I met Jake in NY last summer at Alex Grey’s visionary art intensive at the Omega Institute. It was his first year in the class, but without a doubt he was a shining star and caught my attention. I got a chance to ask him some questions about his work, check it.
How old are you, where are you from, and how long have you been painting?
Well… I’m not quite sure how long I’ve been around here or where exactly I come from, but I was born in San Francisco and the clock rates me in at 19 rotations around the sun. I believe I started to paint in either pre-school or elementary school, but may have dabbled with fingerpaint before then. I was about 12 when I learned what a light source was and that is when the journey truly began.
What made you look at art, and decide you wanted to spend serious amounts of energy and time working towards it?
I began to investigate art seriously as a career choice when I was about 13. In all honesty, art is something that I have always seen myself doing, with unwavering faith. It feels not like a choice but rather a calling or like some pre-determined thing of which I have no say over. It’s been my life
for as long as I can remember. I can’t put a word to that which drives me to create and learn and practice but it’s apparently insatiable. It’s not a grim duty or a thing that I do begrudgingly. It’s just what I do.
Biggest influences in painting?
I have influences from visual artists all over the map. The visionary artists and fantastic realists, for example, including Zdzislaw Beksinski, Robert Venosa, Ernst Fuchs, Andrew Jones, and Amanda Sage have been a big influence on me. I also love a great deal of different artists throughout history such as Klimt, Odilon Redon, Velazquez, John Singer Sargent, Van Eyck, and many others. The Furtherrr guys have a damn nice understanding of how to organize visual complexity. I also look at a lot of illustrators such as James Jean, Aaron Horkey, and Harry Clarke. Odd Nerdrum is perhaps my favorite living painter.
As for the sheer intention of their work, besides the majority of the visionary artists, I find Alex Grey and William Blake to be extraordinarily inspiring. Both artists believe that making art is not just a superficial act of craft, but rather a spiritual practice. “William Blake held that the way to truth and higher consciousness was through the contemplation of art. He proposed that by immersing oneself in art, a person could experience it not just as an aesthetic but more akin to the meditative exercise a mystic performs in preparation for achieving a higher state of spiritual enlightenment.” Far out.
Besides other artists, I take a great deal of inspiration from the world around me. I’m absolutely baffled by the complexity of visual information that our brains interpret at any given moment. The thought of trying to replicate that in a painting terrifies me, frankly. But it’s also very inspiring. I often find myself referencing patterns from rugs, or clothing, or architectural designs that I see in my daily life. I find inspiration in a particularly interesting scattering of shadow on the wall next to a tree, or a stimulating conversation that pushes a concept in new directions that I may later toy with.
I also have taken a great deal of inspiration from entheogens and mystical/transcendent states of consciousness, which have provided me a lot of visual fodder to play around with. I think the entheogens have altered my perception in a way that has profoundly effected my creative process, albiet on a mostly subconscious level.
Is art a career or just for fun?
I would say that I am very seriously inclined towards making art my occupation and building a career (whatever that means) around it, but I think it is quite fun as well. Art fulfills many roles for me. It is a form of meditation, a vehicle for catharsis, a way of tapping into the collective unconscious and channeling energy from the universe; it is a hobby, an obsession, an occupation, an obligation, a never ending quest for knowledge, a craft to practice; it is a way of generating income, a way of sustaining my life; sometimes it’s just something to do for fun.
I notice you use digital programs in some of your work, do you like working this way, do you credit them less worthy of say, a hand painted piece?
I love working digitally because it is the medium I am most fluent and as such I can communicate my vision with the least amount of effort. I don’t like it because it strains my eyes, and the brightness of my computer monitor often gives me a headache.
As for whether or not I consider it less worthy than a piece using traditional media, absolutely not. It’s a very common misconception, but I produce digital paintings
, not computer-generated imagery. The way I paint on the computer is not too different from the way I paint in acrylic or oil. I use a pen and tablet that allows me to apply strokes of color the same way I would with a paint brush and paint. The only difference is that instead of a physical paint brush and paint, it is simulated. People don’t know this, which is why often when I perform digital live painting, people come up to me and exclaim “I had no idea you could do this on a computer! You’re actually painting!” I think there’s a level of ignorance in the general public that makes people think that digital art means photo manipulation or computer generated imagery. This is not the case with my work.
I make art with basically every medium: oil, acrylic, digital, pen/ink, graphite, charcoal, etchings, watercolors, airbrush, etc, etc, etc… The medium should be secondary to the content.
Do you like to work in the day time or the night time?
Both, though the real work tends to get done after the sun has set.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
One thing is certain is that I will never stop producing artwork. I have certain dreams that I like to entertain, such as being a sort of psychedelic troubadour who travels the world to different festivals and entertains crowds of altered onlookers by painting portraits of beautiful women and visionary in-scapes in a live painting context. That’s the adventurous side of myself that sometimes rears it’s head. The other part of me wants to lock myself in a studio somewhere, where I’ll work obsessively on my artifacts, only to exit the studio when it’s time to deliver to a gallery or to grab some thai food. That’s the anti-social side.
I do have a good idea of where I want to take my work, technically, however. I want to try to push the complexity of my pieces. I want to see just how much information I can cram onto the surface. I also need to revisit the fundamentals and work to refine my painting technique. Right now I’m more interested in working traditionally than digitally. The reason is that it requires more labor and is usually more rewarding in the end. You also have an authentic art-object that it is imbued with the personal energy of the creator. Also I’ve got the visionary thing, the graphic design thing, the pen/ink illustration thing, and the oil painting thing. They all look very distinct from each other. I want to somehow try to hybridize my work so it encompasses everything I do.
The most important thing, though, is that I want to effect the world in a positive way. Just creating beautiful things may be enough, in this case, but I try to set my intentions towards helping people heal themselves and to grow through their reflections on my artwork. I have some friends, such as David Choong Lee, and Akira Beard, both astounding artists, who have deeply inspired me by being extraordinarily generous in donating their work and using it to help other people. Akira Beard is a saint. I talk a big game. It’d be better if I just painted.
If you had to pick one artist alive or dead to eat lunch with who would it be?
I would say Alex Grey, but fortunately I have eaten lunch with him! Otherwise, William Blake. It would be beautiful to hold conversation with him.
Any current or upcoming shows?
Not at the moment. Soon though… /optimism/
Thank you’s and shoutouts?
I’d like to give a shout out to my parents… because I’m sure they’ll be reading this. To everyone who has supported me, I love you all… And if you haven’t supported me, I love you anyway… And to those of you who do me the greatest services in my artistic progress by being unabashedly harsh and critically honest, I love you even more.