Anyone who saw one of the newest graphic designs by Sahir “Dré” Lopez knows his work can cause viewers to stop and stare. On his recent two-page spread, neon-colored, bomb-shaped blocks displaying alarming images such as cocaine, ecstasy, firearms, and Osama bin Laden float above a decrepit old man marching forward with a vulgarly-gesturing staff. It’s hard not to sit and wonder what the design could possibly mean. Thirty-year-old Dré, a Columbia-based illustrator, graphic artist, painter and sculptor, says his fearless, outside the box approach to design is what’s gotten him noticed.”
“I don’t mind pushing the envelope,” Dré says. “I like getting attention. I like to make you laugh, and if you get offended – it’s nothing personal.”
As for an explanation of the recently published two-page illustration (titled “Right Foot, Left Foot”), Dré says he wanted to depict the journey of a man continuing to walk forward despite many rough patches in life. By carrying a staff with a pointed middle-finger carved into it, the man is essentially flipping-off life’s negative experiences, he explains.
“The old dude is a representation of perseverance,” Dré says.
The risk-taking artist – half Puerto Rican, half Colombian, outfitted in skater/hip-hop style from head to toe – moved to Columbia from Miami when he was in high school, but he found that academics would take a back seat to art from day one. Dré says he realized his artistic talent while sitting in in-school suspension, where he sketched a Bugs Bunny dressed in modern clothing and discovered it was much more impressive than a notepad doodle.
“That’s when people started paying attention to [my art],” Dré says. “Once I realized I could do art, it became my main passion.”
Taking the advice of his father, Dré enrolled in college, but after a few semesters of uninspiring computer science classes, he quit to pursue his passion full-time. He zeroed-in on comic book illustration and became involved with Columbia’s 803 Studios, where he provided the penciling for “American Empire,” a politically-toned science-fiction story featured in the first volume of “803,” the studio’s publication. However, sparse work opportunities made Dré realize that comic book illustration may not be the best professional route to take.
“Focusing so much on comic books slowed me down as an artist,” Dré says. “So I got into graphic design and freelance illustration.”
All while holding a part-time job at Devine Eyes, Dré began designing CD covers, publication covers, tattoos, ads, logos and T-shirts for local and regional clients. He also landed a gig creating an ongoing comic strip, “Blutopia,” a cultural commentary from a hip-hop perspective that runs in the South Carolina Black News. His entire works blossom out of The Piensa: Art Company, the homegrown studio he operates with his brother Sammy, who is also an artist.
While “Right Foot, Left Foot” may evoke some serious thoughts, much of Dré’s body of work causes reactions that are no more intense than a chuckle. He designs ads for Devine Eyes, which feature a pink Speedo-clad man wearing stylish shades and classic art figures such as Mona Lisa in funky glasses. In “Blutopia,” a flashy kid rides by on a bicycle equipped with 24’s. Light-hearted themes such as these prove that not all of Dré’s thoughts are weighed down.
“I have a goofy sense of humor,” Dré says. “I do have serious things to say, but I don’t take myself too seriously. I want to say what I need to say while having fun.”
Self-described as a sort of artistic chameleon, Dré is now focusing on a new endeavor: a fine arts show, which he hopes to exhibit in a local gallery for the purpose of exposure. He’s planning a mixed media show, including works in charcoal, watercolors, and oil which explore the themes of human expression and emotion.
As a graphic artist and illustrator, Dré is beginning to see that the world is his oyster. He recently snagged the attention of clients from outside the Southeast, including a DJ and a clothing company in New York City and two rappers in France, and he’s finding that while his work may travel far, he can do it all from the comforts of his studio in Columbia.
“I’ve been working hard enough here that I’d like to stay and see what comes of it,” Dré says. “No matter what I’ve gone through and no matter what’s happened on a personal level, I’ve always known I’m an artist,” he says. “It’s the only constant thing. I can go as far as my mind will take me.”