Specializing in hyperrealism portrait drawings, graphic design and photography, Minnesota native, Wiley Harang certainly has no shortage of creative talents. From buying No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom CD at age seven to falling in love with watching Godsmack and Deftones music videos on Uranium and MTV, music has continued to cement itself as an important part of Wiley’s life and creative journey, as he discovers the world of music photography and the magic of capturing live performance and documenting such special moments in time.
“My mother and grandfather got me into drawing cartoons, colouring and writing in cursive when I was two years old, which looking back is what guided me in some form or another to where my life is at in this moment. Creating, in any form is what I’ve always loved and a part of me has always known I’ve wanted to do this. It wouldn’t feel right doing anything else,” Wiley admits.
Forming an interest in hyperrealism drawings; those that ones sometimes perceive to be more real than a photo, in high school (thanks to the artist Chuck Close), Wiley confesses there’s never been any other artist influence he’s been so in awe of. “I think it’s one of those things that really captures your attention when you’re young, and you later discover how much it has impacted your life – just always hiding away somewhere on the surface subconsciously.”
“Starting is the hardest part,” Wiley says of the process. “But once I’ve accomplished that there is no stopping until it’s done. The creative process in itself is a beautiful thing – How the creations unfold, ideas mature and change, what it makes you feel and everything that comes with that. It’s mentally exhausting at times, but also very therapeutic in so many unexplainable ways, and I don’t know what life would be without that.”
However, hyperrealism art is certainly not for the impatient, with Wiley’s largest creation of Tatiana Shmayluk of Jinjer (pictured left), a 14×17 inch drawing that took over 150 hours. “It took everything in me to complete that drawing,” he confesses, “it was a journey in every way from start to finish, but being able to share that with Tatiana, Eugene, Roman, and Vladyslav will always be one of the most special moments in my life!”
Currently twenty two days into his first colour drawing, Wiley reveals that working with coloured pencil has led to many more extended hours of work. “With that I just try to be more efficient and consistent with the process itself, learning from it all, and growing as a better person and artist each day. Drawing has always been a place I can exist alone to create and creating something that can feel so real has just been so profound to me.”
Photography, however, wasn’t an art form that sparked his interests until later in life. “I studied it for one semester when I was a Freshman in college because I needed an art credit of some sort, but it wasn’t until seven years later that I bought my first camera.”
In August of 2013, it was The John Butler Trio’s concert at the Weesner Amphitheater in Apple Valley, Minnesota that changed everything for Wiley. “I snuck in a little point and shoot camera, for no real reason other than to have a video to remember the experience by because it had been so long since I’d been to a concert.”
“It was this photo (pictured right) I took that night that started all of this and changed everything that I know, putting out this cataclysmic shock wave into the universe. I remember John saying, “there is no future or past, just here… right now!” and time stood still. I just remember looking up at the stars and feeling this moment of bliss — The music had opened a door into another dimension and I was just free. It was the first time that I’ve felt as if the energy of the world passed through me, like an out of body experience. That’s when I knew that there was something more to all of this.”
Following this experience; came another similar, shaping Wiley’s world even further. “My passion for music photography really started to show when I got a photo of Jason Aalon Butler at The Garage in Burnsville, Minnesota, with his past band Letlive.”
“There’s something about Jason’s relentlessness and presence that rips every emotion out of your body and makes you feel things that you’ve never felt before. How someone can do that, with music, with their art, it was like pouring gasoline on a fire – That was the defining moment of it all. The world opened a door into this endless abyss and asked me what I was going to do with all of this, and I was determined to never lose those feelings. After that night, life was never really the same until I started pursuing music photography.”
Fast forward two years later to 2015 and Wiley found himself back at the Weesner Amphitheater, once again watching The John Butler Trio. Only this time, he was covering their set as an official photographer.
“How dreams come around are beyond my comprehension,” he declares. “But The John Butler Trio being the first show I covered as a photographer and at that same venue, was beyond colossal to say the very, very least. The synchronicity of it all just couldn’t be ignored. I had just bought my camera two weeks before the show, learning it day and night, and photographing every moment possible. I definitely feel there are driving forces in our hearts, in life, and the world gave me a glimpse of what life would feel like doing this and that’s how every show has felt ever since.”
“The older I’ve gotten, the more I want to create, and continue to create,” Wiley announces. “I never want to lose those feelings that creating entails. Every moment is a challenge though for sure – Trying to navigate constant change, the rapid speed of life, and what to even focus on and put your energy into can be exhausting. Recently I have really taken the time to understand and learn from the things and the people that seemed to be distracting me. And once I did that, I started investing every second into the things I love in life, learning what it is I’m giving back to leave things better, and the real changes started to happen and present themselves.”
When it comes to what Wiley hopes people take away from his work, he admits, “There’s always something prominent in what I strive for amid whatever I’m working on. Maybe it’s because of a song I’m listening to, something experienced in the day, or just a release of everything, it’s hard to explain. The only way I really know how to describe it, in my own mind, is through music. But if there’s any way to show those things I’ve felt, through a drawing, a photograph, or any work of art, and to help guide or inspire someone for just a millisecond to the better — that might be it all right there!”
“I feel it’s so easy to be swayed by what other people are doing in all aspects of life. By having multiple irons in the fire, I’ve been able to meld them all into one — creating something individualistic. It pushes me to no end to do the things I love doing and it’s something that bridges all of these worlds together.”
“Photographing The John Butler Trio at Red Rocks [Amphitheatre] last year really feels like it encompasses everything the universe has been trying to show me up to this point. I’ve mentioned him a lot, but the way it has always come back full circle is something I’ll never be able to fathom. In the last year I’ve really wondered why it’s unfolded that way, or what the world out there is trying to tell me. Whether it means everything or nothing at all, it’d be silly to ignore on my part.”
As for advice to other aspiring creatives, “Just create,” Wiley says. “But find the reasons why. It’s never easy, it can take everything inside of you to really do something you love and harness each and every moment. But focus on the positives, stay optimistic, and be relentless in what you’re doing and if you aren’t learning from it and growing from it, take the time to make changes in your life no matter how big or small they may be. There’s so much I’ve learnt just in the last year that I wish I would have taken the time to learn when I was younger, but I also recognize that I wouldn’t have been ready for these things now if they would have presented themselves back then. “