Shepard Fairey is American street artist and graphic designer best known for his Barack Obama "Hope" poster. One of the most famous and influential street artists of the contemporary era, his works are displayed at several prestigious museums all over the world including the Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Artistically inclined from a young age, he attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and started his first business venture, Alternate Graphics, while still a student there. Initially he created stickers, t-shirts, skateboards, and posters, which he sold via the mail order catalogs that he distributed. Along with his friends he created paper and vinyl stickers and posters with an image of the wrestler André the Giant which became very popular and earned him considerable attention. And this was just the beginning. Over the next few years his popularity grew manifold and he became an internationally renowned figure when he designed the Barack Obama "Hope" poster during the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Even though acknowledged to be a highly creative and innovative person, he has also often been accused of plagiarizing other artists' work
Childhood & Early Life
He was born as Frank Shepard Fairey on February 15, 1970, in Charleston, South Carolina, to Strait Fairey, a doctor, and his wife, Charlotte, a realtor.
He was blessed with a creative mind and started experimenting with art as a young teen by placing his artworks on skateboards and T-shirts. As a youngster he was also known to adorn public places by sticking his posters to walls using a paste of wheat flour and water.
He went to the prestigious Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts in Idyllwild, California, from where he graduated in 1988.
He was easily accepted into the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) following his graduation. While he was a student at the RISD he took up a part time job in a Providence skateboarding shop.
Once in 1989 his friend asked him how to create a stencil. Shepard Fairey took a newspaper ad for a professional wrestling match featuring Andre the Giant, and created his own poster featuring the wrestler with the text ‘ANDRE THE GIANT HAS A POSSE 7'. He then altered the image and wrote “OBEY” in a stylized font beneath it. The OBEY image, though created with little planning, went on to become a sensation, and soon the young artist became quite popular.
He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration in 1992.
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He started his first business venture, Alternate Graphics, in 1992 while he was still studying at RISD. Following his graduation he continued managing his business which was proving to be quite successful.
His company specialized in T-shirt and sticker silkscreens, and also created skateboards and posters. Along with his business he also took up small commercial printing jobs for clients. The income he earned through these ventures allowed him to pursue his own artwork alongside.
He met the American filmmaker Helen Stickler in 1994. Later on Stickler completed a short documentary film about Shepard and his work, titled ‘Andre the Giant has a Posse’ which premiered in the 1995 New York Underground Film Festival.
Shepard Fairey, along with Dave Kinsey and Phillip DeWolff founded the design studio BLK/MRKT Inc. in 1997. The studio specialized in guerrilla marketing, and "the development of high-impact marketing campaigns", and worked with several prestigious clients such as Pepsi, Hasbro, and Netscape. The partners split in 2003.
In 2003, he founded the Studio Number One design agency in collaboration with his wife Amanda Fairey. The agency designed the cover work for The Black Eyed Peas' album ‘Monkey Business’ and the poster for the film ‘Walk the Line’.
He was a part of the street art campaign called "Be the Revolution" in 2004. Along with the artists Robbie Conal and Mear One, he created a series of "anti-war, anti-Bush" posters for the campaign.
He released a hard cover monograph, ‘Supply and Demand’, in 2006. The book documented much of his personal and professional design work and was designed at Studio Number One. Published by Ginko Press, it is currently in its third edition.
During the 2008 U.S. presidential election, he created the iconic Barack Obama "Hope" poster which became immensely popular. The image was featured in the book ‘Art For Obama: Designing Manifest Hope and the Campaign for Change’ (2009) which Fairey also edited.
Shepard Fairey is best known as the creator of the "HOPE" portrait which he made supporting Barack Obama's 2008 candidacy for President of the United States. A stylized stencil portrait of Obama in solid red, beige and blue, with the word “HOPE” below it, the poster became an icon of the 2008 presidential election.
Awards & Achievements
In 2009, he was awarded the Brit Insurance Design Award for his iconic "Hope" poster commemorating the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
He was chosen as the international recipient of the AS220 Free Culture Award in 2010.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Amanda Ayala in December 2001. The couple has two daughters: Vivienne and Madeline.
Shepard Fairey has an estimated net worth of $15 million.