Picture it: you’re sitting at your office desk, bored out of your mind. There’s nothing on the Internet today, so you pick up the phone and make a call. But the call isn’t that interesting, so you grab a pack of 3 x 3 inch yellow Post-It notes, Sharpies, and highlighters and set to work, transforming your grey little cubicle into a vibrant artist’s studio.
For most of us, this little hobby wouldn’t go very far. But one man, Marlon Sassy, took it to the next level and transformed himself into the artist otherwise known as Gangster Doodles. With an eye for icons in their element, Sassy created a collection of 500-600 pop-culture moments that he has been publishing over the past three years with a hardcore cult fan base following him on social media. Now, the artist takes it to the next level with the release of a 300-page book, Gangster Doodles, featuring essays by Shia LaBeouf and Jeff Jank, art director of Stones Throw.
From Black Jesus to Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar to LeBron James, Jean-Michel Basquiat to Young Thug, you best believe everyone who’s anyone is in here, representing to the fullest. Gangster Doodles speaks with Crave about the works.
How did Gangster Doodles get started? What was the first one you drew?
Gangster Doodles started as a joke. I quickly grabbed a stack of Post-Its and scribbled two or three Hip-Hop inspired pics while on my lunch break. They were quick and dirty; they might have taken me one or two minutes each to draw. Snoop Doggy Dogg – Tha Doggfather was my first doodle.
When did you realize that this was more than a casual doodle?
I realized it was more than a casual thing when I started posting on Tumblr and people started sending me messages saying they loved my work and making drawing requests. It really hit home once I started to get commissions and actually made a little cash the work.
What made you decide to develop in into a full series of work?
Maybe two or three months after starting drawing doodles I was accepted to attend a ten-day art mentorship program at Island Mountain Arts in British Columbia. Lucky for me Wayne White and Mimi Pond were the mentors for the duration. This experience and the positive reactions from everyone including Wayne & Mimi gave me the confidence to dedicate the next three years of my life drawing doodles. Special shout-out to Wayne and Mimi!
What is the time frame of the works in the series?
The average picture usually takes between for to six hours to complete. The more complicated pictures might take me seven to ten hours.
What is it about the subjects you draw which appeal most deeply to you?
When it comes to the Hip-Hop drawings, it’s all about the larger than life personalities. It’s my chance to live vicariously through someone that I’m drawing, even if its only for four to five hours that it takes to draw and post.
What is the appeal of working from a pre-existing image for the creation of your work?
When I first started I only re-drew album covers which naturally fit the measurements of a 3×3 post it. I’ve basically just continued to do that. Create alternate versions of everything I draw. If I was just copying the reference photos exactly like the original there wouldn’t be any point but I’m able to put a slightly different spin on things.
Are any of the images created from scratch?
For sure, I don’t use a reference every time but a good portion of what I draw is directly referenced from movie scenes, music videos, etc.
What has been the best part about transforming these works into a book?
For me it’s all about the process. Being able to hand pick all the different elements has been the most rewarding, whether it’s picking the cloth or deciding which shade of yellow to use for the dust jacket. Self-publishing is lots of extra work but after one and a half years of blood, sweat, and tears holding a physical copy of the book is an incredible feeling.
All images: © Marlon Sassy aka Gangster Doodles.
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Aperture Online, and Feature Shoot. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.