Pulling inspiration from the human body, Jay Freestyle finds balance through technical execution and creative thinking aspects of his craft. He thrives on being able to inspire others and values respect among his peers with abstract realism designs. I think it’s safe to say, we can count on Jay to continue pushing tattoo boundaries and create art that nobody has ever seen, or imagined on skin before.
Infinite Lines & Freestyle Surrealism
What was it like growing up in South Africa and transitioning to Amsterdam.
South Africa is a beautiful place, lots of nature, big open spaces, great weather. It’s a third world country so there is a lot of poverty, lack of education, and corruption. Amsterdam is almost the complete opposite, it’s tiny, weather sucks, no nature, first world country, more liberal. Growing up in South Africa I was brought up very conservative, oddly enough my education was taught at a much higher level than in Amsterdam which I thought was strange. You wouldn’t think that would be the case. The transition made me feel like life was going in reverse. I went from a big house to a tiny apartment, nice sunny weather to everyday rain. High education school to low education. Friendly South Africans to grumpy dutch. Not all was bad though, the conservative to liberal was a welcomed change. It opened my mind a lot more to what’s out there in the world. Amsterdam is a place with a better future for both careers as well as a general living.
What where some of your biggest challenges when you got to Amsterdam?
Naturalization sucked. Having to go through all the paperwork for residency and visas. The culture shock was a big thing. It was the first time for me experiencing it. Nowadays with the amount I travel, everything seems normal. Learning the language was a pain. Till this day I’m still not used to the weather… I still hate the rain. I was used to wide-open spaces and nature everywhere you go. That is still something I miss dearly. It’s a different life living in a concrete city that’s not even a tenth of the size of where I came from.
How did you overcome those challenges and grow from them?
The same way as I get through any challenge I guess. Just look towards an end goal and focus on a solution rather than the problem at hand. I have learned to enjoy having obstacles in life because overcoming those is what makes me grow and learn to appreciate things more.
Who are your heroes?
What pushes you forward every day?
I have many goals that keep me pushing forward every day. I want to be one of the best tattoo artists out there. To be able to inspire and hold respect amongst my peers. To continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible on the skin and come up with new inventive ways to create art that people have never seen on skin before. I’m the type of person who is never satisfied, so I will always want more. That is also a huge part of what drives me forward.
You seem to gravitate towards a unique anatomical abstract realism approach in your artwork. Do you think we are defined by our perceptions and how we communicate in the world?
I’m not too sure I understand the question but I’ll try to answer it as I understand it. I think today’s society has a warped perception of reality because everything nowadays is manipulated and corrupted. T.V, the news, and social media has us believing that what they broadcast is a reality because what we see is naturally what we believe. That’s why realism as an art form, is the easiest way to communicate with because it’s the least intellectual. What you see is what you get and therefore understand. Realism to me is the dumbest form of art because it requires no thinking, it’s majority is all technical application. It, therefore, speaks to the largest group of people. Abstraction causes you to think because the brain can’t recognize immediately what it is that it’s looking at, therefore it speaks to a smaller group of people as opposed to realism. So when communicating, the majority of people will believe realism over abstraction because they don’t need to understand it. The more realistic it looks the more they’re impressed. Whereas with abstraction, the more abstract something is the fewer people will understand it.
What defines you as an artist and how does it translate into your artwork?
Freestyle surrealism. I like creating art spontaneously, trusting my gut feeling and instinct, and then translating that into something that is visually compelling. Using realistic elements and combining them with abstract ones, allows me to grow more as a person as well as an artist. As I said in the previous question I think abstraction is important to train yourself to think more and look beyond just what you see. I still enjoy realistic elements as well, to train the technical side. I like to create a balance between technical execution and creative thinking. Having both good technical execution and creative designs are what makes me an artist.
You recently participated in The Kaos Theory Project at NR Studios in London. Do you find it difficult to collaborate with other artists? Were there any specific obstacles or challenges in this project?
I don’t find it that difficult to collaborate with others. Maybe because my style encompasses so many elements I’m used to tattooing almost any kind of style, so it’s very easy for me to adapt. I don’t really ever feel like I’m outside of my comfort zone as some of the others were. I’m not a very verbal person. I have trouble communicating with people in general. That was a small challenge because both artists need to be on the same page when creating a collaboration piece. Other than that it was more just physical challenges for both artists and collectors. There where extremely long days of work for us and for the collector, double the amount of pain.
We love the collaboration sleeve you did Ryan Smith. He is such an amazing guy and an artist. Can you talk us through the creative process and how you decided on each element of the artwork from beginning to end – including your infinite line.
We work very similarly to each other. We get inspired by the shape of the human body and construct the design to enhance it. Our collector’s arm was unusually very straight and almost the same thickness throughout the whole arm which inspired us to create a piece that enhanced the fact that it was so straight. We started with creating an optic illusion on the outer part of the arm by drawing two straight vertical lines down it which would be filled in and leave a negative skin gap so that her arm would have an hourglass shape. Once we had the two lines on, we were thinking of what to put on the hand and I jokingly was like, what if we just run the line through the fingers and make one continues line? That escalated into reality as we all loved the idea and the concept of the line cutting her arm in half. Once the outlines were put in, we added to the piece section by section slowly filling in the shapes and looking at what would look best to fill in space with and maintain the optic illusion.
What was said after the session between you, Ryan and the client? “…”
Fuck yeah, this is awesome. Let’s run a line through your toes and up the leg lol