A few Tuesdays ago, a live performance in the custom art shop Earloomz by the popular singing group Mindless Behavior created a public stir unlike anything the quaint Ventura shopping district in Sherman Oaks had seen in a while. But even more intriguing than the unexpected hubbub was the unique brand and refreshing inordinacy of the store itself.
Andre "Sketch" Hampton, 40, the shop's art director, is a career artist who insists that visual art can still be a vehicle of commercial success in an electronic world. At Earloomz, Hampton will turn anything into a canvas, customizing everything from backpacks to headphones to X-boxes with his unique skill. But the store's showcase items are the Bluetooth earpieces.
Hampton recollects an early memory of being published at age 15 by Spraycan Art, a popular graffiti art magazine from the early eighties. He became enamored with art through graffiti, but would soon learn the various appendages of the counterculture style.
Hampton taught himself airbrushing soon thereafter. Using spraypaint and a tiny air compressor, Hampton draws with a high-pressure, adjustable stream.
He attributes his success in part to a lack of airbrush artists, saying that although he is also a tattoo artist, he refuses to go back to that market, which is oversaturated with artists right now.
"I find that artists rush to the same thing at one time, and they leave a void," said Hampton. "I just pick up at the void."
The cliché of the struggling artist is not applicable to Hampton, who airbrushes live in the store, creating a unique novelty and learning experience for patrons that's turned into large business gains.
"People still like to see live art," says Hampton. "They like to see hand to canvas."
Earloomz caters to the individual customer, although he has a ready supply of prepared work for sale. Hampton can airbrush anything with precise detail, creating figures like Lady Gaga, Ron Artest and Prince. He's is currently designing a diamond encrusted Bluetooth earpiece that could be the world's most expensive of its kind.
Earloomz has its Hollywood endorsers as well. Celebrities as varied as rapper Snoop Dogg, model Amber Smith and actor Stephen Tobolowsky have all been seen with Hampton's work.
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Hampton's excited about Earloomz being a part of what's become an artistic revitalization on Ventura Boulevard. "This street will be Melrose on steroids," he says.
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