In his downtown Oklahoma City studio, Mason has room to explore his acquired style.
“I’m a taught realist, but I evolved to abstract expressionism,” Mason says. “Every painting I do, I try to involve my thoughts, my emotions, what’s going on in my life, what happened in the past, what’s in the future.
Sometimes, that’s incorporated by texture and color. Sometimes, there’s subject matter, and, sometimes, there’s not. I bounce around quite a bit, which I enjoy doing, because I can relate to more people that way.”
Mason’s style integrates elements from some of his artistic idols – Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollack and Wassily Kandinsky – but in ways that are unique to him.
“My number one [inspiration] has got to be Pablo Picasso,” he says. “He’s a majority of my inspiration.”
A bright red, Rothko-inspired canvas, textured and heavy with paint, hangs on the wall in the studio’s work area, surrounded by tubes, brushes and other tools of the trade.
The studio itself is a tall-ceilinged room with splatters of paint on the concrete floor; huge, colorful canvases adorn some of the walls. If it wasn’t so obviously a workspace, you might guess you were in a full-time exhibition art gallery. Other paintings line the perimeter of the room, simply propped against the wall. Some works are permanent in the space, painted directly on the wall. A nod to street artists he admires, Mason says, there are also cutout stencil works spray-painted all over.
Mason has participated in several international art showings and has works displayed in galleries all over the world, an accomplishment for which he is very proud.
“I had a chance to be part of a traveling exhibition that went to five countries in Asia, and that was big for me. There were people from all over the world that had a chance to see my work. It was sort of my coming-out international party. I didn’t know how people would take it, but the response was very good,” Mason says.
He is exploring new art avenues lately, he says, like street art and graffiti.
“I’m super obsessed [with U.K. graffiti artist Banksy] right now,” Mason says.
He has also recently branched out into the world of skateboarding as inspiration and medium. Blank, wooden boards, some with the beginnings of ideas sketched out on them, can be found in hidden corners of Mason’s studios.
“I was a huge skateboarder growing up,” he says. “We did half- and quarter-pipes back home. I’ve been designing boards now, and it’s taken on a life of its own.”
Art For Good
Mason has established the Desmond Mason Art Show, a philanthropy project raising money for different local charities. His first show for this project was in Seattle.
“It was probably the most nervous time of my life, because [the work] was [about] things that were very personal to me. My getaway was now becoming public,” he says of the experience.
Since then, Mason and his wife have held the art benefit in different locations for almost 10 years.
“We try to engage the community and see what organizations could use the most help, and help as many people as possible,” he says.
Other upcoming projects include shows in Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans and Dallas.
Looking forward, Mason says that he hopes to continue working to benefit art programs in schools.
“Art programs are being pulled out of schools and aren’t being funded like they used to be. I always try to bring this up, because it’s the first thing that is cut. I think kids are being deprived of the opportunity to be creative, so what’s in the next generation for us without that? I’m going to do my little penny’s worth of diligence and see if it helps,” he says.
Mason adds that he has had the fortune of being creative in both basketball and in art.
“I am really lucky to have had the opportunity to do two things that I love and have always loved – things I would even do for free that I now consider to be jobs,” Mason says. “I don’t really consider them jobs, but maybe I can affect people’s lives positively by doing them.”