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Aaron Kai and the Art of Movies

I posted a new report on CNN’s website about Aaron Kai, a movie poster artist I met in California last summer. Below the gallery of images are also video clips that Aaron shared with me, from his early years, including his time as the 1993 New York Pinball Champion. CLICK HERE to read the original story.

Last summer while attending San Diego Comic-Con I had the pleasure of meeting iconic martial artist and actor Jim Kelly. While talking to Kelly another fan approached his table wearing an amazing jacket I assumed to be created with a combination of photos and Photoshop. The leather biker jacket paid tribute to the James Cameron film Aliens and featured several images from the classic sci-fi action thriller. After careful review I realized that the jacket was painstakingly hand-painted using stills from the movie and that its owner had done the work himself.

The artist was named Aaron Kai and it turned out we shared more than an interest in martial arts films. Kai is a classically trained painter originally from New Jersey. He followed his inspiration and dreams all the way to Los Angeles, where he creates movie posters using good old-fashioned paintbrushes, canvases and time. His interest in pop culture comes from growing up on healthy doses of kung fu, horror and action movies, which has translated into amazing creations that could inspire any young illustrator looking for ways to find a place for their work.

Recently I flew to Los Angeles and met up with Aaron again. I wanted to find out more about his work and attend a gallery exhibit he was having at The South Pasadena Mercantile Exchange, a high-end artisans’ retail boutique with a gallery in the rear. While we talked art, movies, girls and ‘Jersey,’ I found out that Aaron’s art has taken him to some very interesting places, where he’s met a wide range of people, including Aliens director James Cameron (pictured), legendary sci-fi artist Syd Mead, the cast & crew of Blade Runner, and many others.

Aaron Kai has also become part of my ongoing photo essay for Blvd. Warriors. Early in life, young would-be artists like Aaron, myself, Alvin Pettit and Eric Andrews, as well as musicians such as Qi Chi, Chip Fu and many others, were heavily influenced by neighborhood martial arts movie screenings. In Aaron’s case, these films etched an indelible passion for popular culture in his mind, even leading him to take up Hung Gar Kung Fu for many years.

Aaron’s subjects have also included tributes to basketball legend Michael Jordan, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, The Dark Knight, Wesley Snipes as Blade and Scarface. The images attached to this report are examples of his private commissions, many of which – such as the Bruce Lee jacket – were done by personal request, when he’s not doing work for film studios.

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