MEET JAZZ WADE: THE ABSTRACT ILLUSTRATOR 

After dropping out of university and putting the pen down for a couple years, the artistic spark that once was is now back in full flare. On a cold, February evening, I visited Jazz Wade at his humble abode and caught up with him about his illustration style and turning a creative hobby into a commercial activity. 

Taking into account the bizarreness and the abstract nature of Jazz’s artwork, I was excited to embark into his household to understand the setting in which his craft is undertaken. We greet with a fist bump and as I wonder through his living room, the range of animal skulls that covered the walls certainly matched the work I have previously seen: the house decor and Jazz’s illustrations go hand-in-hand. 

 We walked upstairs and entered his workspace/bedroom, noticing the skateboard decks and snippets of his artworks splatted across the walls. Following Jazz’s time at university and a brief period of no drawing at all, his focus swiftly came back and he is now focussing on the commercialisation of his artwork: “In the last two or so years I had the drive to do it again, and then I kinda looked more into how Instagram and things like that had helped people get their stuff seen, and then I was just like might as well just try and do it, just build it up from there.

“It was like a couple drawings on Instagram and then eventually it ended up being something that’s a bit more freelance, it’s just about getting the drive back I think, from not really liking it.”

   I was taken back a little bit when I realised he didn't even have a desk in his room, resulting in all his work being drawn or painted on his bed. 

Jazz’s work can range from water colours to intricate, fine line pens, making his style rather difficult to pin down: “I’ve kinda got certain styles that I like to do and there’s certain media that I like to use. I really like black pen, just black and white, really detailed drawings and I did that for a long time. I really like sort of mark making techniques and just kinda building up repetitive patterns, but in the last few months or so I've really been interested in using more colour and a lot more, sort of, bolder simpler stuff.” His art is constantly varying as he tries out different medias, “I’m always experimenting with different paint, different media, different pens, all sorts. It only takes one thing I can see on the internet or something and I’ll try that, it’s forever changing really.”

   With Jazz being a keen skateboarder and being involved in the Midlands skate scene, his measure of success varies from the typical and ventures into the skateboarding industry: “I think a lot of it is influenced from skate graphics, that is for sure the main thing I think. It’s like some people want a gallery space, with big canvas and everything. To see my drawing on a board is like the end goal, that is all I really would want.”

   This humble aspiration has become a reality with Jazz designing the graphic for Forde Brookfield’s board on Shithouse Skateboards: “He’s made them now, they can be bought and everything. I mean the brand’s not huge but I think the area where they are based is pretty mad on them.” Opportunities like these arise from potluck, “I’ll put something on Instagram, then if you do something that somebody likes, it kinda does a chain reaction sort of thing. I’ll do something and then maybe someone will be interested in something and then it kinda goes from there, it’s quite literally just luck. I find it that in the past year or so it’s really just been about right place and the right time sorta thing.”

   The world of skateboarding and the artistry of illustration go hand in hand, with many skate brands demonstrating innovative graphics and styles. Jazz’s main inspirations derive from that industry also: “The skate brands and stuff that I'm really into, like pro skaters who also do their own brand, things like Toy Machine and Ed Templeton and Mark Gonzalez with Krooked, they’re definitely ones that I’ve really thought a lot about since I was like a kid. Then I think just like other brands such as Polar and Jacob Ovgren who does the Polar graphics as well, I love his work and everything. I think just looking at skate graphics, there’s so many out there and I'm not like a massive fan of digital stuff on boards. I like it when it’s painted, like hand painted and stuff, but that’s definitely an influence for sure. It’s like part of the culture really isn't it.” Despite this he still finds influences from a more conventional background of art. “But then there’s also more traditional painters like Egon Shelay, I just pick different parts of different artists. There’s an artist called Tynan Kerr who I really like, and I think he’s my favourite artist out of everyone, just the colours he uses and his media and I think how his stuff looks and the patterns he uses. You look at the paintings he does and they look like they’d take for days, they’re incredible.”

  Residing in Leicester, Jazz spoke about the city’s scene for art and the creative spark that is happening right now: “I think it’s definitely grown recently. I think places like LCB and the art district around that area, they’re really focusing on broadcasting people that are coming up. Especially with graffiti I think, that side of art is definitely really good here.  

“I know a handful of people that are full time artists here, they're a lot older than me but I can see that they feed off of the energy that Leicester has for art.”

  Jazz’s illustrations feel fluently articulated, as if each line knows where to go and at natural succession. Illustrating comes as a therapeutic practice for him: “It’s kinda like a therapeutic thing really, some people will wake up in the morning and run like 10 miles and that’s their buzz. For me it’s - skating is definitely my main buzz - but art is something that,” he paused for a moment. “It’s more recently because a lot of the time, like for a couple years, I didn’t do any drawing at all but in the last couple years it’s been a proper focus point.” The intricate detailing involved acts as a some-what soothing remedy for his head. “The painstakingly doing little details and that kinda thing, it almost settles my brain. People give off steam you know, I give off steam by sitting down and doing a painting for four hours.”

   We finished the interview on the worries and doubts that you face as an artist, and how his short stay at university in Bristol gave him that reassurance to pursue his art further: “I think it is overcoming the, what’s the point of it all sorta thing, and not taking it seriously but its kinda like, it’s hard because people are like, why do you go to uni to do art and that’s just such a doss of a subject. But when you realise that everything around you is designed or drawn, and I think that’s the idea of taking it seriously you know, I could do art, cos for ages I didn't have that confidence. When I went to uni, the stuff I was doing there just wasn’t what I wanted to do at all, I just wanted to draw funny faces you know, things that make me laugh and stuff.”

   You can catch Jazz’s illustrations on the clothing line for Bristol-based brand Dogs in Paradise, on the decks of Honest Skateboards and album/CD illustrations from local bands in Leicester.

Matt Knight

February 23rd 2019

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