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Airmagination Brings Hip Hop to Fashion
12/10/05 - exclusive interview

airmagination shirt

Airmagination has quickly claimed its stake as the most popular Latin-owned airbrushed clothing business in the industry. Owner and artist Ray Sierra of the Bronx, along with his fellow artists, are responsible for the official Big Pun clothing line, and their work can be seen at clubs, in the street, and on the walls of 50 Cent's home. Ray's company has introduced a new level of high quality airbrushed shirts at retail prices, he takes time out of an an especially busy month to speak with LatinRapper about his company. How long have you been in the airbrushing business?

About 11 years now.

How did you get started?

I bought a shirt off of somebody, and thought I could do it, and that was it basically.

Did you teach yourself?

Yeah, I went and bought the inside guts of a compressor, a cheap airbrush, and started airbrushing all my clothes.

Most of your work obviously has a hip hop feel to it, how has been a Bronx native influenced your art?

Basically you got all the graffiti writers, like the best ones originated from here, in my opinion. You get to see the best work, and youíre constantly surrounded by the hip hop, the whole culture.

What shirt design do you get the most requests for?

Thatís a hard one. I would just say it varies, mostly celebrity portraits. You got Biggie, Pac and Pun, theyíre in the top three.

Speaking of Pun, Your company did most of the designs for the official Big Pun clothing, what was it like to be involved with such a successful line?

It was definitely good, the shirts we created were on a mass production level, it makes me proud to see people accept it and your artwork.

Are you involved with any other artist or official clothing lines?

Yeah, Biggie line, Scarface, Godfather, City of God, King of New York, Martin Luther King, Soulja Slim, Young Jeezy, Al Capone and many more to come

So you obtained the rights to do the designs?

The company that pays for the license to the people that own the estate, they come to us for a lot of artwork that they want.

Youíre known to do murals, what were some of the more significant pieces that youíve done?

Definitely 50 Cents' house, right now I'm doing the BET. office, 50 I would say was the pinnacle as far as murals, besides that we done neighborhoods, a whole building, barbershops, a lot of backdrops for different people, including the one for Pun for his pool hall he had in the Bronx.

If an artist or label outside of New York is looking for a custom mural, are you available to meet that need?

Yeah, whether its custom murals, we definitely trying to expand to any clothing line company out there thatís looking for a nice little twist on an urban product. Anything for any product thatís out there.

You previously had a shoe deal with Timberland, how did that come about?

It wasnít really a shoe deal, they had a contest where they had a youth outreach program. Where its about giving back to the hood, having artists from different cities compete to represent their cities. And Kelvis Polanco of Airmagination won the competition. Originally they were supposed to reproduce the boots and part of the sales would go to charity, but the time frame they got it only made it to a few places. We went out to meet the public, it was real cool.

Youíre presently working on your own clothing line, right?

Yeah, we just signed our deal, we got picked up by the same company that put out the Pun line, Biggie line. The line is called So Hood clothing, its gonna be t-shirts for men and women with very strong artwork covering every aspect of the hood from good to bad. We gonna do shirts at retail, what the public really wants to see that other companies are scared to do. Weíre gonna push the envelope with the clothing line.

Is So Hood out now?

That will be coming out this spring, look out for that, we got a website coming up for that,

Do you bump music to get into a particular mood when doing a shirt or mural?

Yeah, the latest hot stuff, we listen to everything from hip hop to alternative, rock, whatever.

What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most?

I would say coming up with an idea, creating that initial sketch of something original, just like our clothing line.

Who were your influences while you made your way into the airbrushing and art game?

When I first started out, the local guys who originally airbrushedÖ maybe T-Rex, as I progressed it was guys I would see in the magazines like Dru Blair, Steve Driscoll.

You have a DVD on airbrush instruction, what kind of feedback have you gotten from people with no airbrushing experience who purchased it?

We got excellence feedback from people, the biggest surprise to me was the respect we got from people who were already artists. One guy had six years experience and stuff he learned off my DVD helped him progress immediately.

Whatís your advice to aspiring airbrush artists who might be reading this?

Stick with it, man. Keep practicing, just donít give up.

Any last thoughts for readers?

No matter what it is, whether art or music, keep it true, donít stray away from that.

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