Jay creates graphic art with a strong emphasis on line quality, form and composition. Alongside creating artwork and character design, Jay works freelance on art direction and design briefs for brands, musicians and institutions. Over the past four years Jay has worked on a wide range of projects and briefs, from set design, apparel, publication and layout design to illustration and custom illustrated type and full typeface creation. With an unmistakable style he has created works for the likes of Any Forty and York Minster and has also recently created the amazing new “52 weeks of Freaks” book. we sit down with Jay for a very intriguing interview.
So break it down for us mate who is Jay Pee, where are you from & what do you do?
Good question man.. Who is Jaypee? Ill probably never know! Jaypee is a bit of a mask i used to justify putting my artwork all over the internet i guess. As I get older I’m seeing that thats less important – whats important is striking a balance between life and art. In terms of the basics though I’m from Leeds, and Im an all round creative – I illustrate, make art, make music and work as a graphic designer, creating brands and culture for people at the moment. Up until about 9 months ago I was doing my thing as an artist freelance, but I’m having a little change of scenery at the moment.
How did you first get into illustration?
I didn’t really get into it – its the old cliche man. It fully got into me. I’ve always been drawn to images and imagination more than anything else really, i loved comics, cartoons, graffiti, graphic novels, films, CGI, logos, etc as a kid. I’ve always been a visual person really from as far back as i can remember. I’ve always drawn to give my imagination a work out really, i drew a lot as a kid and used it as a social thing.
How would you best describe your style of illustration?
About 60% of the time I’m daydreaming – thats where most of my ideas for my work come from, and I guess the style it appears in is my way of trying to say what came to me while I was elsewhere in my mind. The style is very hard for me to describe – its pretty cartoony most of the time, pretty light hearted but weird I think.. !? Theres always a slightly murky undertone to it and much more for the visually well versed 😉
Please take us through your design process, where do you start, what are the stages?
It depends what its for – but initially if working for someone, Ill meet up with them, and wander around a ideas and concepts for their vision of the project – and then start exploring how to actualise that vision.
From there I’ll sketch out some initial ideas using symbols and characters a lot of the time to start communicating the idea. It normally evolves quite quickly in this stage and I have to send the client a lot of things So they are up to date with where my mind is going. Once they’re happy with the work, it’ll get moved into the final stage, which is normally and inked original and either a digital piece, a printed item or a mural – in some cases all four, which is always the awesome.
If its a personal project – its meditation time man! get in my zone, see whats in there and start pulling it into the forefront of my mind until I can start forming an idea for an image. Normally Im processing ideas about experiences I’ve had or things I feel the need to respond to that I’ve seen in the news, on the street, in a song etc. so to outward heads it won’t mean much, but theres a story behind most of my imagery.
What tools do you use for your work?
I use: my third eye, my heart, my root, my crown, solar plexus 😉 I’m a mixed media artist, so I like to use whatever I can get my hands on really, but my favourite tools are Brush pens, spray paint and digital pen tablets. I like hand painting with acrylics and inks too.
What would be your ultimate goal as an illustrator?
My ultimate goal at the moment is to have more time to create work. But in the long run, I want to travel with it, and be able to survive off it wherever I am – I’m not interested in excessive amounts of money or any fame from it.. I just do it because its part of who I am, I get a lot of requests to do work for people and compliments from people watching what I’m doing which is always a really nice compliment and I like collaborating with other people so I normally jump on projects if I have time around the agency work.
What music do you listen to when working?
It totally depends on how I feel, Normally if i listen to music it will have an effect on the work, so I tend to listen to stuff thats going to fire up how I’m feeling at the time and help push out a more potent image. Here’s a few people I’m listening to at the moment: Primal Scream, Badbadnotgood, Sa Ra, Erykah Badu, Jose Gonzales, Massive Attack, Author, Arts the Beatdoctor, Kymani Marley, Rodney P and Buggsy, Ian Brown, Major Lazer, Bob Jones, Tom Scott, Pete Rock, Jeru The Damaja, Dudley Perkins… theres tonnes more!
I really like you speed-paint videos gives your fans a real insight into how you work, what artists out there do you look up to or rate?
Oh so many man, I work with a brand called RSI apparel and every single artist creating for that brand is dope. Theres A hell of a lot of artists out there making amazing work – i follow about 600 artists on instagram and get mesmerised. I think three of my favorite modern artists would be Alex Grey, Ekundayo and Aryz. I rate them because theres soul in what they’re doing.. and thats what i recognise when it comes to anything really.
You’ve worked with a few different brands and artists in your time can you tell us a little bit a some of your favorite projects so far?
Again theres so many and theres a story behind all of them. I spent 2015 painting a lot of murals for people, businesses, brands, pub owners, just people that rate my work, and meeting all of them and making stuff for them was a total privilege. I did some work for Fliptrix a while back and we bounced a lot of interesting and concepts around for a long time, that was a great experience, the guys a stickler for perfection so it was a test of my metal! but worth it, we got some great work and some great conversations out of the two projects I did with him. I always enjoy working for RSI apparel too, the brand owner is a top chap and is really passionate about the culture he has a vision for. I loved working for sticker bomb and seeing my work in their latest book too, proud moment man.
What would you say was your greatest challenge this past year?
In the Last year my greatest challenge was not falling off when the money wasn’t coming in – It got to a point where I decided to go out and get a job for a bit in a creative industry just to have a break almost from self employment. Im rapidly learning that all soul and no money (and vice versa) are two faces of the same devil and that its a middle path that needs to be trodden. The challenges I’ve faced over the last year have been bigger than art really, and Im thankful about having my art as a way to help me maintain, focus, and stay switched on.
Tell me one thing about yourself people wouldn’t expect from you?
hmmmmm. I can knit. boom
Oooh skills!! Can you talk about your interest in the grotesque, were you a scary child at school? You know what I mean, did you draw stuff that just freaked out your parents & teachers or was that something you grew into?
Nah man i was pretty normal as a kid – big hearted silly kid, but I had a dark side- I’m not going to divulge in some of it but I used to draw the most awful shit and leave it under my sisters pillow at night and just wait for the scream. Evil little shit! I used to draw a lot of aliens, monsters, strange looking shit, but then in the next breath id be drawing cute cartoons – I guess as i grew, the two sides just merged and turned into what i draw now i guess. As A kid I was fascinated by animals and I think thats why I draw so many now.
You recently completed book, 52 Weeks of Freaks, what that all about?
That was basically a project i undertook of my own volition to give my self a higher motivation and drive to create imagery and improve on my style and technique – as it grew it became a visual diary of every week of that year. It was great, I got a lot from doing that project and learnt that I’m a dedicated mother fucker when I have a goal set! It was a promise to myself that I didn’t break.
If you could travel back in time and talk to a 10 year old Jay Pee, what would you say?
I love this question man respect. –
Id fist bump myself, sit down next to myself and say, dude.. Im you from the future – see? theres nothing to worry about bud. Don’t worry about what other people think about you, and you don’t have to try to fit in, thats not what you’re here for. if people don’t get you, thats not your problem, just be kind to them. Always laugh, and work hard, but not so hard that you get unwell. Remember family and friends are important so connect with them as often as you can. Remember to respect yourself and never bow to anyone. trust your instincts and enjoy yourself! Remember that love and understanding are the same thing.
the last thing I’d probably say is don’t be afraid to be different to the crowd if you don’t fit in with them, you’ll find beautiful things and have great experiences walking on your own, just trust yourself.
Where can people find out more about your work?