Give me a piece of your skin & I'll give you a part of my soul.
Growing up in South Africa and moving to Amsterdam ignited Jay Freestyle’s passion and artistic mind. His versatility is clearly displayed through his abstract realism style of tattooing. Pulling inspiration from the human body, this artist creates his striking pieces by striving to create balance between the technical execution and creative thinking aspects of his craft. He thrives on being able to inspire others and values respect among his peers. I think it’s safe to say, we can count on Jay to continue pushing tattoo boundaries to create art that nobody has ever seen, or imagined on skin before.
“Creativity is the ability to transform the mundane into something exceptional. To me it’s thinking outside of the box and stretching my limits to constantly grow and develop myself. I like to innovate and stay ahead of the game because one of the most satisfying things as an artist is to be able to inspire others.” – Jay Freestyle
What was it like growing up in South Africa then 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, 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 then 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 a 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 career as well as general living.
What where some of your biggest challenges when you got to Amsterdam?
Naturalisation sucked, dealing with residency and visa’s. 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 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 over come those challenges and grow from them?
The same way as I get though any challenge I guess, just look towards an end goal and focus on a solution rather then the problem at hand. I have learned to enjoy having obstacles in life because overcoming those are what makes me grow and learn to appreciate things more.
Who is your hero?
Jack Ma, Elon Musk
What pushes you forward everyday?
I have many goals that keep me pushing forward everyday. I want to be one 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 and that is also a huge part of what drives me forward.
You seem to gravitate toards a unique Abstract Realism approach in your artwork. Do you think we are defined by our perception of reality and how we communicate?
I’m not too sure I understand the question but I’ll try answer it as I understand it. I think society of today 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 broadcasted is 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/understand. Realism to me is the dumbest form of art because it requires no thinking, it’s majority all technical application. It therefore speaks to the largest group of people. Abstraction causes you think because the brain can’t recognise immediately what it is that it’s looking at, therefore it speaks to a smaller group of people as apposed 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. Where as with abstraction, the more abstract something is the less 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/instinct and 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 because 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 but I enjoy realistic elements as well to train the technical side to create balance between the technical execution and creative thinking. Having both good technical execution and creative designs are what makes me as an artist.
You recently participated in The Kaos Theory Project at NR Studios in London. It is always difficult to collaborate with the minds of others. Were there any specific obstacles or challenges in this project?
I don’t find it that difficult collaborating 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 other’s where. For me because I’m not a very verbal person, I have trouble communicating with people in general, so that was a small challenge because both artists need to be on the same page when creating a collaboration piece. Other then that it was more just physical challenges for both artist’s and collector, there where extremely long days of work for us and for the collector’s double the amount of pain.
We love the collaboration sleeve you did Ryan Smith. He is such an amazing guy and 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 similar 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 through out the whole arm which inspired us to create piece which enhanced the fact that it was so straight. We started with creating an optic illusion on the outer part of the arm by drawing 2 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 2 lines on we where 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 just the concept of the line cutting her arm in half. Once the outlines where 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 the 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