Different Strokes: Art history sophomore makes his mark on the art world

By Tabitha Engle

Josh Dorenkamp greets his clients with oil-smudged fingertips, a practiced eye and a crooked smile. He strolls through his apartment to his studio with hands shoved deep into his paint-stained jeans. Jagged graffiti letters and bright splattered colors consume the space.

Dorenkamp, an art history sophomore, has a passion for painting. But recently, Dorenkamp has gone from the streets to the canvas.

He said he wants to turn his attention from making a name for himself to putting money in his paint-stained pockets. Dorenkamp creates artwork at discount prices, especially for UK students. He is currently working on projects for The Courtyards Apartments and independent works for students.

Fascinated with graffiti since the age 6, Dorenkamp said he began toying with graffiti and its letter structure in the sixth grade.

“I was doomed from the start,” he said.

Dorenkamp said much of his inspiration came from the graffiti artists in Louisville and the abstract-expressionist Jackson Pollock. Dorenkamp said he finds something compelling about the uncontrollability of paint splatters and something attractive about the sound structure of lettering.

Most artists have a recognizable trait, a signature within their piece, but Dorenkamp said he doesn’t have one. He prefers to personalize each of his works for the subject.

“I like to get to know people before I sketch their piece,” he said. “I like to customize it and make it their own.”

Before he ever puts a pen to paper, Dorenkamp prefers to meet a potential client.

He said he wants to get to know the person first because he believes their personality is reflected in the letters and the colors of the work.

Even though his focus lies in graffiti, Dorenkamp enjoys branching out to other art forms. He is also a photographer, a painter and an experimenter in graphic design.

In his future job, Doremkamp said he hopes to include these mediums of art. He has a photo album on Facebook dedicated to all his art and encourages potential clients to peruse its contents.

Dorenkamp thrives in a world of interesting color and barbed lettering and said he plans to make a name and a profit for himself in any way possible. He works his craft on anything but especially enjoys painting train cars.

When asked if he had been part of graffiti in his hometown of Louisville, Dorenkamp simply smirked and said, “No comment. But it couldn’t hurt to stare at a train passing by.”

While it is not the conventional canvas, Dorenkamp believes using train cars as a surface to create art lends an entire new element to the piece.

“(There’s) something romantic about painting trains,” he said. “It’s like you paint it, risk going to jail, and put your heart into it and then it leaves and you might never see it again.”

Dorenkamp has his reasons for painting, but when he tries to explain them, he is at a loss for words.

“I don’t know why I love (graffiti). I have to do it — it’s something I have to do,” he said. “My school notebooks are filled with me writing my name all along surrounding my notes … my notes look like chicken scratch because I try to make every word look fancy. It’s just something I have to do.”