Kris Rhymes: Artist, aka ChocKolate-Man

Kris Rhymes, artist also known as ChocKolate-Man, photographed in downtown Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Kris Rhymes, artist also known as ChocKolate-Man, photographed in downtown Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Kris Rhymes

Art by Kris Rhymes is literally drool-worthy, as the 23-year-old Phoenix resident uses chocolate syrup to create realistic portraiture and creative works. Known as ChocKolate-Man in the art community, Rhymes is featuring 13 Valley kids in his Sweet Kids exhibition this Saturday, May 23, at {9} Gallery in Phoenix from 5:30-8:30 p.m. His subjects entered a competition to be featured, and the ones chosen made it into Rhyme’s second solo exhibition based on their achievements and aspirations.

Besides reaching people with his canvas art, Rhymes is also a professional barber who creates unique styles in his salon work. He also is a motivational speaker as part of the ACT-SO program, sponsored by NAACP, and works with high school students as a mentor of visual arts.

Rhymes talked about his unique medium, why he’s passionate about helping youth, and what people can expect from this weekend’s exhibition, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born in south Phoenix and moved to west Phoenix. I went to Central High School and took classes at South Mountain Community College before leaving to pursue my art career.

What’s your first memory of being interested in art?

As a kid, I was into coloring books. I would say when I was about 12 years old, I was always doodling and doing a lot of still life art. I trained my eye to see things on certain levels and add exact details from what I saw.

When I was in high school, around junior or senior year, I took one art class. I was playing basketball and considered art a hobby, but when I took the class, I fell in love with it. At the time, I didn’t realize that’s what I wanted to do, but once I graduated, I started to train myself and practice a lot more to develop my skills.

When I went to community college, I took more art classes, and it got to the point where I just wanted to be a successful artist and pursue my art career.

How has your art career evolved to using chocolate as a medium?

I started off pencil drawing, and once I got my shade down, I wanted to take it to the next step, which was acrylic, oil pastels, charcoal — I use pretty much all mediums. It’s all been about development for me. I didn’t want to jump into certain things without being ready.

As a kid, I was always playing with my food. I had family tell me not to do it, that I had to eat it, but I looked at it as another way to express myself and see things differently. When I was 20 years old — I’ll never forget this day — I was in my house changing channels, and the original Willy Wonka [and the Chocolate Factory] came on. In the movie, Willy Wonka talks about how imagination and creativity are limitless, and that brought me back to my childhood.

I decided to try using chocolate in art out. It didn’t fully appear how I wanted it to, but after developing it and practicing, it has almost got to a point where you don’t know what it is — it might just be paint.

Not only is chocolate sweet and delicious, it also brings joy, happiness, love, laughter and peace. That’s kind of how I see my work and how I want to show my work to people, to let them get a taste of not only the chocolate art, but also a taste from the soul.

I did a group show at a gallery called First Studio in Phoenix, and this lady was calling me ChocKolate-Man. I figured this could be a great opportunity to brand myself, and now I’m moving forward with it, though I still paint in acrylic sometimes, too.

What is painting with chocolate like?

I use a paintbrush mostly. Sometimes, I’ll use my hands, and sometimes I’ll mix it with milk to lighten it. Sometimes I’ll use white acrylic for the shading, too. It dries up more quickly than acrylic, so one mistake is hard to paint over. I paint on canvas, and it’s always been in the back of my mind to try panels.

Is there any special care someone has to take with your paintings made from chocolate?

They can actually be in the sun. I use a fixative spray, which seals it and makes sure everything is secure, nothing smudges, and it can’t be damaged. The fixative is so solid, if you rub the painting, nothing will happen.

What types of subjects do you like to paint?

I don’t like to categorize myself, but I would say I do a lot of pop art. I like to paint a lot about culture, as well, and put a message to the work. I paint a lot of icons, a lot of self-portraits and a lot of metaphors and messages.

I did a work called Human Being, and it was this guy hanging from a tree who had his hands crossed, and the chocolate was dripping from him. There was a history behind that. In Cote D’Ivoire, there were a lot of slaves picking cocoa beans to supply to the U.S. to make chocolate, and that’s history in a sense. A lot of people look at chocolate as sweet, but it has some bitterness, as well.

I find inspiration everywhere. I like talking to people, trying to get their perspectives on life and their opinions. I like nature.

I’m working on a portrait now of a little girl who is fighting her sister for a chocolate bar. That brings people back into their childhood, as well. Everybody had that moment, where they wanted that candy, chocolate or ice cream. The art and the medium I use bring people back into that childlike remembrance.

What can people expect from the exhibition Sweet Kids?

I see a lot of youth misguided, and I feel like youth don’t get the appreciation they deserve, which makes it kind of hard on them when no one is pushing them to achieve the things they want to become, and they don’t have that guidance around. This is bringing the appreciation and acknowledgment of their talents and capabilities.

The age range of the kids in the portraits is 6 to 12. I just feel like they’re the next generation coming up, and they have to have that support and know what they’re capable of. When they see portraits of themselves and an artist representing them, it puts a lot into their soul.

I did a contest to find the kids, based on what they do and what they’ve achieved and awards they’ve received. I selected them around February.

Why are you passionate about helping youth?

I’m passionate about helping youth because I’m staring at the future. I’m part of it, as well, but they’re the ones who are going to carry it. I’m going to see these kids no matter where I am in the world, so if they don’t have the right guidance, I’m going to see the negative for the rest of my life.

No matter what you do or what talent you possess, sometimes it should be targeted toward inspiring the youth. That’s why I feel it is important.

How do you hope your art impacts people who see it?

I want people to be positive, to smile, to think. There’s so much behind it, the moment someone says “thank you,” I feel like my accomplishment is done. I feel when you can supply something to make someone feel differently or make someone think differently from what he was thinking, it says a lot. It’s great to be in the arts, because you have the power to inspire people to think. That’s a really great feeling.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

I know a lot of people shun the art world or put it down, but the message I would like to get across is to let them know there are so many ways of making it in this world, and art is life. Anything you see or hear is art. I want people to know there’s a way to get your point across and make it out there based on the arts.

What are your goals?

I definitely want to be a successful artist and to help people and communities and want to bring change. I realized my calling and the things I want to do, and it’s great.

I consider working with chocolate and ChocKolate-Man an era. I definitely have a few tricks up my sleeve. I also want to do more work with barbering and might get mentored in tattooing. It’s always great to have many skills and be very diverse in a lot of things.

Why would you encourage people to come to your Sweet Kids exhibition?

I want people to get an idea of how youth really feel. To really be in that moment of a show that has such a message, it will not only inspire the youth, but it will inspire the parents and the community and make you see life in a different way, and make you feel like we have to help each other. Once everyone’s in that room, and there’s a certain energy, it has to come out. Definitely, when people come, they’ll get a message of understanding why youth are important to our society.

I see a lot of youth, and a lot of them seem lost, in a sense, because they don’t have the guidance or the support. I created the paintings going off their energy and think it will be a great show.

Learn about other Phoenix artists:

Learn more about painter April Howland here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about painter Fred Tieken here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about multimedia artist Tara Logsdon here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about painter John Schieffer here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about mixed media artist Christine Cassano here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about painter Hugo Medina here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about Steam Crow artist Daniel Davis here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about artist Sebastien Millon here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about sculpture artist Alexi DeVilliers here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about painter Nicole Royse here on Phoenix People.

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  1. Pingback: Michelle Penington: Painter - Phoenix PeoplePhoenix People

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