The sound of blips and bleeps provided background noise for Brian DeLeons phone chat with CityBeat last week. He was at his day job, he explained, in the testing room of the slot-machine company where hes a graphic designer. Born in the Philippines, DeLeon lived in San Diego for two decades before moving to Las Vegas for work. But he considers San Diego his home. Its fitting, then, that his first solo show here—from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at Blends (726 Market St., Downtown)—is called Homecoming.
But theres deeper meaning to the title. DeLeon, whos 34, started sketching when he was 4. It was only two years ago that he decided to return to where he started, opting for the simplicity of pencil-on-paper portraits. All his work is black and white, unless he feels a piece demands color.
When you put color, you see color first, then you see the person, he says. But if its black and white, you see the feeling it portrays, the emotion, the personality. I try to grasp that with each and every one of them. Color is a whole different chapter; it creates a new story. When its black and white, its more about the subject at hand.
Though the media might be simple, DeLeons portraits are bold and expressive, influenced by graffiti and hip-hop culture. Currently, hes working on a book of 100 portraits of hip-hop artists—rappers like KRS-One, Run-DMCs Rev. Run and Ice Cube. Each of the three is shown on DeLeons Tumblr page accepting a print from DeLeon. Pictured, too, is DeLeon with Judge Judy.
I did an exhibit for a sports awards show here in Las Vegas, he says, and the bailiff from the Judge Judy show was at a conference at that same spot. Hed seen my artwork, and he was, like, Would you be willing to do a commissioned piece for Judge Judys 70th birthday? I was, like, Of course! Why wouldnt I? As for his book, DeLeons got a ways to go—hes completed roughly 30 portraits.
Ill eventually dabble in other mediums as soon as I finish this book, he says, but thats all Im concentrating on right now.