Born in L.A. County and raised in Long Beach, multi-talented artist and graphic designer Stephen Harbor never let the volatility of his surroundings affect his work ethic. Drawing inspiration from such positive outlets as video games and comic books as a kid, he turned his passion for visuals into a burgeoning professional career through hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn. Now, with decades of experience under his belt, he’s looking to put his skill-sets to use on a global scale with ‘ADVASKETCH’ and ‘Ztatunari,’ two new platforms for artists and communities to join forces under.
I sat down with Stephen for a one-on-one interview in order to give One West readers a closer look at his life, his work, and his trajectory. Continue reading to find out more…
“Art isn’t a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. I’ve lived true to these words ever since I could summon the strength to pick up a crayon…”
1. Where did the name ADVASKETCH come from?
I threw a hat in the air with different names and conjunctions inside. “Adva”-“sketch” is what stood out to me the most.
2. Wow, what a great coincidence. So, what sort of innovations can people expect from the organization?
With technology evolving, the possibilities are endless.
3. Okay, I like that. Now, I also know that you were considering starting a non-profit. What kind of work are you interested in pursuing?
I am interested in pursuing a nonprofit to bridge a gap between people of different ethnic backgrounds. I believe there is a disconnect between black america and people from africa as of right now. That [Instagram] page is called: @ztatunari
4. Awesome, I can’t wait to see that develop. I wanted to look back at your beginnings now. Your artist bio said that you were inspired by your first video game console: The Sega Genesis. And particularly Sonic The Hedgehog—which is awesome because that used to be my go-to game series back in the day. Do you have any other favorites?
Sonic will always be my favorite game because that sparked my artistic journey, but if I had to choose other games that are influences in my life, I’d say Starfox […] As the years progressed, World of Warcraft‘s art style inspired me, as well as the Dark Souls series.
5. I also noticed a lot of comic book imagery in your work. Do you have any favorite comic book characters?
My favorite comic book characters would have to be The Hulk, Black Panther, Spawn, and Blade.
6. Now, back to your personal art and achievements. I saw that you won a “Gold Medal for Illustration” with the NAACP. How did that come about?
I was told about the competition my 12th grade year of high school. After football practice, I saw a faculty member and was encouraged to try it out. I competed for the “Illustration” category.
7. And you were able to travel to Disney World as a result, right? What was that like?
The overall experience was amazing. Being a young, 12th-grade artist and recognized for my talent on a more professional level was euphoric. Feeling like a big movie star, I was able to meet government officials for the city of Long Beach down at City Hall. I got medals and certificates, free food, and free travel; thanks to the hard work from the Long Beach branch and donors. At Disney World, what made it a memorable moment was that all the participants of the competition were in the actual Disney Parade. So, me and all my six-foot-one chocolate-ness, with locks—just a smooth brotha—walking down the streets of Main Street in Disney. I had so much fun.
8. I also wanted to ask you about the competitions that you participated in. I didn’t even realize that there was a community for this type of activity in the realm of design. How did you get involved with these events?
I got involved by just being in the right place at the right time—but, there are many competitions out there online that anybody can search up.
9. And all of your hard work paid off with an internship where you were eventually able to get your work placed in big name stores like Kohl’s… Are these original pieces or just commissioned designs?
Well, some are original and some are designs that the main office sent with clear directions on how they wanted it to be.
10. That’s so cool! Alright, now, back to your ADVASKETCH idea… How can One West readers get involved?
Just contact me if you have the same mission to create a brand that helps upcoming artists get real world experience.
11. And, on that note, where can we find you online? And where can we view your work?