Detroit renaissance man Sheefy caps our Most of My Heroes collection with a series of original sketches and limited-edition prints on stamps. Sheefy used the concept to pay homage to his black idols while underscoring the connection to his hometown, painting Haring-style portraits from Marcus Garvey to Moodyman. In our exclusive interview, the artist highlights his process, influence, and the collection’s significance.
1xRUN: Can you tell us a little bit about Jesus Is King? Is there anything you would like to highlight about this image?
Sheefy: When I was thinking about the whole thing, and just the concept of My Heroes Don’t Appear on Stamps, I was trying to think of what influential black people I could draw. I really don’t do religious pieces, but Jesus just popped into my head.
Everybody always says, white Jesus, black Jesus, but there’s never been a Black Jesus. I painted him actually black to push it straightforward. Like, “Jesus was a black man”, just to be artsy and simple about it and get straight to the point.
1x: What is unique about this collection compared with your other work?
Sheefy: I put a bit more thought into what I was drawing. Lately a lot of my work has been more of a stream of consciousness, sketching and going to the next one. With this whole series, it got me really thinking about who are my black heroes, and who would I want to see publicized more. I got to looking up pictures of them, and trying to simplify them –– so you can still see them, but their face can be just a circle. Like Black Jesus; it’s such a simple drawing but you know that’s Jesus. It was fun.
I like the looseness of the sketches. Using the India ink, and then pushing the paint further. That was my first time pushing this style of painting how I did with the Black Jesus.
1x: Why is it important for people to see Jesus, Grace Jones, Serena Williams, Kobe Bryant, and Malcom X on stamps?
Sheefy: I feel like they were so unapologetically black, I feel like at least they should be on stamps. Especially Grace Jones. I wanted to include more women, and I wanted to include their figures. It’s symbolic. Serena Williams, her shape’s beautiful. I also wanted to get some Detroiters in the mix: Esham and Moodyman. Thinking about my black heroes that people wouldn’t know about. I guess just the unsung heroes and underdogs, the weirdos, that’s what I try to focus on.
1x: If you could honor a historic African American with their own national holiday who would it be and why?
Sheefy: I’d do Kobe. A Techno Day or something. Motown Day. Or a day where we honor every black person who was killed by police. Black Women’s Day. You feel me?
1x: If you could have dinner with any African American from past or present who would it be and why?
Sheefy: Jimi Hendrix. I should have drawn Jimi Hendrix.
1x: How did you first get into art?
Sheefy: I honestly have been drawing as long as I can remember. I remember my Mom pushing me a little bit further, because I’d just be doodling. I used to draw and trace Fred Flinstone, The Jetsons, and all that. I went from that to making my own characters, then to art classes and art camps.
1x: Did your parents or family approve/support you becoming a full time artist?
Sheefy: Yeah. My family’s always been supportive. My school, my neighborhood be pushing me forward. I feel like that’s what really pushed me forward, the support that I got from my family and my parents.
1x: What artists inspire you now?
Sheefy: Hebru Brantley, Mario Moore, Sydney G. James, Chuck Styles, Felipe Pantone.
1x: Any big shows or events coming up that you’d like to share?
Sheefy: My upcoming solo exhibition is called A Fool’s Dream at Robert Kidd Gallery in Birmingham, Michigan. I just got back from my 3 Weeks In L.A. exhibition, and then they hit me up. We’d been trying to do a show for the past year. At first, they wanted me to do a huge show, like 20 pieces. But they got this nice backroom gallery, and I feel like I can execute that better and in a more timely manner with 10 or 12 pieces. I’m basing them all around the things an artist hears in their career. Being an artist is often cast as a far-fetched dream, hence the title A Fool’s Dream. Most people think you a fool when you’re trying to become an artist. I’m putting those types of thoughts into the work. Being anxious, feeling high off of a sale, feeling the lows when people not buying. I’m thinking about those things.