Denver Artist Whitney Wells
At this point in his life, Whitney Wells most likely has Pigma ink flowing through his blood. Never seen without a skateboard, cigarette or marker in his hand, Wells is an up and coming artist in Denver with a widely known signature style.
“I started making art as far back as I can remember,” Wells, 26, said. “I was always doodling on shit. What made me start to get serious about art was probably when I saw that other people started taking a liking to what I produced.” Wells started working with watercolor and pen and ink. While his style has undoubtedly developed since the start, pen and ink still flow heavily throughout his work. Painting or drawing on everything from canvas, broken skateboard decks or wooden planks found in Denver alleyways; Wells’ artistic fingerprint covers each piece with style.
“Every artist is born with their own style, but you for sure adapt shit from other artists’ styles and add them to yours,” Wells said. “I guess I have kind of adapted things from other artists, but more so techniques than anything.”
Wells said he “loves and has always loved” the work of artists like Michael Sieben, Mike Giant, and old school graffiti artists Barry Mcgee and Basquit. It almost seems as if Wells had swallowed the styles of all these influential artists and spit out the inspiration onto his own canvas, creating his own take on all of it.
“I just make my pieces based on my feelings.” Wells said. “You can tell in my pieces what my mood or feelings were based on the subject matter. Like when I had broken up with my ex-girlfriend I had a bunch of dark, heartbroken pieces.”
Flipping through the pages of Wells’ sketchbooks will draw anyone into a crooked world of inked humor and creativity. Each page is different; some covered from top to bottom in tiny drawings and humorous text, while others show the detailed planning in the first steps of his larger paintings.
“All I do is sketch all day long and if I like my sketch enough, I usually just end up turning it into a painting,” Wells said. “I rarely have set ideas for paintings. They kind of just flow, like a rapper doing freestyle or something, I guess.”
Wells went on to explain the heavy influence music has on his artwork every day, saying that he comes up with a lot of ideas for pieces while listening to music.
“Mainly some hard, thug ass rap; that shit really inspires me because I come from the hood and so do a lot of those rappers. It inspires me seeing how they came from fucked up backgrounds and have made it big. Rags to riches.”
While Wells may find a lot of his inspiration in his favorite rappers, like ASAP Rocky and Lil’ Wayne, he mentioned that he’s also inspired by basically everything else; like “the trees, grass, people, beer, weed, skateboarding, photography, street signs, girls, tattoos and food.”
For the month of March, Wells’ art decorated the walls of Denver bar and restaurant Sputnik in the Baker District in an art show he participated in with fellow Denver artist Paige Keener.
“The Sputnik show seemed pretty good. We had a great turn out opening night and both sold a piece or two that same night,” Wells said. “I just hope some other pieces sold because I love knowing the fact that people can connect with my art enough to buy it and hang it in their lives.”
In his March show, a number of his pieces seemed heavily influenced by the artistic style seen in traditional tattoo work. When asked if he was interested in moving in that direction artistically, Wells responded with “I love tattoos and the whole art form behind the application of the application of tattoos. I have been doing all of those pieces you mentioned to build a portfolio to hopefully get an apprenticeship somewhere. I just have to keep hustlin’!”
While Wells’ spends hours and hours focusing his talent on the paintings and drawings he creates, his talent does not stop there. He dabbles in multiple other medias spreading his creativity as far as possible.
He has been an employee and team rider for The Denver Shop, a local skate shop, for around seven years and has brought his artistic talent with him the whole time.
Recently, the shop released a new skate video “Stakes Is High”, which Wells helped to create.
“For Stakes Is High, I edited a pretty good portion, skated in it in a portion with two other people and helped with the art direction,” Wells said.
Aside from video editing and design, he also publishes his own blog and fills its pages with creative thoughts, his most recent artwork and photos he’s taken with his 1960’s Minolta camera.
His blog, Living Life Like You’re In A Hurry To Die, is a contradiction to what Wells believes himself. Offering his own little piece of philosophy, Wells explained “I just try to live my life not at a fast pace. I hate feeling rushed or having to rush around. What the fuck is the point of rushing? So you can stress and die of a heart attack? Fuck that shit. The title is like a joke to me.”
Anyone who knows Wells knows this is exactly what he lives by; being the quieter, more reserved individual among his rowdy group of friends. But of course, this is also a total contradiction coming from the artist who can pump out a more than impressive painting in under twenty minutes.
Wells plans on continuing to create and further develop his style, learning more each day. Anyone who watches his characters and style develop will be able to recognize his work the minute they walk into a room his art is hanging in.
“For me it still is a hobby. I can’t get serious about it yet because I don’t see steady income from my art or anything. But once I do then we’ll be able to talk,” Wells laughed. “I am still just doing the art I have always been doing, just on a bigger scale now, with a little more time put into it.”