“So the public seeing artwork of him that is still contemporary like mine although its been over 20 years since he passed, it keeps him alive, it all goes along with his legacy as an artist”
Imagine having your work acquired by some of the greatest idols of our time! Well this is the reality for Los Angeles based artist Paul Daniels. His clientele includes one of the most celebrated sports figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest boxers of all time, Muhammad Ali and former Heavy-weight champion Mike Tyson to name just two!
O4L Online has recently caught up with Paul to chat to him about his artwork, Tupac, hip-hop and more!
O4L Online: Paul, first of all your artwork is awesome! Your super talented. Can you tell us how you got into art?
Thanks again so much for finding me and also for the compliment! Like a lot of kids before there were the iPhone and the internet, I just doodled with a pen and pencil in school. Usually I would draw comic book characters or my favorite athletes based on their sports cards, or musicians from their albums. So from the jump, I’ve had a knack for drawing or rendering the likenesses of people.
O4L Online: On your website you touch upon the creative process that you go through whilst painting. Can you tell us more about this process?
There are different techniques I use and try and switch them up from time to time as far as the actual painting goes, but one part that is usually necessary 90% of the time is music believe it or not. Which is a big reason why a lot of times I’ll paint musicians, simply so I can paint them while listening to their catalog simultaneously. So Tupac is by far the musician I’ve painted most, seven times!
O4L Online: You have an extremely impressive list of clientele, including the likes of Muhammad & Lonnie Ali, Mike Tyson, Swizz Beatz to name but a few. How did you come to do work with Muhammad Ali? We believe you did some work for The Muhammad Ali Center too?
This is one of many very unbelievable and surreal stories I have about the progression of my career as an artist. Around 2013 I received an email from a gentleman named Damon Bingham. Damon said in his email simply, “call me.” I had no idea who he was or what he wanted. I called and no one answered. Keep in mind I had just started painting one year prior and had only produced under 10 or so completed large scale paintings, selling several of them. About a month later I go to call a number in my phone and it was Damon. He noticed my work of Ali on Instagram when he saw that Swizz Beatz (I would end up doing a painting for Swizz several years later) liked it. We talked for a bit and an entirely separate story is that he introduced me to some very key individuals that landed my paintings inside Staples Center and Dodgers Stadium, but he also ended up revealing that he was actually Muhammad Ali’s godson (Damon’s father Howard Bingham was Ali’s best friend and personal photographer for most of his life), and asked me if I wanted to meet Ali in two weeks when he comes to LA. I said sure, I never dreamed that would ever happen!
Long story short Damon and his family welcomed me over to meet Ali and family, and I had spent the past two weeks leading up creating as many 4 foot portraits of him that I could, which ended up being 3. When Muhammad saw them, his face lit up and the room become silent, it was as if he was looking into a mirror. Those paintings were the 2-3 acquired by Muhammad and his wife Lonnie, and they would display them in the Ali Center for a time. I later did one posthumously of Muhammad for Lonnie that resides at their residence. Much much more to this story, that was super condensed. It changed my perspective on life for sure.
O4L Online: Paul, what a great story! In November we have lost yet another legend, Stan Lee. You did a rendition of the origin of Spider-Man which Stan actually saw & gave his blessing. You must be very proud of your work, being recognized and praised by legends. Can you tell what your favorite piece of art is that you have done and why?
Like Ali, he was a person who could truly be called an originator. The story is that this particular image is from the cover to the comic book that featured the first appearance of Spider-Man in “Amazing Fantasy” number 15, created by Kirby and Lee. The comic is in the class of a collectible such as a Mantle 52 Topps or a Jordan 86 Fleer, a timeless classic for the ages. It was a big departure from the portraiture I do, and I just wanted a huge (somewhere around 6 feet tall) painting of that cover and wanted it signed by Stan, for no other reason than I thought it would be cool and would want it for myself. It was that simple! I was fortunate enough to have met Frankie Z who arranged for Stan to sign it at his place Frank N Sons where Lee did a public signing, which was bananas!
O4L Online: The Tupac artwork that you have done is simply breathtaking! What kind of reaction have you had to painting ‘Pac?
It’s interesting because out of all the subjects I’ve painted from actors to musicians to athletes or political figures, no one else except maybe the Notorious BIG has gotten more love than 2pac, from what I have seen. It’s no mystery to me. He was so charismatic and prophetic and eloquent in his own way. It comes through big time in his music even now, it’s fresh and it hits you. I think that is something the youth of today can still relate to now the same way they did back when he was alive and at his prime. So the public seeing artwork of him that is still contemporary like mine although its been over 20 years since he passed, it keeps him alive, it all goes along with his legacy as an artist.
O4L Online: We also see that you have done a truly stunning piece of Biggie Smalls. The detailing is out of this world, it’s like he is actually there staring right back at you! How long does a painting like this take you?
This is the number one question I’m always asked, ha! So my answer to this I’ve been taught to give is, “my entire life.” Meaning, everything in my life has lead up to the creation of the painting, or something like that!
O4L Online: On your Instagram, you have a pencil drawing that you did of Tupac just a few weeks before his death. You mention that the week that ‘Pac was shot, this drawing was propped up in the window of your car. How did you feel when Tupac passed & what did he mean to you?
With Tupac it was unique because he was one of the only people I watched from start to finish in terms of his career. I was a huge digital underground fan from Humpty Dance, and then took note of Tupac popping up on “Same Song” as a rapper instead of a dancer like he was before that, even appearing with the group in the movie “Nothing But Trouble,” which also foreshadowed his career as an actor. Again the charisma coming through for the camera this time not just sonically. So you have to remember how many phases he went through from that time in 1990 or so to 1996, a lot of them, and some pretty great swings in his life for good and bad. I felt like I was there as witness to it as it happened through his music, videos, magazines, interviews, etc, etc. It was a big loss of such an influential figure for sure.
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Wow, I subscribed to this magazine for many many years while #2pac was still alive in the 90's, crazy to see my artwork featured inside @thesource magazine. I always thought I'd make it in there as a rapper but this will have to do 😜. Go pick one up, it's a great tribute issue to #TupacShakur, unless you're going to the Santa Monica Barnes and Noble, I bought their remaining copies. D'oh! Big thanks to #TheSource mag especially Terry for the 🔌. 🙏
O4L Online: His lyrics are as relevant in today’s society as when he was alive. The issues facing the world today, ‘Pac was talking about them in 1991. If he was with us today, what do you think ‘Pac would be doing?
Shaking his head like the rest of us. It’s obvious we aren’t organizing and uniting anytime soon, which is probably the only way to rise up and overcome, which he may have gotten tired of trying to advocate at this point. Who knows.
O4L Online: You are incredibly talented and should be proud of your work.
What are your plans for your artwork in the future?
Thanks again! Probably to continue the course since portraits are my first love, but I plan to venture into some other areas of painting that may be a bit more abstract. I think it’s important to just have the creative freedom going on, because we know that real freedom in life isn’t free.
O4L Online: Do you have a website where people can see more from you and purchase your artwork?
O4L Online: Paul thank you for taking the time out to talk with O4L Online. We wish you all the best for the future.
Much appreciated! Much love for ‘Pac always, from LA, CA.