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Collage Creator

What do ukuleles and Sharpie markers have in common? Until my interview with Sharpie marker artist Cody Swaggerty, I assumed nothing. Now, Sharpies and ukuleles are forever linked based on the dual interests of our featured artist.

Working on the railroad as a clerk and carry all driver by day and on his artwork at night, Cody has tuned his skills as an artist. Graduating with a degree in graphic design, this 25 year-old intended to pursue an art related career. He realized being told what to create was not as much fun as having the freedom to pursue his own ideas. He now creates artwork in his free time using his own interests for his projects.

Cody is different than a lot of Sharpie marker artists. He doesn’t create just one design, but puts layers and layers of designs into his intricate Sharpie marker collages. Sometimes the designs jump right out at you, other times Cody puts more thought into hiding the messages within his designs. His drawings are done without borders. Cody’s different interests begin layering on top of one another. Whether it is the guitar, 90’s music or the Tennessee Vols Cody keeps has his art packed with what he likes.

Now it’s time to hear from Cody:

When did this all start: In elementary school, I became interested in art because of an older kid who lived in my neighborhood. He was about 6 years older than me and was an excellent artist. He was big into portraits and more abstract stuff. His art influenced me to start doing art myself. Soon after that, my Mom bought me my first sketchbook, which I still have. I am very grateful because my Mom always encouraged me and allowed me to go after whatever I wanted.

Personal Style: I don’t know if I really have a set style. I basically draw whenever I feel inspired to do so. I try to be consistent with it because I always want to get better and progress. When I am working on something, I try to work on it for a set number of hours each night until it’s completed.

 Favorite Sharpie Marker: It’s tough to pick just one, but I guess the most essential has to be the black, fine-point Sharpie marker. I use it to outline all of my work before I color it in. 

 A lot of your work, labels, e-mails all use SWAGG on them. Is that because you have an awesome last name or is there an ulterior motive behind SWAGG: Swagg has been a nickname in my family for a long time. I remember being around my Dad and Papaw at the golf course as a kid and hearing guys calling them Swagg. The nickname started for me when I was playing high school sports. I thought the nickname was something different and original, so I started signing all of my artwork with it. I may have done differently had I known the word “swagg” would explode like it has today. I think you can have “swagg” when it comes to anything now.

 So do you have “Swagger?” Do your friends think you have “Swagger?”:  I guess I’ve had swagger since birth. My friends are on those jokes, so they’d probably say my swagger is pretty weak! Haha!

Have you ever just totally messed up a design: I always pencil in all the different objects first. I mess up a lot and have to erase and redraw things throughout the process. If I ever mess up after that, I usually try my best to fix the mistake or hide it with something else.

What makes you stand out from other Sharpie marker artists: I would say the Sharpie marker collage is what makes me stand out the most. The variety of objects and colors I use in each one is different from other collage work. My goal is to make people spend more time looking at my collage than they would spend looking at a normal picture

Your inspirations: I am able to draw inspiration from just about everything in life. Music, especially new music, definitely inspires me to want to create art. Sports are also a big inspiration. I enjoy seeing athletes excel in their sports and being the best at what they do. People that doubt me and don’t understand art are very inspiring to me. I find inspiration from the ups and downs of life. I also find inspiration in the abilities of other artists.Working on the railroad, I get to see a good amount of graffiti. Seeing the different styles and color schemes people use on their graffiti is also inspiring to me.

 Current projects: Right now, I’m working on getting 10 different Sharpie marker collages that I can hopefully enter into some art shows this summer. In Knoxville, we have an event called First Friday. First Friday is when the galleries of downtown Knoxville bring in new exhibits on the first Friday of every month. Knoxville doesn’t have the biggest art community, but it is a lot better than people may expect. I really enjoy meeting different artists and trying to network in my city. I have also been working on some pencil portraits of celebrities and athletes. I’m trying to get some of them autographed. I’d like to get Ellen’s autograph next!

 If you could drop everything today and start doing one thing for the rest of your life what would it be: Since I have so many different interests, it would be hard for me to just do one thing. If I could do anything I’d spend all my time doing artwork, hanging out at the lake, playing the guitar, and playing sports. I’ve always wanted to learn how to blow glass and paint. I’d also like to have my own t-shirt company as well. I would basically want live life without restrictions and enjoy every day doing whatever made me happy.

Anything else we should know: If there are any Sharpie marker artists that come across this post and would like to trade, buy, or talk about art feel free to message me on Facebook or email at I like to meet different artist.

 If you are interested in getting in contact with Cody you can find him on Facebook, YouTube, @cswaggerty or via e-mail.