Two planets collide in a cataclysmic burst of light. Crystalline mountains rise over a magenta horizon. A sea blue pyramid ascends into the sky. The paintings of senior Yaseen von Briesen are certainly beautiful, but so are those of many other artists.
What makes von Briesen’s work unique is his medium. Where other artists use brushes, von Briesen uses spray paint.
“It shows his eccentricity,” senior Aishworya Khadka said. “The level of creativity and skill that it takes to come up with these designs and then make them on a canvas is so cool.”
Almost anyone looking at his paintings would conclude that von Briesen has a knack for his craft, but, perhaps surprisingly, he didn’t start making these paintings until a little more than a year ago.
“I was in robotics and the theme of the new game came up,” von Briesen said. “It was space themed, and I was like, ‘cool.’ I was on the marketing team, so I was in charge of making the team look all fancy and pretty. And so I was looking up ‘what can I do with art to brand the team?’ and then I found spray painting.”
Although von Briesen was fairly involved with FIRST®️ Robotics Competition, an international high school robotics competition, he soon realized he was far more passionate about spray painting.
“Now that I think about it,” von Briesen said, “I never really did stuff with spray paint for robotics; I just used it as an excuse to look into spray painting. So after a month I’d say I amassed maybe 30 hours straight of just watching videos of spray painting and I was like, ‘Wow, I really want to do this,’ so I found some five- or six-year-old spray paint in our shed, I got a crappy paint screen from Home Depot and I just went for it. And I made a piece that was neon pink with five planets and I just flicked a bunch of stars on it and I was like, ‘Huh. It looks kind of bad, but I like it.’ And that was my art, and that was how I first got into it.”
Although it’s only been about a year since von Briesen started spray painting, he has produced a significant amount of work. However, unsatisfied with the techniques he learned as a beginner, von Briesen began to expand his horizons and improve his skills.
“For the first three months, it was all, ‘Wow! Pretty planets! Wow! Pretty stars!’ But then I started getting tired of that and I started developing new strategies,” von Briesen said. “I felt like I had kind of mastered the nebulas and planets and stuff but I wanted to develop more, so I looked more into other artists and I learned how to do mountains, and I learned how to carve into the paints and make designs.”
Though his new work requires a greater time commitment, von Briesen considers it well worth the increase in quality.
“I mean, it’s all pretty and it has a place in the world,” von Briesen said. “Like in Times Square, you can see somebody making spray paint and it’s in five minutes. But it starts to get real repetitive over time, because everybody looks at it and thinks it’s pretty, but doing it over and over and over again just starts to get boring… The pieces in the beginning of my Instagram with the nebulas and stuff? That was all like five minutes. 10 minutes at the most.
“But I’ve started drifting away: I’ve started moving into mountains, and now I’m working on a six-layer stencil that’s going to take me about 20 hours worth of cutting. And then spraying the stencil itself will take about 30 minutes. But it’s so much more satisfying when you actually make it because it’s not a 10-minute ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ type of thing; I actually put effort into this. Granted, I do like the pieces that take about 10 minutes to make. But for pieces that take upwards of two hours, that’s where the real depth lies, and it feels more meaningful,” he said.
Though it might seem like a futile effort, von Briesen says people notice the extra effort.
“Recently, I did one with mountains in the background and then a floating island in the front, and a lot of people loved that,” von Briesen said. “And I really loved that, that was probably my favorite spray paint piece so far. That one took me about an hour, I’d say. Compared to what I made maybe five months ago, where I made five planets on a white space with a black star in the middle of black stars. That took me probably like 10 minutes, but everybody liked the other one better; it was much smaller but it was far more detailed and the first one was still good, but it just doesn’t have the same level of depth as the second one.”
And the testimony of von Briesen’s customers seem to support this theory. Senior Kate McCanna ordered a piece via von Briesen’s Instagram, @yeezyvbreezyart, and seems to be very satisfied with her purchase.
“He’s a really amazing artist and it baffles me how he can do those things with spray paint and stencils and stuff,” McCanna said. “It’s just so intricate. Like, how does spray paint look like you hand-painted every little detail? It’s crazy. The intricacy is so off the charts amazing.”
Fortunately for all those looking to buy artwork from von Briesen, it seems he’ll be making art for a long time. He enjoys spray painting too much to quit.
“It really excites me,” von Briesen said. “It’s just exciting, you know? It’s just art. What’s exciting about making art? It’s making art. You look at stuff, and you’re like, ‘I made that, and no one else made that, I made that,’ and that’s what gets me excited about it.”