Painter Darryl “13” Bennett of TokyoThirteen Arts was born on Friday the 13th, and sure enough, luck has nothing to do with his success as an artist in his native Washington D.C. Taking the number and its negative connotations, and using it as a symbol for something positive and uplifting is what Bennett is all about. He says he paints from a surreal world he’s created in his mind, where a host of seemingly unrelated influences come together. Much like the city of Tokyo, a place that he connects to on an artistic and personal level. Tokyo is a city where traditional values and progressive ideas merge, and where so many varying subcultures like video gaming and tattooing have found a home. This massive convergence of ideas is the foundation of his brand, which he created in 2007.
After taking an interest in art at a young age, Bennett started an apprenticeship at local D.C. tattoo shop, Pinz-n-Needlez. Though he chose not to continue tattooing, his beginnings at the shop were essential to his growth as an artist. “I retained a lot of the technical things like lines, composition, and color,” says Bennett. “The beauty about being in the that kind of environment is that you get to meet some great artists and make awesome connections. You can’t help but push yourself to be the best because you’re around the best.”
The female form inspires much of Bennett’s work. It even at times seems to be created from a female perspective. Some of his most popular pieces are his “Tokyo girls,” portraits of women’s faces, usually with vibrant colors and strong expressions. “The female figure was made for art,” he says. “They are paintings of females battling with themselves. They are either fighting themselves, or others, who break their promises.” He notices that many of the women who see his work are instantly able to relate to that sentiment. There are certainly undertones of graffiti and tattoo style in Bennett’s paintings, but mostly a dynamic use of color and imagery shape his style. He has said when it comes to his art, “there is no good or bad, right or wrong; limits are to be pushed and there’s always a need for new, weird, and better.”
TokyoThirteen Arts is a creative concept that produces t-shirts, photography, paintings, and short films. “I’m a painter first, but as an artist I would think you would naturally want to see your art or your creative touch in other mediums,” says Bennett, who has made a real effort to brand his work and learn the business of art. “Branding is so important for business. I do a year round sticker campaign, limited-edition t-shirts—all in the name of making my art part of your everyday vocabulary.”