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Digital art is his future

Ah, to spend a day - or even an hour - in Aaron Campbell's head.Now that would be a brightly animated show. The Port Moody resident and recent graduate of Gleneagle secondary school in Coquitlam has a lot going on up in his noggin for a 17 year old.

Ah, to spend a day - or even an hour - in Aaron Campbell's head.Now that would be a brightly animated show.

The Port Moody resident and recent graduate of Gleneagle secondary school in Coquitlam has a lot going on up in his noggin for a 17 year old.

Luckily for us, he has the talent to transcribe the images that circle his brain.

Campbell is a bone fide digital artist, one who creates scenes with sometimes the tiniest thread: a frog from a school science experiment, a cavity, a song lyric.

"I take my inspiration from the world around me," he said with a wave of his hand.

Mostly, he builds his artwork around a single character. Take, for example, Stay On My Grind, which he made for Intrinsicnature.org, an international online art group.

The central animal, a flashy gold-toothed cat on a bike delivering papers, came to him first. Then, as he chipped away at the project - an hour here and there, mostly at night, on his MacBook over the course of a month - he filled in the details and blended the colours.

And colours are very, very big in Campbell's work. Bright neons are cranked, often glowing, catching the viewer's eye at every turn, even if the paradoxical subject matter doesn't.

It wasn't always this way for him.In fact, Campbell started as a child with the traditional means - a pencil crayon and paper - drawing cartoons. He had no formal art training until he enrolled at Gleneagle secondary, his mother said.

The summer before he entered Grade 9, his older brother introduced him to Photoshop and his life was forever transformed.

Campbell plied the Mac software while studying art, photography, graphic design and other courses, and he took on the user name Ecstatic, which later morphed online as Ecstasy.

Today, Campbell calls himself Ectsy, an acronym for Ecstatic Creates T-shirts for You. He has designed images for clothing and "a lot of people still ask me to create a t-shirt for them," he said, noting a t-shirt line may be in his future.

"It's one of the things in my head," he said, pointing to it.

Aryn Gunn, who taught Campbell at Gleneagle, said her student's growth as an artist has been "wonderful to witness."

This past spring, under Gunn's guidance, Campbell won a scholarship and was named the top male artist in School District 43 after the Emerging Talent XVI exhibit, a showcase of Grade 12 artwork (one piece he entered was eight feet tall and titled Eeeek!, which now hangs in his home).

"Aaron is unique in that it is unusual to see such a mature, confident and sophisticated visual style at such a young age," Gunn said. "With Aaron, it's more than the well-crafted logo, poster or composition; it's also very much about the content of his work. Most of his major pieces are creatively layered with meaning and are essentially visual essays or commentaries.

"Usually, it takes time and maturity for an artist to hone techniques and discover an interestingly unique point-of-view, similar to a writer finding his or her voice," she said. "However, Aaron seems to already be at this place."

His peers also heap praise on his creativity.

Ted Yavuzkurt, founder and site director of evokeone.com, an online art, music, design and photography collective, also has kept watch on Campbell's rise since 2008.

"Aaron, or as we know him, Ecstatic, is a brilliant young artist whose work combines youthful playfulness with tested artistic principles," he said. "He tackles serious issues with peppy colours and cartoonish characters. And he pulls it off.

"At the same time," Yavuzkurt added, "Aaron is a very versatile artist. He's repeatedly demonstrated his ability to reinvent his style, taking on new themes and design challenges. His work is funky, eye-poppingly colourful and distinctly digital."

Next month, Campbell will begin the first of three years in the Capilano University IDEA cohort program, studying communication design and applied illustration.

His dream is to be an illustrator, like his idols Peter Jaworoski (Nike, Visa) and DualForm (vector art), in a "big company. Probably print, maybe doing commercial work, but I could see going into computer games, too.

"To be honest, I really don't know right now."

jwarren@tricitynews.com