Upendo Taylor // Chicago, Illinois // Painter and Graphic Designer

Upendo is one of the most creative guys I know.  He is one half of Leroy Jenkins (which started the whole floral in menswear trend) and the creator of one of my favorite art pieces I own…. he is dope that is all! Below we find out more about what  he is up to now, plus stay on the look out for the Tomboy BKLYN X Upendo tee collaboration coming later this fall!


When did you start drawing and painting? At what moment did you realize you needed to express yourself through art? I figured out that I could draw around 8 years old and from that point is when I made the decision that I was gonna be some type of artist.Growing up in Watts, how did that influence your art style as you were developing it? Watts was a big influence and me cuz drawing kept me in the house. When my cuzins where getting into shit I had the option to draw. Not saying I didn’t do my share of dirt, but having that built in outlet gave me a chance to think about what I wanted to really do when street shit came up. My first encounter with a spray can, air brush and silk screening all found me in Watts and Compton. Learning that I could hustle with my art came from artist and legend Dave Tee in Compton, he really showed me how it could all work for me. How do you start your creative process? With a prayer of thanks to the gods and the universe. We are huge fans of your cartoon characters, How did that style come about? I’ve always had some type of character in my wheel house. I use to draw realistic or comic book steez a ton but as my personality began to grow, the cartoony stuff was just more me. Plus, I was bent on creating something original and unique to me, so it just became a natural progression. Taking everything that was ingrained from Saturday morning cartoons, comic books, and real life is where I felt most comfortable when I would create. But I have to say it took me a while to embrace what I was putting out.
What is your favorite ‘piece’ you’ve created? I don’t think I have a fav piece. I have particular moments when something was being crafted. Because I tend to make things all the time and the vibe can be very different each time, it makes it hard for me to fall in love with just one thing I’ve created. It’s like have a bunch of kids, I love them all for very different reasons.What are your future projects/goals? Ha! Future goals is to stay alive, maintain, and grow. To Keep doing what you love at a high level can be a difficult task, so patience is an on going practice. As far as projects, what ever I’m allowed to do, ima do it. Do you see yourself in your work? Of course I see myself in my work, maybe a lil too much at times. I think it comes with the passion that goes into my work. Even when its something stripped down and minimal, it’s being crafted with the same amount of passion as something that’s highly detailed. Is there anything or anyone that is inspiring you to create right now? Yea Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, George Washington, Ulysses Grant, Alex Hamilton and sometimes Tom Jefferson when he shows up. As a man, what comes to mind when you hear the word “Tomboy”? Most of my ex girl friends. What is one thing you would love to tell your younger self? It’s ok to do the things you like, even if no one else likes it.

Check him out: Website Instagram Link

All photos of artwork by: Jackie Trezzo