Marker “Redsharkboy” Snyder

When did you first know you were an artist?
I think most of us are born artists and somewhere during the process of growing up, we forget and have to relearn to be artists again as adults.

So, while my earliest memories involve drawing, I never really thought of myself as a visual artist until much later in life. I drew through most of my childhood, but by adolescence, I was most interested in the performing arts. At that time my drawings were usually nothing more than doodles in the margins of notebooks and the backs of receipts. But it was actually when I stuck my hands into clay for the first time that everything changed. Somehow, ceramics changed the way I thought about ideas and artistic expression and I realized that many of the ideas I was working on needed a different medium to express themselves. After that I let the ideas lead me, allowing myself to discover different materials. I started to discover figures in the scribbles and faces in my doodles and have continued doing so for the past several decades.

Favorite medium(s) you use to make art…
I have so many “favorites” it’s hard to choose…

I love getting messy. So, if I have the opportunity to use my hands, I’m happy.

I usually start most projects with a pen and a piece of paper. I go through love affairs with different pens depending on the project, but long-standing favorites are the Uniball Vision Fine and the PaperMate Flair Pen. But I love color, too! You can never go wrong with a good marker. Digitally, I’m a big fan of Procreate.

What are the most interesting new trends in your field? Is your work changing as a result?
Since the powers of digital drawing tools have been increasing exponentially, I have been experimenting with them more and more in my work. The idea that I can easily carry a pressure sensitive tablet with me in my backpack (that I actually love drawing with) has changed my entire relationship to the digital realm. I still love traditional methods, but I enjoy the experimentation that digital art allows.

Talk about your creative process – where/when do you get most of your ideas and how do you know a piece is ‘finished’?
My creative process might be best described as “structured freedom.”

I am constantly sculpting and fine-tuning my ritual. Early in the creative process I like structured, timed tasks to keep me moving forward. I even schedule in brainstorming time. I like deadlines, so using an egg timer helps push me to finish a specific task in a specific time frame. And when I’m focused on the clock, I don’t have time to let worry worm its way into my creative process.

I’m also a huge fan of small steps. I’ve found that working on something for an hour over 5 days is much more productive than working on something for 5 hours straight. Even working on something for 10 minutes a day adds up to an hour of work over a week.

As I start nearing completion, the piece usually takes over. I go deeper into the “zone.” I start ignoring my egg timer and working for longer and longer sessions. The obsession takes over until the piece nearly complete. When I think I’m nearing completion, I like to leave the project for at least 24 hours preferably longer, when I can revisit the piece with fresh eyes. With more clarity, necessary changes become obvious and this process is repeated until I love it as much in the morning as I did the night before.

Do you also teach or are you strictly a creative artist? Who was your most influential mentor and why?
I primarily work as a creative artist, though I also do design and production work. I have many years of experience working in Museums as a curator and exhibition designer.

My most influential mentors have been those teachers than have disrupted my creative process. I am inspired by artists that allow themselves the freedom to give a voice to their unique way of seeing the world. Huge inspiration has come from Lynda Barry, Pendleton Ward, Elise Gravel, to name just a few.

What are you working on now?
There’re always at least 5 or 6 projects brewing in the studio…usually many more. Today I just finished a painting which will be featured 2019 Kingston Farmers Market Poster and there’s a bunch of exciting projects in the pipeline. I am particularly excited about a children’s picture book about making messes which I am currently writing and illustrating.

How has being in Kingston enhanced/inspired your work? What do you like best about living in Kingston/being involved with MAD? How long have you been here?
Creating work here in Kingston has pushed me to try new projects and explore new formats for expression. My work has started spreading across Kingston in places I never even imagined. I’ve had public murals in a wide variety of places such a music venue, restaurants and as part of O+ Festival.

I love the supportive artistic community here in Kingston. Being wedged between an active city and the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley has been the perfect balance. I became a full-time resident here in Kingston 5 years ago, but I have familial roots in Kingston as far back as 1700.

Other information you wish to provide.
I often get asked where the name “Redsharkboy” comes from:

It all started with a red magic marker…When I was 3, I loved to draw. My mom says that the very first time she left me alone with a pack of markers, she returned to find that not only had I colored all over my piece of paper, but I had drawn all over my face, my hands, the table, the walls, the carpeting, and just about every other surface in a 10-foot radius.

Instead of getting mad at me, she just laughed, “My little creative monster, my little red shark boy, what a giant mess you’ve made!”

And from then on, that name just sort of stuck. I loved getting messy with art. Whenever my creative passions overtook me, we always said that “Redsharkboy did it!” Redsharkboy was the one who got glue all over the encyclopedias and glitter in the cushions of the brand-new couch. Redsharkboy cut up all the magazines in the library to make a collage and smeared paint all over the dining room table. Redsharkboy stayed up all night writing stories and illustrating books to share with my friends at school.

Redsharkboy allowed me to lose myself in the process of making.

Eventually, I became Redsharkboy all the time. I moved on from red to all colors of the rainbow and found a whole family of creative monsters to join me on my journey.

In 2003, I founded Redsharkboy Studio to try to share this magic with the world. Through drawings, stories and products, I hope to help people unlock their dreams and unleash their creativity.

And in case you’re wondering, I’m still very good at making messes…but I’ve stopped seeing them as “messes” and started seeing them as the springboard for imagination.

Redsharkboy Studio