By Haley Wilson
The Birmingham Times
Speak to Marquis Tucker, and he’ll tell you that creating is something he lives by. However, the tricky part is having your voice heard or even taking that step to believe in yourself, he said.
“Sometimes you can hold yourself back. You think nobody will come to that art show, nobody wants to see the mural I painted downtown,” he told The Birmingham Times in an interview. “You have to trust yourself and believe in yourself first.”
As a contemporary artist and architect, Tucker takes his creativity to another level with his brand, Project: Blue Bloods, through which he brings his imagination to life on canvas, set designs, and logos.
“I am using Project: Blue Blood as a steppingstone to enter these industries and really make an impact on the quality of life and the environment,” he said. “With space and nature in mind, my product designs are futuristic, functional, stylish, ecofriendly, … and influenced by anime,” hand-drawn and computer animation that originates from Japan.”
He added, “Project: Blue Blood is a culmination of digital and visual arts, product designs, and set designs, including fashion, scents, and food, for example, I want to immerse the audience and all their senses in an experience like no other.”
Discovering his Niche
Tucker, 28, was born in Atlanta, Georgia and when he was just a few months old, he and his mother, Savannah, relocated to what was previously known as the Central City Projects in downtown Birmingham.
To Tucker, both cities have a similar “creative vibe.”
“I was born in Atlanta, which I think has a lot to do with my wiring and … why I am the way that I am,” he said. “Everyone knows that Atlanta is like some kind of Black spiritual mecca of crazy creative energy. … Birmingham has that, too, which is why the transition wasn’t too bad.”
As a kid, Tucker always had an interest in drawing, but he never took it as more than “a kid being a kid.”
“I remember the first times I interacted with art,” he said. “I would draw stick figures and try to figure out different ways to do different stuff with them—make them jump, flip, do cartwheels, shoot hoops. My friends would be impressed, but it was just drawing to me.”
Things changed when Tucker went to Banks Middle School in East Birmingham, where he took an interest in anime. He got a sketchbook from a school book fair, and the passion “grew from there,” he said.
“Dragon Ball Z, Pokémon, and [other anime cartoons], digital and stuff like that, … I like the art style, the characters,” Tucker said. “They have five fingers, five toes, unlike cartoons that could have no fingers.
“I got this how-to-draw book from one of my book fairs in middle school, and I would trace out my favorite characters until I had done so much that I would just draw them from memory.
“… Being able to draw from memory, I was able to alter them: ‘This one’s gonna have a shirt. This one’s gonna have a long sleeve.’ From there, that’s when I started developing my love for art because I was creating characters.”
His new interest fell off once he became a freshman at Woodlawn High School: “I was doing that just out of competition with friends. … Then I started trying to grow up and do the ‘cool kid’ stuff, so I stopped drawing.”
His passion for the craft was reignited when he met his art teacher, Ms. Momenee, who encouraged him to draw again. Tucker gives her the credit of being the “mom” of his art career.
“Mrs. Momenee definitely guided me toward my career, [and] it was a push I needed,” he said. “By the time I made it to 12th grade, I was doing some super-advanced art because the [staff] really liked like my work.”
Also, during that time Tucker met KT Showers, a local rapper and producer and current “good friend” in the lunchroom at Woodlawn. That friendship led to collaborations on different projects. Eventually, Tucker got the motivation to venture out and meet other artists around Birmingham.
“Not an Easy Path”
After graduating from high school in 2011, Tucker majored in media arts and animation at The Art Institute of Atlanta in Decatur, Georgia, where he “fine-tuned” his skills.
“I was experiencing a lot of different things,” he said. “The major wasn’t really my first choice. I wasn’t super in love with it, but I was learning so much about different types of art styles, sharpening my own skills, growing as a person, realizing what I really wanted to do.”
Eventually, Tucker dropped out of The Art Institute and “lived all over Atlanta for about two years.” In 2013, he returned to Birmingham, where he currently resides.
Back in the Magic City, Tucker reconnected with KT Showers, who had set up Black Shepherd, an independent label for recording artists. Tucker started doing graphic design work for the label, as well as other artists in Birmingham and around metro Atlanta. Tucker spent about five years “networking” and getting his name out.
“I dove into the music and art scene within the city to network,” he said “I was a graphic artist and wanted to add my contribution back to music, so I offered flyer and album-cover design work. I would attend any and every art show, social venue, musical performance, fashion show I could make it to.
“I eventually started modeling on and off within those years, too. I worked with a screen-printing company for about a year, learning how to print my own shirts and even offering printing services for the art community while I was there. I also would do chalk murals on the wall of [Post Office Pies, a local pizza restaurant] I worked at.”
Despite staying busy, Tucker experienced a bout of depression that became a challenge and put a huge damper on his career.
“I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to become successful enough to not only take care of myself and my family but also give back to my community and create opportunities for people who look like me,” he said. “That was a lot of responsibility I placed on myself [in my early 20s].”
“I was constantly questioning my purpose, who my real friends were, even my family. … I missed out on some critical moments, [and] the guidance I needed wasn’t really there.”
Project: Blue Blood
In 2019, Tucker decided to “bet on himself” and create his brand—Project: Blue Blood.
“I wanted to showcase my creative ability under a brand that would allow me to create freely but with intentional branding to make it easily identifiable by my audience,” he said. “I create custom artwork for my clients and sell original pieces, as well. I specialize in space and nature art pieces cut from plywood in custom shapes and sizes. I try to use as many different mediums and techniques as possible to achieve different effects with my pieces. I love working with different materials and find joy in using them to problem solve during my creative process.”
Tucker also creates “memorable” logos, flyers, and cover art designs for small businesses and musical artists from “any genre or walk of life.” In addition, his goal is to develop works that are “100 percent from recycled products.”
“In the art community, we have gone too long with outdated plastic products and poor disposal methods,” he said. “I want to change that by using raw recyclable materials to reduce ocean waste and overcrowding of landfills.”
The goal of using raw and recyclable products has also inspired Tucker to venture into set design.
“As a kid, I loved science and putting things together,” he said. “I would watch [Cartoon Network’s ‘Dexter’s Laboratory,’ about a boy genius who had a secret laboratory in his room], and get all into it. … I’d beg my mom to get me a soldering iron so I could build something. … Of course, she said no because I was 6.
“The thought of really creating something, having a real-world environment built and thought of from my imagination is so fascinating. … Set design is where I know I will flourish, placing the audience into my mind, creating characters for the space with fashion design and prop making, and triggering all of the senses that will take them to another world! That is why I created Project: Blue Blood.”
To learn more about Marquis Tucker and Project: Blue Blood, you can follow him on Instagram @bluebxi or visit projectblueblood.com.