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Meet the Artist

Kevin Prather: Sharpies and obscure pop culture references



You've probably already met KP, who designed this week's Source cover and is our artist of the month with a curated show at Franklin's Crossing. He's blonde and bearded, with shy light eyes almost always tucked under the brim of a baseball hat. The production manager for Random Presents, a local music promotion company, has been a force in the arts and music scene in Bend for nearly a decade. He was a member of the now defunct local hip-hop group Person People and was a regular at the cultural hotspot the Grove, which closed in 2007. Now, Prather makes his living running concerts, importing bands that range in genre from rollicking alt-hip-hop to classic country—Buck 65 to Son Volt.

K. Prather (known as Kalvin Panther when he's making art) is an anomaly, an artist who was born in Bend and has spent the majority of his life here. But that doesn't mean he paints watercolor landscapes of Mount Bachelor and Mirror Pond. Hardly. His art is distinctly urban, using sharpie on drywall to create vivid pop art. Striking iconic images are Prather's specialty, Woody Guthrie with a loose cigarette hanging out the corner of his mouth. Charles Bukowski's wrinkled mug over a fishbowl of booze. Daniel Day-Lewis sporting an enormous moustache à la Gangs of New York. Margot and Richie Tenenbaum in black and white, mounted before a flowing background of handwritten Rolling Stones lyrics. All of his work is hand-drawn (no tracing), but the meticulously detailed lines could easily be confused for a cut and paste job. Prather assures that it is not, and wants you to take his work home, pricing prints of his original creations starting at $15. His work is currently hanging in Velvet and will be at Franklin's Crossing starting Friday Nov. 1, prints are also available at Ranch Records.

SW: Tell me how you got started as an artist?

I've always been a doodler, but three years ago I was bored and started to do more. I love big art. I like to collect it. I hang my stuff at my house just to keep it off the ground and I have a bit of art in storage waiting for the day when I have a mansion. I like skateboard art, but I never pursued anything other than drawing here or there. At the time I lived with Jonathan Ludwig and he encouraged me to put more time into this stuff. I got hooked.

How long does a piece take you?

The trees [larger pieces] take 50-80 hours, a few weeks of time here and there. It's really meticulous, but I like that. It's meditative. It's mindless, but it takes just enough focus to drown any other B.S. that's going on in your life. It's therapeutic. I'd be crazy without it. It goes well with being a single loner-type hermit. I'm a homebody. If I wasn't doing art I'd be a book worm or a video game dork.

What is your medium?

Sharpie on drywall. Some pieces have acrylic, but my friend Garrett Wasson does that work, he's a long-time friend and my "artner." Sheetrock is the cheapest canvas on earth. I started using it by happenstance. I had a bunch of sheetrock lying around from a project and I drew on it. It's pretty easy and it makes a nice big heavy piece. The piece on the cover also has spray paint, coffee and merlot and I coat everything in water-based urethane, which makes it shiny.

What's the hardest part of working with Sharpie?'s like a chess game trying to get the first move out of the way. It can be taxing on the eyes and the neck.

How did you develop your specific style and how do you choose your subjects?

I like having art in my house. I buy stuff constantly. I'm out of wall space at this point. There are always particular subjects that I like that are hard to find, stuff like Bukowski and MF Doom. A lot of my favorite artists work with words so I started writing behind the pictures. The writing is all attached to the subject, I just finished one with Rza (from Wu-Tang Clan) with my favorite verse behind him. The Royal Tenenbaums piece has a song from my favorite scene in the movie. During the tent scene she [Margot] plays a Rolling Stones record.

I also like to connect with people. I'm never going to do a Bob Marley or a Jimi Hendrix or something super recognizable like that. I want people to say, "I know who that is and I feel special." It's like you when you recognize a super obscure reference in "Family Guy" and you feel good because you know other people have no idea what's going on. It's fun sitting in Velvet and listening to the conversations, people saying "That's not Sean Penn, it's Woody Guthrie!"

You sell your prints for really cheap, like $15 bucks. Why do you do that when you could charge a lot more?

I know that when you go to an art show, everybody wants to take something home. You see something cool and you want it, but it's hard to shell out cash. I like to make prints super cheep and make them specifically sized for cheap frames so you can have something that looks good and is unique. Look, I'm a beginner and I am loving making art. I'm excited about getting better. Everyone should do art in one form or another in the way they want it even if they're the only person who likes it. It's good for everybody. I want people to know that. Do art.

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