece painted during Jersey Fresh Jam 2018 at TerraCycle in Trenton, NJ

 

Over the years I have been blessed to create larger and more complicated projects. I have been able to use my skills as a web designer to create mockups and deliverables to my graffiti mural clients. It is great to be able to learn to use my skills on the internet and in my personal artwork. The possibilities are endless.

Check out some of my recent mural work: