Today we’d like to introduce you to Keef Cross.
So, Keef before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Well, my name is Keef Cross, and I am a tattoo artist/art instructor/ comic book creator based out of Atlanta. DayBlack is the name of my comic book, about a slave who gets bitten in the cotton fields, and in the present day, works as a tattoo artist. , as a means to collect blood.
The inspiration came from working as a tattoo artist and meeting and having conversations with so many different types of people, and deciding to document these strange and sometimes hilarious stories into a comic strip, with a tattoo artist as the main character. But it was when I saw the movie “Interview with a Vampire” that the whole vampire/slave aspect crept into the narrative.
When I was watching “Interview with a Vampire” there was this part in the story, where the two vampires, played by Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt were plantation owners and they would regularly feed off the slave women, and the slaves were furious about it and drove them from their home, and I said to myself, ” there’s an untold story in there somewhere”. And since the tattoo industry is linked with blood, and at the time was sort of a subculture in itself, I guess the two worlds just kinda blended together in my head.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Initially, I began Day black as an experiment, to see if I could create a book, but the more I worked at it, I began to notice that I had love of writing that had been neglected in favor of drawing. Once I began to nourish what I call my “step talent” I started to see more progress.
I sent my first draft to a well-known publisher, who responded that ‘it wasn’t strong enough to compete in the comics industry”..And he was right… Back then I was relying solely on my art, and the story was secondary. It wasn’t until I treated them both with the same reverence, that I was approached by Rosarium Publishing.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
When I make art, it’s truly an escape. An escape from stereotypes and expectations put on “black art” and it’s creators. It seems like most people are comfortable seeing black people portrayed walking to church, playing a jazz horn, braiding hair on the porch and things of that nature. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but that’s not all we are, and that’s not all we do. Similar to black cinema and radio, audiences have gotten used to and even anticipate these redundant one-sided offerings of black life.
Growing up being influenced by Ralph Bakshi, Vaugn Bode’, Wendy Pini, and Robert Crumb to name a few, really shaped the visual aesthetic, and tone of my paintings, but even more so, my approach to creating my comic book, “DayBlack”. I found that those underground comics of the 70’s always had one foot in sexual raunchiness and drugs, and another foot in social commentary, a combination that fascinated me as a kid. Who knew that in those adult comics I hid from my mother, I would find my individual voice and style.
I’m all about pushing progressive images and ideas about my people to the forefront whenever I get the chance. TV, radio, and film won’t do it, but I feel like art is the last medium that has been corrupted the least, and with the help of other like-minded artists who aren’t afraid to challenge these notions of what black art is and can be, we can help change the way the world sees us, and the way we see ourselves, one gallery at a time.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
My whole life I always considered myself to be solely a visual artist. I think it was sheer luck that I could also write,
Melissa Alexander (@phillis.iller)