Jay Freestyle – interview
Interview with self- thought artist, creator of an unusual style, a mixture of realism, abstract, pointillism, watercolour and geometry. Raised in South Africa – Jay Freestyle.
Jay, you said you had though times with your family not understanding your passion to tattoos. Do they now understand it is, in fact, a quite good profession?
It took a while but yes, now they realize that tattooing is a good/real profession. I think one the of the defining moments was when I got an article in the daily mail, that they could see what I was able to achieve with tattooing. Now that I’m traveling and tattooing around the world can they also see that I’m able to make a living off of what they considered a hobby and that I don’t need a “Real” job to earn money?
Why was South Africa not the best place for you to pursue the career of a tattoo artist?
There isn’t a large enough tattoo culture in S.A. Geographically it’s also not as easily accessible for foreigners to travel to. Amsterdam is a location that many people want to visit, versus South Africa, which isn’t exactly a place you jump at the opportunity to go to. I say this because about 70% of my collectors come from around the world to Amsterdam to get tattooed and use that as a good excuse to take a mini-vacation. I think my style wouldn’t be as popular there as it is in Europe either.
You are the self- taught artist. How did you manage to figure everything out by yourself?
How did your learning process look like? Especially the beginning.
Art and tattooing you never stop learning, I still continue to push myself to learn new skills/techniques whenever I can. One of the main ways I learnt to tattoo was getting tattooed by very good artists. I find this the best way to learn because you can see and feel first hand what the artist is doing. It creates a good learning interaction because if you see them doing something you don’t understand they can explain their reasoning behind their technique and be able to feel it as well allows for better understanding.
I went to conventions whenever I could and asked my favorite artists to critique my portfolio. I found that also to be extremely helpful, to know what I was doing wrong and how I could make slight design changes to better my work. In the beginning and still to this day, creating a good strong composition is the most challenging part of tattooing for me. I picked up the technique pretty quickly from my art background, but it was designing for the body that was and still is the hardest part for me.
What other mediums do you like to use for your artistic expression?
I like using watercolour, acrylics and sometimes digital media to create artworks.
How much painting translates into your tattooing?
Do you tattoo watercolour the same way you would paint it for example?
I’d say about 50% of my paintings translates into tattooing. They’re two very different medium’s, each with their pros and cons. Tattooing watercolour is completely different to how I would paint it. Tattooing is very technical and controlled; every detail has to be meticulously created, the artist has to do all the work. With painting, you can allow the medium to do some of the work and create random effects that are more natural and unforced. For example, if you load a piece of paper with water and drop a few drops of ink/paint onto it, it will randomly bleed into the water. To imitate the same effect in a tattoo is not as easy because every little detail would have to be created manually.
How does the tattoo consultation process with Jay Freestyle looks like?
Very brief and simple.
I ask three questions: What do you want to get down (subject matter)?, Where and how big?
I want to get a quick feel of what kind of person you are based on the answers to those questions. As soon as I hear that it has great meaning, that’s a red flag for me. I stay away from people who want all kinds of meaning to their tattoos. They often don’t understand the best-looking tattoos done by any artist are the ones that have zero meaning; the collector wanted a piece of art, and that’s what they got.
All I care about in a tattoo is how good it looks and let’s face it that’s the most important part of a tattoo. It can have all the meaning in the world to you but if it looks like shit you’ll feel like shit. On the other hand, if a tattoo looks awesome I can guarantee you’ll receive compliments about it for the rest of your life which will only enhance whatever reason you got the tattoo for. People with good tattoos will understand what I’m talking about. So in a consultation, I’m fishing to see if you’re the kind of collector who has an original thought and wants a piece of art on their body because that’s the type of person I’m looking for.
Where can people get tattooed by you?
What conventions or guest spots are you going to do?
Either in the studio in Amsterdam or during a convention/guest spot around the world. I travel a lot and try to visit new places I’ve never been. All my travel and convention info is on my website.
Within Europe, I usually just stick to doing conventions. When I go overseas is when I do a guest spot because it’s a waste to travel so far for a short amount of time. Conventions are a love-hate thing; they’re fun because I get to see my friends and meet up with other artists and gives a good excuse to visit a new country. On the other hand, they’re a terrible working environment and are often stressful. I mainly do conventions now to compete in the competitions. I think competition is good to push yourself further.
I do fewer guest spots now than a few years ago, simply because I’m traveling more so I don’t spend as much time in one place as I used to.
What is your waiting time?
Roughly a year, it depends a lot on what you want to get done and how big, though.
In one of the other interviews, You said ‘’my personality is quite opposite of what my art shows.”
Who is Jay Freestyle as an artist and when he is not tattooing? What else does he enjoy doing?
I’m adventurous, very open minded, willing/wanting to try anything and everything once. Travel is obviously something I enjoy, I want to see the world and experience new cultures. It doesn’t often show through on the surface since I’m incredibly introverted, soft-spoken, shy and don’t talk a lot. My collectors will probably tell you how during the session I’ll say nothing at all. Whereas my art is often very loud and bold. You can pick out one of my tattoos from a mile away but you’ll probably never pick me out of a crowd, I try not to stand out as a person but I want my art to stand out.
Art is everything to me, so when it comes to tattooing/painting I want the whole world to know about it. I keep to myself and let my art express who I am and do the talking since I’m better at visual communication than verbal. When I’m not tattooing/painting/drawing art will always have an influence in what I do.
In my personal life, I’m into shibari (Japanese rope bondage) which to me is just another art form but a less conventional one that many people may not understand. I don’t drink,smoke or do drugs. I’m not much for going out and partying if I do I mainly attend fetish parties because the crowd will generally be very open minded and less conservative.
I can’t stand people who look at life through blinders and are afraid to try new things. Which is why I love fetish parties because of the freedom of expression without judgement. It’s also a good source of inspiration for my art. I used to keep that side of me a secret but I’m enjoying how it’s opening me up as a person.
Life is so much more fun when you don’t give a shit what other people think of you.