Savannah James

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For Lucky, art has always held a presence in his life. He started painting at a very young age and doodled all over his school assignments. However, he didn’t consider a career in the arts until he was in high school. “I knew this guy who was a few years older than me who made it pretty big from making art. I realized there was something to it,” Lucky recalled.

Exclusive Limited Edition Prints by Lucky Rabbit Available for Sale in Collaboration with UP Magazine

The artist moved to New York when he was ten years old, and was later accepted into the School of Visual Arts (SVA). A self-starter, Lucky immediately began developing a clothing line. Recognizing his innate ambition, a professor told Lucky that with his drive he didn’t need school to ‘start something,’ as long as he put in the work to make it happen. Lucky took this advice to heart and left school to carve out his own path. “I started going to these art shows in this city. I was living in Harlem at the time, eventually moving to Brooklyn, and got involved with these graffiti crews,” Lucky told me.

Soon after, Lucky pursued a relationship that brought him to San Francisco, which unfortunately ended. He recalled. “It was still a significant turning point for me. I realized while I can’t always control outside forces, I will always have art.”

Channeling his energy into art, Lucky started wheatpasting and putting up stickers with rabbits holding a spray can marked ‘condensed revolution.’ He became more comfortable with the urban landscape as a canvas and sought to immerse himself in a creative community to stay inspired. Frequenting galleries like Cotton Candy Machine, FIFTY24SF, and Upper Playground, Lucky discovered a new world of creatives that brought reassurance to his practice.  “I knew as long as I kept hanging around like-minded people and doing what I love, it was going to pay off,” Lucky said.

After a year-long stint in California sprinkled with a few trips to Europe, Lucky made his way back to New York. When I asked how he started to make a name for himself on the East Coast, he could only attribute his good fortune to staying true to the solace he finds in making art. “When I was travelling, it felt a lot safer to paint in many ways, so I just brought that energy to New York.”

Now based in Bushwick, Lucky continues to paint on the street, creating explosive, magical murals that are hard to miss. That being said, the artist isn’t tied to one medium. Lucky’s oeuvre spans from custom stickers to commissioned canvases to murals to clothing collaborations.

Infused with familiar iconography of children’s cartoons, Lucky’s work ushers a darker strain of nostalgia than that that comes with a classic Mickey Mouse. Anthropomorphized animals with third eyes and distressed facial expressions zip through ambiguous, acidic compositions. Looking almost as if they’re going stir crazy in the lawless land of mysticism, their underlying mischievous jest is accentuated, making for a slightly uncomfortable experience – only just enough so that it’s hard to look away.

When I visited his studio earlier this year, I felt a similar nostalgia. Intricately arranged knick-knacks of cartoon characters and spray cans shared the particular completeness with that of my grandmother’s china cabinet. Unfinished artworks revealed that these characters were in fact created under the hand of the artist, rather than emerging from thin air. Even then, there was a mysterious gap between the materials and the canvases, one that I could only suspect to be the artist’s magic.

I asked Lucky how he came up with his name. Given his line of work, I would’ve believed if he told me it was given at birth. To my surprise, the name came sometime after he stepped foot into the art world and into social media. “It started out as an Instagram name. When I was making the account (which he made admittedly later than most), I was really into this character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit – the Disney character. He’s super against authority, doing his own thing, messing with cops… It was funny and it just seemed to work.”

Before I left, Lucky revealed a bit of his magic to me. I asked him if he ever thought his childhood hobby would grow into the livelihood it holds today. Humbly, he reiterated his trust in doing good work. “When you do work, it comes back as an opportunity. Whether it’s good karma or feedback, the universe gives it back to you. Whatever you put your energy towards will come back.”

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