After hip-hop artist Aaron Martin, aka Angry Woebot, created his vicious-looking pandas, little did he know how popular his work would become - he was even invited to paint a portrait of President-elect Barack Obama. For internationally famed painter and artist Aaron Martin, aka “Angry Woebot,”
Aaron Martin’s fierce, rabid pandas launched a lucrative career for the innovative hip-hop artist
For internationally famed painter and artist Aaron Martin, aka “Angry Woebot,” his trademark black-and-white panda paintings began as an accident.
It all started at a monthly poetry slam at Studio One (the slam is now held at the Hawaiian Hut), where verbal artists speak their minds for fun and competition. Painters also are invited to paint on canvas whatever inspires them on stage, as the poets compete for the audience’s praise.
“Originally I was going to paint a grizzly bear, but a friend of mine forgot to bring the paint I was waiting for,” says Martin, noting the only colors he had with him in large quantities were black and white. With the room packed and the pressure mounting, Martin had to make do with what he had.
“I was standing on the side, people were just staring at me, so I decided to change (the design) and make it into a panda.”
To say it went over well would be an understatement. The pandas were a huge hit with the event’s viewers and became a constant in Martin’s career from which he never tires.
“After that show I was, like, ‘Wow,’” says Martin, who was born and raised on Oahu.“I wasn’t sure where that was going to take me. And I’ve been painting the same way up to now, just creating cool stuff that people like. I’ve just been rockin’ it.”
As far as what the pandas look like, they aren’t cute, huggable or friendly. They’re big, snarling and usually have saliva dripping from their mouths as they slash out at something with sharp claws. “I applied what a grizzly bear looked like and I just gave it a panda color,” Martin explains. “In Asian culture, people use the panda as an icon to sell cookies, boxes of candy - it’s just real peaceful-looking, ya know?
“So when I paint ‘em angry and rabid, people do a double take and are like, ‘Oh, did you see that? I’ve never seen a panda look that mad.’”
Even though Martin paints other animals, it was his pandas that got him the most recognition - and commission jobs.“It was kinda like wildfire. People dug the way it looked,” he says. “After that, I had a solo show where I painted about 80 panda portraits, and it was like adding paper to the fire.”
He received many commissions from people in love with the pandas: families that wanted their portraits done as pandas, dog owners who wanted a panda that resembled their best friend, or just a simple panda portrait.
What’s in a name
Martin’s artistic journey in the public eye began as a hip-hop artist named Timer. “It was from 1996 to about 2000,” he says. “I had a crew (Hidden Habitats); we used to open for shows.”
After a car accident left him in bed and then in rehabilitation for about a year, Martin decided he needed change in all aspects of his life, which led him to Seattle, where his art and alias were born.
The name “Angry Woebot” is two parts: “Woebot” originates from his days working as a line cook in a Seattle restaurant kitchen, doing nothing but going to
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