Dylan “HereComesTheArt” Arocha was living every young graphic designer’s dream when Florida rapper Ski Mask The Slump God slid into his DMs—on Arocha’s birthday no less—to let him know that he was planning on using one of Arocha’s pieces as the cover for his upcoming project, Beware the Book of Eli.
In an interview with DJBooth, Arocha, who outside of a few high school classes is YouTube-taught and does a majority of his work on a Wacom tablet, says he first tweeted his artwork at The Slump God on December 13, in hopes that his George Condo-inspired style would catch his eye—and it did, sort of.
“I tweeted a few pieces to him and that was December 13. From there, he messaged me and said, ‘Hey, I do need some artwork.’ I message him, and I didn’t get a response back and thought he found some other artist… I still made [the cover] in case he checks it out. Then he was tweeting on my birthday yesterday, January 15, so I try to get his attention one more time, and I just caught him at the right time. He messaged me and said, ‘Happy Birthday,’ which was dope, and he said he was gonna use it as the cover.”
As for their discussion about compensation for his work, Arocha reveals that there was never a discussion—he didn’t ask to be paid and Ski Mask didn't offer to pay him. “Honestly, his name is bigger, and this is a business,” he says, explaining why he chose to not pursue payment for his art. “The way I’m trying to move is to understand my place and where I’m at. Really, no one knows who I am.”
While Arocha, 25, is planning on using his art placement with Ski Mask as leverage for future work—as he should—he says his real business is in futures, working with artists in the early stages of their careers and being sensitive to their pricing needs.
“Most of my business is from artists on the come-up,” he admits. “I understand the place that they’re at, [it's] the same place I am in, trying to get my name out there. So I feel like my pricing is fair. A lot of the time, I call myself an art dealer. I’m a dealer for the people. I really try to work with everybody. It is a business, but I’m down to earth.”
His approach is admirable, perhaps to a fault. There is a fine line between remaining humble and being charitable, and not recognizing the true value of your hard work.
Dylan recognizes he’s toeing that line, but he remains optimistic. “These are the little moments to the bigger picture,” he says. “If somebody says they can’t make a payment, I try to give them advice like, ‘If we remove this, we can bring the price down, or if we change this…’ and things like that.”
Unlike many of his clients, Ski Mask is far from a starving artist. In 2016, the 21-year-old signed a record deal with Republic Records, the label that will be releasing his for-profit forthcoming project. Still, Dylan understands that the creative business is built on a foundation of strong relationships.
Arocha’s art style is lively and cartoonish while carrying a sinister energy. For his work with Ski Mask, the Austin, Texas native took inspiration from the cover of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, crafting a similarly grotesque edge. The final product also contains a comedic element, which he says gives his work staying power. “I try to keep my art really fun and funny at times,” he explains.
In addition to being amusing, his designs are also well-researched.
“In the illustration, what I like the most is I kinda have him doing the shoulder shrug from the ‘Catch Me Outside’ music video,” he says, breaking down the cover. “The skull and the candle is kind of like the game, like no one’s touching him. I paid some homage to George Condo with the mouth. If you could see inside the mouth, it’s like a prism, which you could see a lot in his work. I also incorporated the Nike Sock Darts from when he went shopping with Complex.” Of note, the eyes bugging out of Ski Mask's head and his cross teardrop is a nod to the editing work of Chicago director Cole Bennett.
Despite choosing to forgo current earning potential for future opportunity, Arocha believes he has a long journey ahead of him—one he’s eager to take. “As time passes by, I feel like every new piece that I make is better than my last,” he says. “With that mentality, I just need more skill, more time and more work. With the money I get paid, I invest in new equipment and better quality tools.”
As far as his next dream placement, Arocha is open. “I’m ready for anything,” he says, before hanging up to the phone to begin work on his next piece.