How many pieces of art have you experienced today? Perhaps you drove past some murals, saw paintings in a coffee shop, liked some pieces of work on Instagram, but art doesn’t end there.
Our world is consumed in art, from the thousands of logos we come across each day, to our tattoos, to the cover of the magazine you’re holding.
All of these started with an idea, interpreted by someone and put onto a piece of paper or computer. It was likely scratched out a few dozen times, edited more times than the artist would like to count and probably accompanied by too much coffee — about three morning cups if you’re Kendrick Kidd.
Kidd is the creative director for The Shepherd Agency, a full-service advertising agency in Jacksonville and a freelance designer. His climb to local designer extraordinaire started almost from day one.
“When I was growing up, I went to this daycare quite a bit because both my parents worked,” Kidd explained. “The owner of this daycare was very involved in the arts — she was a potter, she was a painter, she was into classical music and classical art education. It just so happens that was the daycare I went to.”
This provided Kidd with early exposure to a variety of art and became a place he looked forward to attending.
“From there, it just kind of kept going,” he said.
It wasn’t the only interest Kidd had at a young age — he was fascinated by math and sciences — but admitted his grades weren’t the best. They were enough to pass, but it was art where his grades truly shined.
Kidd continued his focus and passion for the arts, and in junior high, he was given the opportunity to enroll in advanced courses. His emphasis remained on drawing and painting, without much awareness of design.
That changed during his senior year of high school when his classroom got a Mac with “Photoshop and a really sh**ty copy of like Mac Paint or something.”
Kidd laughed at how archaic the programs were, but they challenged him with creating outside a notebook or canvas. Computer art was a focus during his senior portfolio class, and he spent time learning how the programs functioned.
Still, the concept of “graphic design” was foreign and Kidd didn’t realize its full potential until his teacher brought in a representative from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.
“He talked about graphic design and that was the first time I ever heard anyone speak about graphic design or what graphic design was,” Kidd said. “You’re aware of it from the sense that everything you see — the labels on your soda can, or the skateboards you’re buying at the skate shop, or T-shirts — it’s all around you, but nobody really verbalized, ‘Well, that’s graphic design.’”
That visit gave Kidd a newfound direction and solidified what he wanted to do with his life.
“[The representative] said, ‘You can go to school and get a career in this,’” Kidd recalled. “And I thought, ‘Fuck, that sounds awesome.’”
And, Kidd hasn’t looked back since. A native of Merritt Island, Kidd opted against the high costs of art or private colleges and moved to Jacksonville to attend the University of North Florida.
Outside the classroom, Kidd found joy in skateboarding and surfing.
“It’s funny how linked I feel the art community is with the skate community,” he said.
Those two groups had massive overlap for Kidd. He recognized the demand for self-progression in each area and he described both as “you against yourself.” Beyond that, both require the creativity to innovate.
Kidd’s love of skating has spilled into his artwork for decades. He paid attention to skate deck artwork, especially from the artist Jim Phillips. Much of that artwork was hand drawn, but in Kidd’s head it was “the most perfect artwork you could imagine.” This work, Kidd said, had a huge influence on his illustrations and continues to play a role in the clients he works with today.
“I feel like [these clients] are deeper than just a freelance job,” he said. “This is a part of my culture as I was growing up, so I want to make sure it’s extra good or extra special.”
While making incredible artwork might seem like a painless process for someone like Kidd, as with any artist, there are moments of creative lulls. Being a seasoned designer, Kidd said he’s found it easier to come out of those blocks.
“There’s a peak behind every valley and you just have to push through it,” he said. “So, I never worry about it coming back, it’s just a matter of when, and for me, the best thing to do is step away and not doing anything related to design.”
What does a constantly grinding artist do to temporarily escape their art?
“Oddly enough, mowing the f***ing lawn,” Kidd said with a chuckle. “I think a part of it is that you’re disengaging your brain — you’re not forcing it to come out. So, it allows you to free your mind, and when you free your mind, you’re able to think more clearly and don’t get caught up in all the things you perceive as blocks.”
Clearly the advice has worked, and he may have the best lawn in Jacksonville because of it.
Kidd has worked for local, regional and national clients, while still finding time for surf and skate sessions, being a husband and father to two children and going to see the Melvins play — all without looking back (or sleeping, probably) and continuing to grind doing one of the only things he’s ever known.
For Kidd, it’s not so much why is he an artist, but more why wouldn’t he be an artist?