The Story of the Gorilla Sticker
Since 2003, when the first Danko Gorilla Stickers rolled off the press, I’ve been sharing the orange beast with people and leaving him in locations all around the world. Initially created as a way to spread my art, the Gorilla eventually began taking on a life of his own. I’d see the sticker in places I knew I hadn’t been, and meet people who had already seen him somewhere else before. In 2009 I decided the “propagation of the gorilla” might be something interesting to document and began cataloging the photos of all places “The Orange Gorilla” has been around the world. You can see how far the Gorilla has gone on the map to the right. Click on the “G’s” to see individual Gorilla pics or check out the entire album on flickr here.
Yeah, But Why A Gorilla?
The image on the sticker, now in its second incarnation, is a homage to very first painting I ever did which was a collage of a gorilla, an orangutan, and a chimp. It was the piece that unexpectedly began my love affair with painting. During my early years of college it was a medium that I was intimidated by. I had never tried it and the concept of how to do it was foreign to me, so I avoided taking this required class as long as I could. Eventually there came a point though when I couldn’t avoid the class any longer and found myself under the tutelage of Professor Ron Weaver. Ron was great. With our first blank canvas he told us to go ahead and paint whatever we wanted. At the time I remember thinking, “F#$%…I don’t know how to paint anything. Where the hell do I start?”
That afternoon I walked home with the blank canvas and decided that since I didn’t know how to paint anything, I was going to try to paint something that I always thought was awesome when I was a little kid – a bunch of apes. The next day I grabbed a few primate books from the library for reference and penciled in a rough composition. After mixing together a few colors I took a deep breath, and began attacking the canvas. To this day the memory of those first strokes stand clear in my mind. I can remember applying hues of dark paint to the brow of the gorilla, and for some reason everything in that moment made sense to me. I didn’t have to think about it. I could just do it. It was at that moment that I fell in love with painting.
When the painting was finished I was ecstatic. I had no delusions that I had created any great work of art, but during this first attempt at painting I knew I had unearthed something meaningful within myself. I felt like I could paint anything. When I am in the act of painting, the subject matter becomes secondary and I break it down in my mind as colors, next to colors, next colors. When those blotches of color build up next to, and on top of one another, the vision in my mind slowly begins to take shape and come to life.
When it was time to take my work public I wanted to design a meaningful symbol to represent myself as an artist. I thought back to my first piece and knew it was a gorilla that would tell my story. On the original sticker a slew of words encircles the gorilla: write, begin, travel, destroy, etc. Of all those words the most meaningful ones to me were ‘face your gorilla’. That first painting class was my ‘gorilla’, the monkey on my back that I didn’t want to face. When I finally did I discovered something within myself that I didn’t know was there. Today, when I am confronted by some self-limiting fear, it is that gorilla that I try to remember, and The Orange Gorilla that I try to spread.
Have you seen the Gorilla Sticker, or tagged it yourself somewhere?
Take a pic and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get it uploaded to the Gorilla Sticker Gallery and World Map.
Danko Gorilla Stickers are MADE IN THE USA by the crew over at Sticker Guy. Big props to them for always doing a kickass job on The Gorilla.