I feel like we are in an important time, for the first time in this small hobby scene an artist has emerged, a real artist who has the ability and skill to produce pieces of high art. I’d like to donate some time, words, attention and attempt to critique someone who’s long deserving of such. I’d like to write about the work of one of my favorite artists, someone I’ve been collecting the work of for a little over a year and will continue to collect…
The artist I’m talking about is BroCaps and I’d like to talk about his series Reaper.
The Reaper is a plastic sculpture that can be fitted to switches on a mechanical keyboard designed to a couple of variants. The design is based on both The Grim Reaper and the He-Man character Skeletor, over its lifespan BroCaps has produced three major variants to accommodate the two major mechanical keyboard variations.
The most interesting thing about the Reaper however is its simplicity. The Skull is a design motif that has been used by other artist making replaceable keys for mechanical keyboards (and indeed in many other forms of art). These other skulls and other ideas however have usually presented a part of the skull (usually missing the lower jaw) and set the skull in a square base with straight lines, allowing for better function. What really separates out Reaper from other similar works is the fact that it isn’t square and that the inspiration for the design allowed for more expression in the sculpt.
As shown above, the most well known and longest running Skull keycap is Skull by ClickClack. ClickClack was the first to bring skull sculpts to the medium of keycaps and his series is the longest running and possibly most valuable, with many caps going for well over $900 on the second hand market. However as mentioned above Skull is largely square and conforms to the shape and size of a conventional keycap.
The major issue with designing and making replaceable keycaps like the Reaper and other designs is size. These keys are relatively small and unlike other mediums that allow artists to change the scale keycaps need to (at their core) provide function. This means that the artistry of the cap needs to not only be visible to the user, but also invisible in the form of the stem that attaches it to the switch on the keyboard.
BroCaps has managed to alleviate this issue of space by rendering a raised and three dimensional skull within a hood, which itself is then angled. This means that BroCaps not only has three individual spaces to work within, he has three very different shapes allowing him to explore different forms of expression and colouring techniques.
No clearer is this concept expressed than in Death to America;
Here we can see that BroCaps has made full use of the hood and face being separate parts. The face and rear face panel showing the stars with a blue and white back panel fronted with a translucent face. The hood with blood dripping down the sides to represent the stripes.
Death to America is in my opinion the most important Reaper since production started some two years ago. Here BroCaps has used not only the space to great effect, but has been able to incorporate the whole design of the Reaper to display and show a single coherent message.
Looking back over the other designs the Reaper has gone under it’s clear to see that BroCaps’s abilities and techniques are getting more and more sophisticated and with pieces like Death to America BroCaps is exploring with giving his work more depth. This can be seen with another series; Invasion, where he has developed a world and narrative for the Reaper 2, Drone and BroBot v2. What the future holds for the Reaper I do not know, but looking at it and BroCaps’s progression it’s clear that he’s becoming a more confident and able artist than ever before, surpassing all his contemporaries.
Please contact me on KeyboardCommunity Slack or Geekhack for image credit.