Volume 12 Week 5

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(Posted 8:30 a.m., July 13)
Local artist a success story in the making for over 30 years
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Orléans artist Patrick Fraser with two of his unique creations which he does using a stream of consciousness technique employing a black Sharpie marker as his only medium. Fred Sherwin Photo

Orléans artist Patrick Fraser can still remember the moment that would change his life forever. He was 16 and was immersed in the hip hop culture that had just come out of New York City and was spreading across North America like wild fire.

An habitual doodler as a kid, Fraser was immediately attracted to both the music and the art of hip hop. The year was 1983 and the movie Wild Style had just been released featuring renowned graffiti artists Fab 5 Freddy and Lee Quinones who designed the Wild Style graffiti logo that's featured in the film.

"When I first moved to Ottawa from England, the only music on the radio was classic rock and pop. That's what I grew up with and then when Wild Style came out it was like this whole new world opened up to me," recalls Fraser.

That same summer, his mother managed to save enough money to buy a turntable/cassette/AM-FM radio combo with digital tuning from Woolco. The first record he played on it was a 45 a friend had brought back from a trip to New York called "Rock Box" by Run DMC.

As he soon as he saw the "Wild Style" logo, Fraser wanted to do graffiti. He had already gained a reputation for painting classic rock themed denim jackets for his friends and fellow schoolmates at D. Roy Kennedy Elementary School in the west end.

Part of the hip hop culture at the time was "tagging" whereby graffiti artists use a grease marker to draw their logo on public installations like hydro boxes, bus shelters and pretty much anything that doesn't move. It's a form of marking one's territory which exists today and is often associated with vandalism.

Thankfully, Fraser wasn't a very good tagger. His canvass of choice, at the time, was the OC Transpo bus he took nearly every day. It didn't take for him to get caught and he was ordered to do community service in the form of cleaning up graffiti on OC Transpo buses.

"In a way it was a good thing because it turned my life around. Instead of tagging buses, I started collecting big cardboard boxes, like the kind they use for appliances, and I used that as my canvass," says Fraser.

Besides graffiti art, the young Fraser was also a comic book fan. He was into the DC comic book series and liked both the story line and the art. Pretty soon he started to imitate the art and drew countless sketches of Spiderman, Superman and the rest of the DC universe characters.

After graduating from high school, Fraser went to George Brown College in Toronto where he revived his fabric art and started his own little cottage industry painting graffiti on jeans for other students.

"I'm sure there are some jeans out there in a thrift store somewhere or in a box with my designs on them," jokes Fraser.

As he got older, Fraser began to focus more on caricatures and he developed a free-form, stream of consciousness technique which he employs today drawing caricature murals using permanent black markers in various sizes.

He's also developing a line of T-shirts, which he hopes to one day market along with a possible comic book series which he's also working on when he's not changing diapers. He and his wife recently had their second child which came along just 18 months after their first.

When he's not at home, Fraser teaches cartooning and caricature drawing to kids seven to 12 through a city-run program in Nepean. His work is truly unique and can sell for hundreds of dollars. To see more of his creations visit www.rawartists.org/dublic.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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