ArtsFeatureInterview

Meet Darryl Sharp, Jr: Artist, Animator, Graphic Designer, Music Fan

In an exclusive interview with 45s and 40s, Darry Sharp, Jr. talks about his art, going viral with his animations and more.

The rise of social media and its ability to cause a new meme, video, announcement and even art to go viral within seconds has been beneficial to curators worldwide.

In comes 26-year-old Darry Sharp, Jr.

Sharp, who is originally from Virginia and has spent the last couple of years in Los Angeles, was next on the viral radar when his thread of animated album artwork picked up on Twitter. It took hard work and practice to get his art to where it is now.

While in college, Sharp studied interior design, though it wasn’t a thought he had when he first stepped foot on the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) campus. His decision to go to VCU also wasn’t his original plan, but their arts program is what drew him there. He juxtaposed VCU and other universities to see which had the better art program and then make his decision. Some of the art programs he compared were that of a couple of historically black college and universities (HBCU).

Photo courtesy Darryl Sharp

“For the longest time I was dead set on an HBCU,” Sharp said to us by phone. His decision to skip attending Moorehouse, Howard or another HBCU was because he wanted “to go to a really good art school to challenge myself.” The decision to become an interior design major came at the end of his first year at the university.

“The first year at VCU you have to do this program called Art Foundation where you basically explore every single major and then apply to one of th[em],” Sharp said. “So we’re doing all these drawings related to architecture [and] I was like ‘This is really cool, I kinda want to study this’ and that’s how I ended up doing it.”

The decision, however, didn’t pique his interest through the end of his college career. By his senior year, Sharp said his fondness for the subject diminished and he was already gravitating toward graphic design, something he has been keeping up with since his high school days.

“So what’s funny is that I think that most things we do…we’re driven to certain things because of a girl or because of females to impress them.”

While at VCU, Sharp continued to hone his graphic design skills by helping friends and clubs around campus. A reason he decided to pick up graphic design again started, as he describes, because of a girl.

“So what’s funny is that I think that most things we do– We’re driven to certain things because of a girl or because of females to impress them,” Sharp said. “This girl I was really into [was a part of a club] so I was making all of these fliers and all of these t-shirts [for the club] to try and impress her. That’s what really got me to want to do graphic design again. Eventually, it led to more opportunities with other clubs…so it was really cool.”

Sharp’s motivation is exemplified through experiences and even through content being created by friends of his from high school. His friend, NickyChulo, who is currently an Art Director at Atlantic Records, has been one of his inspirations.

“He’s been doing stuff for so long and I’ve been seeing his growth and he really inspired me to [create],” Sharp said. “So many people have just been really inspiring around me so I think that’s what really gravitated me toward exploring this a little more.”

album cover animation "awaken, my love!" by @childishgambino

A post shared by Darryl Sharp Jr. (@darrylthesharp) on

Even while attending VCU, Sharp wanted his work to lean toward the entertainment and music industries. Within the last year or so, Sharp has commenced work using the recreation and manipulation of music album artwork because it is something that has always interested him. With this experience and consistency with album artwork, he was able to generate noise on Twitter and get featured on the site.

“I was like ‘Wow, this is crazy.’”

Through Twitter’s Moments — the section of the website where Twitter or users share “curated stories showcasing the very best of what’s happening on Twitter” — Sharp’s work was highlighted. The moment amassed more than 4,000 likes and viewed by thousands more.

“It was wild,” he said. “What’s weird is that I didn’t even know what was happening. I woke up from a nap and there were all these notifications on my phone I was like ‘What’s going on here?’”

Through his job’s Slack channel — a cloud-based tool where employees in a business can communicate quickly and easily — is where he was getting a lot of messages. He said he had gone on vacation that week because a friend was in town and his colleagues “kept messaging me like ‘Your stuff’s on Twitter” and I was like “‘What’s going on here?’

“Even my mom…said she heard [my work was featured]. [She said] they were talking about my work on Sirius XM. I was like ‘Wow this is crazy.’”

Photo courtesy Darryl Sharp

Without specifically citing who, Sharp said people have reached out to him and all of the coverage has driven him to know this is something he wants to continue to do and progress further with his work.

“For a while I was just joking around,” he said about animating album art. “I thought it was a cool idea, it was just a way to do something a little different. Just seeing people appreciate the work is really satisfying.”

Coverage of the art was picked up by the likes of Billboard, Pigeons and Planes, High Snobiety and many more. The inspiration behind choosing the album artwork? He said it sometimes comes from what he’s currently listening to. Choosing the artwork was only one step in the process. Learning to animate the artwork, he said, was partly self-taught and partly through experience.

While working at Funny or Die, Sharp said he picked up on animation while working on their “Keeping Up With Kanye” original. From there he began to work on his own animations, including a “12 Days of Kanye” series he put together at the end of 2016. The parody is “centered around Kanye West’s frequent concert rants, canceling his Saint Pablo Tour, hospitalization and even dying his hair blonde.”

Animating and recreating the artwork went hand-in-hand for the artist. So much so that he uses his design talent on the artwork for his podcast, “The Deluxe Version.” The podcast serves as a “platform where creators critique and converse on content and concept.” Each episode features his guest superimposed or edited in some way on album artwork that could have been determined via “something that was picked up on in the conversation or even something that was mentioned before [the recording].” He does say, admittedly, that he isn’t as consistent with the podcast as he would like to be.

Sharp hopes to collaborate with more clients and other artists that he’s enjoyed that have inspired him. He hopes what people get out of his current and future art is to have an opinion on what’s current at the time while he puts his own spin on it.

You can check out some of Darryl Sharp, Jr.’s work on Twitter, Instagram (@DarryltheSharp) and his website darrylsharp.com

Hensley Carrasco
Hensley graduated from the University of Rhode Island where he was the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, the Good 5 Cent Cigar. He founded the site with hopes to add to the ever-growing digital music newsroom. Hensley generally writes about Hip-Hop, but other genres are not out of his writing spectrum. On the side, Hensley is a photographer, specializing in concert photography.

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