Students come in all shapes and sizes, which means they also come with different personalities and hobbies. For College of Staten Island senior Kyle Feliciano, powering through and showcasing his artistic skills is not only a form of mental release but a way to boost his standing in the art world. From designing personal tattoo pieces for friends to snagging awesome commissions for companies and singers, artist Feliciano strives to put his best in everything he creates.
Read on to learn more about the artistic talent of Kyle Feliciano and find a spark of inspiration.
Q: You’re almost 22. Looking back, you probably filled dozens of journals and notebooks, if not more. Did a specific artist inspire you to take up art?
KF: I grew up around comic books, so many of my favorite artists are or once were comic book artists. My earliest inspiration I like to think comes from the likes of John Romita Jr., Steve Ditko and Todd McFarlane. I find that these inspirations change as I grow and develop as an artist. The nature of Ditko’s work became too simplistic for me, so my new inspiration became McFarlane’s more exaggerated and hyper-detailed look. As my growth and development in art progresses, so too do my inspirations.
Q: What style of art inspires you the most? How would you explain your style of art to someone just discovering it?
KF: A lot of the art I grew up with was very dramatic and eye catching, as is such with many comic books, but I find that the more hyper-dramatic the better. I enjoy the intricate details and action-packed poses, or exaggerated pieces that a lot of comic book artists were able to pull off. If I had to explain my own style, I think it would be a pretty balanced blend between realism and title splash-like comic book art I grew up with.
Q: You’re obviously a talented artist—why didn’t you decide to go to an art school? What does College of Staten Island offer you that an art school can’t?
KF: For most of my life, art was simply a hobby. I hadn’t considered it as a suitable career until recently. A lot of my work hadn’t been discovered or widely spread until about a year ago and that’s when I really decided to take it seriously. I don’t think that College of Staten Island (CSI) has more or less to offer than any other school. I’m a big believer that you can succeed in any field from any school so long as you put in the dedication and work needed.
Q: Art comes in all different forms. What other methods of creating art do you partake in?
KF: Aside from the more traditional form of art like drawings, I’ve done a couple more adventurous forms of art like tattoo designs and more recently, 3D printing. I currently own two Creality CR-10 printers and spend a lot of my downtime (and money) designing, fabricating and printing 3D .STL files.
Most of what I print is either for hobbies, or functional prototypes to things such as robots, devices and other day-to-day items I can fabricate at home. My most anticipated and exciting upcoming project is for a full-scale wearable Iron Man armor with some neat features for Comic Con. I’m still working out some problems in the circuits and code, but it’s coming along nicely.
Q: Some pretty interesting people have commissioned you in the past year. How did it feel working for these notable people?
KF: In the last year I’ve worked with some amazing companies and artists from a number of different places. Most notably, an up-and-coming San Franciscan rapper named Siple. He discovered my artwork on my Instagram account and asked if I would draw the cover to his single, What’s Your Purpose. It is the first in hopefully many more album cover artwork that I have the honor of posting on every major music streaming platform.
Recently, I worked with artists such as Hot 97’s DJ Manny Mills, who I’ve become pretty close with over the last year. I drew a couple of his set displays and merch. I enjoy working with some of the more local clients, such as the privately owned, up-and-coming apparel brand I’ve recently collabed with known as Untamed Motives. They are a small Brooklyn based business that commissioned me to design some wicked Halloween designs for their sweaters and tees.
Q: From your recently completed commissions, which one proved the biggest challenge for you? Did the commissioner request something you have never done before?
KF: This would definitely go to Siple’s cover art for his single. I don’t believe the art itself was too complex but conveying his message to the audience through the artwork proved a bit harder than most for me. This wasn’t as simple as a logo or a piece for a DJ set. This piece at its core carries a certain weight when paired with his lyrics and beats. Each verse in that song is illustrated on the cover, so that when his fans sing along and dive into his music, they get engulfed in the wave of creativity. The beat, the lyrics and the art hits you all at once in a passionate way.
I received the opportunity to listen to the song ahead of release and really break down ways in which to convey its message in as simple a way as possible while also being able to maintain the feeling of a well written and complex song. I needed to be more self-aware of just how many elements would and wouldn’t make it to the final cut. As fun as it is, a lot of my clients have a budget and to maintain the budget and put a sort of cap on how much of the art should be in the finished piece was definitely a bit more challenging. It made me analyze each part of the process in a completely new way.
Q: What advice can you share with young students interested in art but don’t know where to start?
KF: Start. A lot of kids fall into a habit of planning to get into something like art or 3D printing but find themselves too preoccupied with where or when to start. You can’t take a step in the right direction if you don’t take a step at all. Something as small as a 10-minute doodle while waiting for the bus, or studying a favorite artist can go a long way in improving your skills and taking “your first step into a larger world,” as Obi Wan Kenobi once said. Also, do as Master Yoda says:“Do or do not. There is no try.”
Q: What does it feel like to see your art on other people—whether on clothing or as a tattoo?
KF: It is really unlike any feeling I’ve ever felt. I’ve produced content for privately owned clothing brands, worked with musicians and drawn set designs for DJ sets. However, the most rewarding type of work for me is tattoo art. Knowing that someone enjoys or connects with my artwork on such a personal level that they would permanently display it on their own body is the biggest compliment I can think of as an artist. That level of trust is something that can’t be matched by a shirt or album cover. It’s literally with you forever!
My most memorable tattoo piece was for a close friend of mine named Jennifer. She asked me to combine three pieces of art into a single piece for a tattoo. The piece featured a crescent moon, a sun and flowers; when looked at from afar, it would form a single sunflower. I remember sitting with her, feeling so grateful for the opportunity. The entire process felt unreal. From discussing conceptual design ideas, to settling on a finished sketch, to the final piece tattooed on her arm. It’s one of my most memorable pieces.
My friends and family supporting my art by wearing it proudly is extremely heartwarming. It’s even more rewarding seeing complete strangers wear and enjoy my art. Whether it’s seeing my art dancing around a DJ’s set, dissecting an EP cover on Apple Music or my loved ones presenting my latest piece tattooed on their arm, it’s always the same level of shock and gratitude.
Q: What is the best memory related to your art, outside of receiving commissions?
KF: Believe it or not, the best memory of any of my artwork has nothing to do with a hand-drawn piece, but a piece of replica art. I attended a middle school Halloween Dance and decided to go as Tony Stark. Since I didn’t have the time or tools to build an Iron Man suit, or want to spend an absurd amount of money on a costume, I made my own. I spent two months straight Googling reference photos and taking trips to RadioShack to buy pieces to create the first of many iterations of my replica of Tony Stark’s Arc Reactor.
I used a Printed Circuit Board (PCB), 11 LEDs and some sheet metal (safely cut by my dad) to make it. Then I paired it with some shades and a button down in true Tony Stark fashion. The project was a great bonding experience for me and my father— we still think back to it till this day. The dance was a huge success and I most definitely won best costume. It’s still mounted up on my workbench proudly as one of the most memorable pieces I’ve ever worked on.
Q: Where do you see your art in the next ten years? Where do you hope your artistic abilities take you?
KF: As impossible as it may seem to predict, I can imagine myself collaborating with some much more mainstream clients within the entertainment industry, engineering or design. The goal is to expand my horizons by working on projects that I never thought I could or would do. There’s some more equipment I’d like to get my hands on to up the efficiency of my work, along with starting my own studio. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a design studio with other artists in the future, since the workload of oncoming commissions can be a lot for a single artist. I would like to really focus on building up a diverse portfolio and being able to present it to some big names in the graphic design industry.
As a lifelong fan, I aspire to work with the minds behind some of my favorite companies such as Lucasfilm Ltd, Disney, Marvel or DC. I also plan to keep expanding my different forms of art and working on some big projects in each art “category.” I’ve been studying animation and would like to focus on working on my own animation projects.
There’s also quite an ambitious 3D printing project in the works with an old middle school friend of mine. We want to take our knowledge on 3D printing and design technology to help those in need. It’s in the early stages of R&D, but we’ve been researching 3D modeled prosthetics and plan on taking our first big step with the project within the next year or so. Busy, busy, busy. Lots of fun and exciting projects for me to experience and look forward to. Definitely stay tuned!