So much of the basement apartment 21-year-old Dylan Humphreys shares with two friends in Kitsilano is the stuff of basement apartments shared by three guys in their early twenties in Kitsilano.
Smudged off-white walls, used couches, stacks of Xbox games and a flat-screen TV — youth defined.
It’s a pocketbook-driven aesthetic, of course, as design choices of the just-striking-out-on-their-own aren’t often the result of picking and choosing but of securing donations to the cause.
On this wet Thursday morning, Humphreys greets me in paint-splattered jeans and a Big Lebowski T-shirt, the lonely wail of Miles Davis’ trumpet playing softly in the background. It isn’t the most youthful music selection, but an apt one considering the weather, Humphreys offers.
“It’s rainy,” he says, softly.
“It just felt appropriate to show artwork on a rainy day to Miles Davis.”
Long before Kind of Blue made its way onto his iPod — and long before any reporter came to talk to him about his work — Humphreys was a kid surrounded by artistic influences. Some of his earliest memories are of his architect grandfather’s sketchbooks, pens and art books stashed around the house.
Not to be outdone, Humphreys’ father used to take the youngster on visits to The Comicshop, a Fourth Avenue staple for all one’s superhero interests. When his parents split up soon after, however, the routine trips so enjoyed by the young Humphreys would come to an end.
With his father missing in action, the young Humphreys grew angry. So angry, in fact, he promised himself he’d use the influence of those seminal trips to make his dad sorry he’d ever left.
“When he stopped coming around, it hurt me,” says Humphreys, frankly.
“So I said I’d become and comic illustrator one day and make him feel bad. And I just kept drawing from there.”
Character after character, Humphreys began drawing at a feverish pitch. In elementary school, he and his friend Oliver — one of his current roommates — would draw comic strips, photocopy them and trade them with each other.
Naturally, Humphreys’ drawing obsession would prove a fruitful pursuit in his development as an artist. But in social circles, less so. By the time Humphreys was in junior high, he realized he’d been living a bit of a sheltered existence, disconnected from many of the kids his own age.
To meet new friends, Humphreys made the decision to put his sketch books down — every now and then, at least — and get out more. On one such journey, he and three other friends were hanging out in a wooded area in Nelson B.C., the town where Humphreys’ family moved after they left Vancouver. But what promised to be a fun outing quickly took a turn for the traumatic when a wayward rock from a slingshot one of the guys had shattered a nearby car window.
“It broke the window and the guys inside, they broke my face,” recalls Humphreys.
“It was a nightmare. After that, I was jaded and stayed to myself again.”
Just as he did when his dad left the home, Humphreys poured himself into his art. Still heavily influenced by the world of comic books and cartoons, Humphreys toiled endlessly developing his own cartoon style, even holding his first solo show at the tender age of 17.
After high school, Humphreys drifted back to the city, enrolling in the fine arts program at Capilano University. There, at the encouragement of his teachers, he began embracing other artistic styles including abstract, sculpture and graffiti work. His influences expanded as a result, and now include the likes of abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock and graffiti-influenced neo-expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat.
On the North Shore, Humphreys has had two shows at the Café for Contemporary Art, one where he painted directly on the gallery’s walls for nearly three straight days, and is now in talks with North Van’s Rayne Longboards to design a board and decorate their shop and warehouse for some upcoming events. In August, he’s headed back to the Kootenays to host a live painting booth at the Shambhala Music Festival.
“We’ll be painting non-stop during the day,” he says. “People will be able to come see how it’s being destroyed over and over again. I’m really excited.”
By then, some sunny weather will hopefully be in the forecast. And Humphreys will still be showing his art — just likely not while listening to some Miles Davis.
For more, visit dylanhumphreys.blogspot.ca.