20 Under 25: Jon Didier

Printmaker/rapper, 23, Dunedin & Orlando

click to enlarge Jon Didier with one of his copper etchings. - Todd Bates
Todd Bates
Jon Didier with one of his copper etchings.

Double trouble: Jon may not be the only printmaker who raps, or the only rapper who makes prints, but he's surely a rare combination. A UCF grad, he divides his time between Orlando and Tampa Bay, and has been making his mark in the art and hip-hop scenes in both cities. He's shown work at the Orlando Museum of Art, the Maitland Art Center, the Skatepark of Tampa and Dunedin Brewery, where's he's been artist of the month for four of the last eight months, and he's a printer for Flying Horse Editions. A frequent guest MC with the Tampa-based band Variety Workshop, he's the rapper/frontman for his own group, project: SAVE c.a. hircus, and makes fun of both his rap and printmaking careers as half of the rap duo Etch N' Sketch.

An Etch N' Sketch refrain: "The print room's dirty, my lyrics ain't clean!" (Shout-outs to the likes of Jim Dine and Goya finish out the number.)

How he spends his summer vacations: He's been a recreation leader in the City Of Dunedin summer camps for 11 years. He and the kids make up song parodies each year called chants. "I teach basically 10-year-olds how to rap."

Why he likes working with kids: "I know personally from going to camp as a young kid that those counselors who were older than me really made an impression on me at such a young age — so right now I try and be myself as much as possible. Hopefully that will result in them finding their identities earlier in life — so they know it's absolutely okay to be who they want to be."

But his art doesn't look the like the work of a camp counselor: His mixed media drawings and copper etchings are pretty dark in theme — skulls, anguish, pollution, suggestions of divine retribution — and yet there's a precision of line and (in the drawings) a graceful use of color that offset the darkness, creating a fascinating tension. "There's definitely tension there — I tend to be on edge a lot... The biggest theme I try and take on is what I call the struggle between labor and laziness."

Yet there's nothing lazy about his work, or his chosen art form: "Everything is very layered — that's how I operate in printmaking. In making a plate, I go through stages in order to achieve what I think is going to be the final image... It's not like Christmas morning and you have no clue what you're going to get. I'm able to show my process in printmaking, and there's something gratifying about that for me."

And now he's going to start delving more into the process of hip-hop: He's become friends with the respected Orlando-based hip-hop quartet Solillaquists of Sound, and recently decided to move in with them to learn from their leader, Swamburger. "I do what I do, but it's all self-taught. But this is really great 'cause I'm with someone who's a professional rapper, a genius."

Family value: His dad, an insurance salesman, was an acoustic jazz guitarist who once played backup on The Tonight Show and toured with, of all people, Anne Murray. His mother's a Montessori teacher, so he grew up with the idea that you find "a child's strength and take that to the next level." Looks like they did a good job with Jon.

See his work at: jondidierart.com


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