SharpieCovers is drawing the underground

Wow SharpieCovers generously drew the cover art for this interview himself! Thank you Sharpie.

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So glad Eden pitched us this interview. In our current era, the visual aesthetics of the scenes we cover are arguably as important as the music. Plus I’ll never say no to covering an artist who went from getting dissed by Rxk Nephew to working with him.

I wake up and look over at my phone—SharpieCovers is calling. Our interview isn’t scheduled for another hour or so, but he’s already at the abandoned train warehouse he planned to join me from. When I answer the video call, he’s wearing his signature rubber Halloween mask and a black Arc’teryx jacket covered in paint. 

“I just did this straight-letter,” he says, turning the camera around to show me the section of the warehouse now branded by SharpieCovers. This warehouse, just up the hill from train tracks and a river somewhere in British Columbia, Canada, is one of the first places he painted graffiti in his early teens. 

He explains that as a kid, seeing graffiti at the skate parks he visited inspired him to try it out for himself. After more than a decade of catching tags and painting trains under his belt, the twenty-something has recently found his niche as a full-time cover artist, graphic designer, and underground internet personality. 

If you gave Beavis and Butthead a SoundCloud account, a bag of weed, a case of White Claws, printer paper and some markers, the results would probably look something like Sharpie’s Instagram feed. Scrolling through his account, you see absurd, caricatured doodles of Rxk Nephew, Rx Papi, Cold Hart, Bear1Boss and more, surrounded by 40s of Olde English, smoking blunts, driving sports cars, flexing money, or carrying firearms. In a recent cover for Nephew, he depicts the Rochester rapper lifting weights with bizarrely-elongated arms while piloting a spaceship. Just over one year since he started the project, Sharpie has worked with countless artists in the underground, and he’s even designed a vending machine for a hydroponic store in Walla Walla, Washington.

Sharpie’s sense of humor and background as a graffiti writer are evident in his covers. Coming from a culture obsessed with letter structure, trespassing and vandalism, it’s unsurprising to see the aesthetics of barbed wire fences, sketchy alleyways, and painted trains make their way into his graphic design work. The freshly-dried “Sharpie” straight-letter in the warehouse he’s standing in looks like something you might see in the cover art or music videos of his collaborators.

“It pretty much just started like, I had this idea to make this Cosmopolitan-style gossip graffiti mag,” he explains. “I started drawing sharpie covers for that magazine – I was posting those on another account – and people seemed to fuck with them, and lots of people were like ‘oh, you should do cover art!’ Like, it was kind of a joke, you know? I was always just doing these sharpie drawings, and then I made the account while wasted one night, and just was like, ‘I wonder if anyone would use this for their music’. I started doing hella free ones for random people, and people were kinda liking them – so it kinda just took off from there.”

His Instagram page is more than just a showcase of his professional work: it’s where he gives his followers love advice, shares video tutorials and screenshots of some of the dozens of DMs he receives daily, posts cover-art memes, constantly references Wayne Gretzky, and accuses CashApp of being run by the devil.

“I’ve always loved making stupid memes and making fun of how serious everything is. I’m not tryna throw anyone under the bus, but like, if you look at most cover art pages, it’s like pretty fuckin serious and it’s a pretty nerdy thing, at the end of the day,” he says over the phone. “I just thought it’d be cool to sorta make fun of how ridiculous it is, that you’re pretty much tryna hop into rappers’ DMs like it’s Tinder.“

Part way through the interview, the mountain wind blows the Yankees fitted off from overtop his mask. “I guess I’ve just always been super paranoid with graf shit and whatever. I think I made like a cooking video, or something dumb like that, and I wore the mask, sorta as a joke – but then it just became the brand in a way, or a part of it, just because all my shit’s so ridiculous,” he says of the mask, which has ‘Sharpie’ written under one eye like a face tat. His Yankees fitted is now back on safely. 

“Half of this shit is just Instagram, and messaging and setting things up. So it’s just like, wake up, answer all my emails, get everything sorted, usually have like one or two covers I gotta do. I usually just try to get that shit done and then I go paint, or snowboard, or skateboard or something like that. But it’s great, cause I’m pretty much doing this – this is what I do for work now. I can start doing covers at midnight, or 8 in the morning, it’s super dope like that.” 

The abandoned warehouse is just one stop of the road trip he’s currently on. Needing minimal supplies, he’s able to work from anywhere. “My plan is to cop a whip that I can live in, a little RV. I really wanna travel through the States and paint, and get some work in or whatever. That’s my goal right now, to save up to make that happen.”

Eden DaSilva: Your Twitter bio says “worst cover artist in history”. That’s a pretty big accomplishment. 

SharpieCovers: That one was coined by Rxk Nephew. He sent me this crazy request to do this cover. It was like, 100 bottles of Hennessy, him with his videographer, his producer, every person he knows. He wanted me to do like, Lil B in a car, crashing into PNB Rock, with A Boogie getting lynched. I tried to do that, kind of knew it was kinda jokes, you know what I mean? So I did that, and I drew Lil B running into PNB Rock and all that, and I sent it to him. And he was like, “hell no, this is fucked”. And then he posted it, and was like, “this is the worst art of all time”, and put it on Twitter and was like “this is the worst artist of all time” and to be honest, I think that’s when my page kinda took off a little bit. 

That was a real request? I saw that and thought it was you guys just fucking around.

I mean, I dunno. With that dude, you never know. I think that he’s like, always serious but always trolling, you know what I mean?  (Ed note:  just days after the interview, Sharpie finally got a cover in with Nephew.)

Getting your first commissions and people hitting you up to pay for art, how long did that take?

I started it and right away I was like, pretty addicted to it. It just seemed so funny to me that anyone would even be down, you know, to use it for their music. So when I first started I kinda just grinded it all day for a couple days, and I was just like getting drunk at home and sending more DMs than you could imagine. And with commissions I guess, I probably did like 50 free ones, and then I started asking for like, 10 bucks, and then I slowly upped the price to like 20 and then 30, after I did so many or whatever.  

Was there one in particular when you were starting, that made you think like, ‘oh shit, maybe I can do this for real’?

The first bigger one was, I did Kirblagoop, this song ‘Hustlin’. He hit me up to do that one, and then I was like ‘oh shit I could definitely do this for tons of people then’. 

What’s your process like when you sit down to draw cover art?

I mean, fuckin, usually have a couple drinks. Get super baked or whatever, talk to the person about the idea. I usually start by drawing them or drawing the letters, and see how it goes. It’s all like super super random. 

Do your Sharpies work better when you keep them in the fridge with your White Claws?

Fuckin rights they do. For a while I was pretty strictly on the White Claws. So I copped a couple fat cases of White Claws, and I had all these Sharpies… I dunno. 

When’s the Sharpie sponsorship coming?

Man, I’ve been trying every fuckin day. I dunno. They’ll like, respond to my DMs, and respond to my Twitter, and be like, “love that you’re putting us out there so much!” but I think that my content is too ridiculous. If you look at their Instagram, Sharpie is like family shit, they’ll post like, some girl, drawing flowers on a cup. I’m trying to make it so they can’t refuse me. I’m giving them too much marketing to not at least toss me a box or something, you know? 

What are some crazy DMs that you’ve gotten?

I get a lot of insane hate, and a lot of insane love. Almost every day, I get someone that will DM me like “you gotta quit art, go kill yourself, your shit’s whack, nobodies paying you to do this shitty art.”  But then on the other side, I get people that are like, “you inspired me to start drawing,” or producing, or rapping, or whatever it is. For the most part, it’s like random kids, either showing love, or like, really fucking hating me. 

I’ve been seeing you posting a lot about that magazine idea. Tell me a bit more about that. 

I’ve been so stoked about this, I’m 100% starting this magazine. I don’t wanna say too much about it, cause I’m gonna make a big release thing for it soon. Essentially it’s gonna be like, I want it to be like a Cosmopolitan magazine, but like for music, graf, skating, fashion, whatever. It’ll all be super funny – like my whole meme style, there’ll be like, ‘Sharpie Love Advice’, it’ll be super ridiculous, but also serious interviews with rappers, musicians, cover artists, producers, I wanna try to get everyone involved. Most things are like, hella ‘cool-guy’ these days, you gotta be like, ‘in’ with everyone to have a chance at something like that. I want anyone to be able to contribute to it.

Fuck Cashapp.

Cashapp is the devil bro. You can’t use Cashapp if you live in Canada. It makes it super hard when you’re working with people all over the world. I pretty much lose like two to three sales a day, just because they’ll only wanna use Cashapp. A lot of people won’t trust PayPal… it sucks. I would have done so many more covers if I could use Cashapp. 

Any collabs that you want to get in the future?

I don’t even know, like right now I’m doing a lot of work for Hotsauce Records, which is like mostly what I listen to right now, so I’m pretty stoked on the people that I’m doing things for. I’m pretty much down to do as many as possible. I kinda treat it like graf, where I wanna be up on Soundcloud, and Spotify, and shit like that, you know? I want to be able to look up any genre and my shit’s kicking around there. It’s like, addicting, you know what I mean? And then once you start seeing it, it’s like, fuck I wanna see that shit all the time. It’s exactly like doing tags, just like, digital. If you’ve done graf, and seen one of your spots, you know that feeling. Except with things like this, like what you’re doing, or what I’m doing, you get to connect with people in other parts of the world that do way different shit, and you get to be a part of it. 

Some of Sharpie’s covers for Hotsauce Records.

Do people in your real life know about SharpieCovers? 

Anyone that knows me well knows about it, for sure… but I dunno, I try to keep it pretty quiet. I go pretty crazy on the internet, but I’m not really like… it sounds fuckin weird when I try to explain it to someone. Most people I know, or like kids I went to highschool with, like, “yo man, my whole job is that I do cover art” they’re like “yo that’s fucked, what the hell are you talking about”. There are certain people I talk about it with, but to the majority of people I don’t. It’s mostly just like an internet thing, really. 

I think a big part of the appeal of your page is how you interact with everyone and post so much. I remember your graf account from a while back was kinda similar, you’d post all these questions, and share the crazy stories that people sent you.

Yeah I used to have that, but I deleted it when I really got into this shit. I definitely did a lot of similar shit on that account. That’s the best thing with Instagram, is like, you can just get people so fuckin fired up, you share one of those questions, and like one person sends a crazy story, then every fuckin person and their Uncle is gonna share a crazy story too. It’s funny like that.

Yeah, it’s the same sorta vibe. Whether the engagement is positive or negative, it’s funny as fuck.

I respond to like every DM, I’ll try to help people as much as I can, you know what I mean? I feel like not enough people do that. People will think they’ve got something cool going on and then stop responding to random kids, and stop fuckin yknow, trying to help anyone, and it’s like man… who cares? I think it’s dope to talk to anyone. If someone’s stoked on what I’m doing, I’m stoked on what they’re doing. Some people think they’re sick and then they’ll treat people some type of way. I just think that’s super super whack. It’s crazy how much you can affect someone’s day, like one kid messaging you, you just talk to him for two minutes, and like, I’ve had that experience with people in the past, it’s dope when someone gives you the time of day. 

Is there anything else you want to mention?

Yeah, to anyone that’s reading this shit or whatever – if you’ve got something that you want to do, just fuckin do it, man. Grind it out for a while. It’s so worth it to start your own thing, and don’t listen to what any fuckin idiot tells you – it’s not gonna be worth it, blah blah blah blah blah, just do it. If you believe in yourself, other people will too. 

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