Words by Jesse Serwer—
Drawing from his love of dancehall music, early animation, European history, Saturday morning cartoons and the collision of cultures, Portland, Oregon-based Blakely Dadson, a/k/a Lord Blakely, creates realistic, often fantastical, scenes that somehow incorporate all those diverse interests.
The three-part “Phenomenon” series of prints by Lord Blakely come from his most recent body of work, Portraits of a Ninja. The 12″ by 12″ inch Chromira prints are a vivid recreation of Lord Blakely’s original ink drawings of dancehall icon Ninjaman, recently displayed at the Public Trust gallery in Dallas, Texas. Each limited edition print is numbered and signed by the artist. The prints are available individually for $50, or get all three for $125. Buy here, and read on for a Q+A with the artist.
LargeUp: You live in Portland, Oregon. Not exactly a hotbed for dancehall appreciation. How did you get into the culture?
Blakely: There wasn’t a lot of dancehall music getting to the West Coast in the nineties but when I was eleven I heard the song “Bad Boys” by Inner Circle. It was the theme song for COPS and it was unlike anything I’d heard before. I also vividly remember seeing this Mad Cobra music video on MTV and the sound was infectious. So I went to the record store and started discovering similar artists. Pretty soon, I had amassed a collection of dancehall music and that was pretty much all I was listening to through high school and college.
LU: How were you introduced to Ninjaman’s music?
Blakely: I started hearing him again and again when he was featured on different riddim albums and then I went back and found all of his albums. I started reading more about him and became fascinated with his life and the larger-than-life character he had created.
LU: What about his music stuck with you to the point where you began creating art inspired by him?
Blakely: He has a certain authenticity that I really admire. He’s not perfect and he’s not pretending to be anyone else – he’s just being Ninjaman. There’s a certain flair that I haven’t heard in many other artists and I’ve never grown tired of it. For whatever reason, I’m compelled to paint different things and as I was preparing for my last show, Ninjaman was on my mind. I’m sure dancehall music will continue to appear in my work.
LU: Tell us a little about the process of making these paintings.
Blakely: I started looking at hundreds of photos and videos of Ninjanman online and, using those as reference, began with pencil and ink drawings. I scanned those paintings and manipulated them in photoshop before printing them using the chromira process so they look more like photographs then a standard digital print. The chromera prints have an amazing luminosity and finish that lends a lightness to the work.