Mark 563 & The Hip-Hop Coloring Book

Mark 563 is an Australian based tattoo artist and illustrator. He’s placed his work with everyone from large corporations to small independent record labels. He’s been working on a series of illustrations, entitled Evolution of the B-Boy. His hip-hop ties run strong. In addition to being an avid record collector, he’s DJ’d for EPMD, Souls of Mischief, The Rza, & many more.

He’s also the creator of the seminal Hip Hop Coloring Book series, which has grown to include a Journal, and an East Coast edition. The artists love it, and generations of rap legends can be found sharing pictures that they and their families have colored in across social media.

As soon as I became aware of these timeless pieces of art I had to speak to Mark. He was kind enough to do the following email interview.

When did you first get the idea for the coloring book series? What was the motivation?

Before I started work on the first coloring book I had already been illustrating hip hop characters for a series of stickers I was releasing called ‘Evolution Of The B-Boy’. I had a conversation with Dokument Press, my publishers about making a colouring book, and we took it from there. It’s been an awesome process and one that I am extremely thankful for.

What has been the feedback from the artists?

It’s been overwhelmingly great. From the very start I’ve tried my hardest to reach out to every artist I’ve featured, and the response has been really positive. We have done our best to send copies to the people I featured in the books, and they are always so gracious. It’s been pretty cool connecting with my Hip Hop idols.

Why no UGK?

I did make an illustration of UGK for the first book that we didn’t feature. I can’t remember why it never made it in to the first book, but it does feature in my forthcoming book, Hip Hop Journal: A Daily Planner. And I would’t rule it our of being featured in a future book.

Good job on putting Raekwon in the Snow Beach Lo. What other details did you feel were absolutely necessary in getting particular artists right?

With all of my illustrations I like to focus on those small details. Before drawing anyone I do a bunch of research in order to try and capture their look. So, with Raekwon, that Snow Beach jacket was iconic, and I felt it was important that he was pictured wearing it. And with all the illustrations those small details are there, whether it’s the shoes their wearing, the jewellery, the clothing or their poses – there are a bunch of cool little details in each illustration if you look close enough.

Between the East and West Coast editions, which has got more love?

The East Coast book has been really well received. Sadly, it got released as Covid-19 was sweeping the planet, and we didn’t really get to push it like we would have liked to. Hopefully by the time the West Coast book comes out things are more normal.

Which picture are you most proud of?

I’m proud just to have the books out there, and for them to be so well received. Singling out just one picture would be like picking your favourite child.

Which 2 elements of hip-hop have the most overlap?

In general? Probably DJing and emceeing. Those two are unquestionably linked.

What’s the hip-hop scene like in Australia? How is Iggy Azalea viewed?

Australia has a very active scene, and has had for decades. I moved here as an adult in 2005 and was pretty quickly involved in the Melbourne scene as a club DJ and DJ for a local emcee. I also worked the Saturday shift in iconic Melbourne Hip Hop record store, Obese Records. Iggy Azalea is as bout as far embedded from the Australian hip hop scene as you could get.

How did your love of the culture begin?

I grew up in the UK in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, and through pop culture I was aware of the rise of hip hop. We saw graffiti. We had B-Boys breaking on cardboard boxes and rolls of lino. I fell in love with the culture through the music, and was a dedicated fan by the mid-late ’80s.

If you have some examples who’s done a good job coloring the pictures? Have any artists colored their own pic?

Like I said, the reception from the artists themselves has been great. Kurious posted pictures of him and his kids colouring them in together, which is great to see. And Rakim talked about how his granddaughter was coloring with him.

Do you have any more books planned? Maybe a Southern or rappers as actors edition?

My next book, Hip Hop Journal: A Daily Planner is set to drop shortly, and then we have the Hip Hop Coloring Book: West Coast Edition which should be out early 2021. After that, we haven’t made any further plans, but I feel like there are a lot of Southern Hip Hop artists that we could include in a future book, for sure.

Would you ever do a cartoon? Who in your books would you most like to do a cartoon series about?

I’ve been approached by a few people about doing animated music videos, but I’m not an animator. I would love to see my illustrations as cartoons though, and would be happy to provide character sheets if it ever came down to it.

Do you have a Pimp C drawing? I’d get it tatted.

Yes indeed. Like I said, you’ll find the UGK illustration in the new Hip Hop Journal book. If you want to get it tattooed, come over to Australia, and I’ll slap it on for you… my day job is tattooing.

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