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Insights — 2 weeks ago

Process: Jay Daniel Wright

One of 40+ contributing artists in our recent Berlin takeover, Nottingham born graphic artist and illustrator Jay Wright has spent the last six years making the city home.

 

Straight out of school Jay spent three years training as a carpenter with his father, before moving on to art school in Bristol and Berlin. He still uses these formative carpentry skills to explore work in 3D, and its influence reads in his illustrations. Trees and nature feature prominently, and he specialises in playful, slightly surreal characters, whose alternating rounded edges and sharp corners might have been carved from wood.

 

With an international list of clients that includes The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Die Zeit, Jay’s managed to carve out an enviable career while staying true to his style and roots. We caught up with him in his studio for a chat about his influences, inspiration, and plant collection.

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Jay Daniel Wight photographed by Ruth Bartlett
Jay Daniel Wright photographed by Ruth Bartlett

Studio

Since graduating in 2012 I have wanted to marry my carpentry background and my illustration practice, and for this, I needed a studio and workshop. Last year this became a reality and I’ve never been happier. Just five minutes walk from my house on the Landwehr Canal in Kreuzberg is our studio/workshop space, not only is it home to three other creatives but also to my collection of plants.

Jay Daniel Wight photographed by Ruth Bartlett
Jay Daniel Wright photographed by Ruth Bartlett

My plants are really important to me, I always joke and say that I don’t have any kids but my plants are my children. Growing things can be so rewarding and challenging, I think caring for plants can unlock a kind of patience locked somewhere inside all of us. Since moving to Berlin in 2014 I have collected, been gifted, lost, grown, bought, stolen and saved a lot. They represent different time periods in the last six years, acting as time capsules for memories that keep growing with me.

Jay Daniel Wight photographed by Ruth Bartlett
Jay Daniel Wright photographed by Ruth Bartlett

Shit that sounds so romantic and wanky haha.

Anyway, I like plants, yeah.

Clementine Hunter 

An outsider artist from Louisiana who worked a lot with her memory to recall scenes and depict them in her own way. She’s a huge influence on me as she used her painting as a way of documenting her life; working personally in this way is something I do and I respect it in other artists. The way she uses abstraction in her work, reducing things down to their simplest visual representation, is beautiful.

Clementine Hunter
Clementine Hunter

American folk art sculpture

I also make 3D objects, call it art or objects with a function. That aspect of my work is hugely influenced by the forms and the stories the folk artists of America seem to be able to create. Working ‘naively’ outside of the restrictions and influences of an art education, these artists make work mostly for practical purposes like signs, store-figures, weather vanes and toys for their children. I’d like to make more art like this, because it’s honest.

American Folk Art Sculpture
American Folk Art Sculpture

Frogs 

Two years ago I started doing a regular illustration in the German kids magazine Zeit Leo, and I chose to use a frog as the character. Devoid of gender and race, the frog quickly became a mascot in my work; the perfect vessel for telling stories.

Frogs by Jay Daniel Wright
Frogs by Jay Daniel Wright

Jiří Šalamoun 

A Czech graphic artist. He seems to be able to play with our conception of reality, creating his own absurd fantasy and showing you things in a way you’ve never seen them. He uses a dark and sometimes sarcastic humour that I definitely take things from.

Jiří Šalamoun
Jiří Šalamoun

Sad Club Records Tape 

I love working with Tallulah from Sad Club as she seems to trust me, and pretty much always likes the drawings I send her. Also with this project I was able to actually design the tape layout with type and image which is something I don’t get to do often, but it’s a nice challenge. Here is an example of the frogs in action, they’re perfect for conveying emotion. How can you not relate to a frog gently holding a flower in its damp little hands?

Sad Club Records
Sad Club Records

New Yorker Magazine spot illustrations 

A few weeks before getting this job I spotted a tiny plant growing out of the sink overflow hole in my bathroom – this gave me the idea for the concept. I was asked to create 8 images on the theme of Spring, so I went with spring cleaning, creating a narrative of a person cleaning their apartment, only to find flowers in the spots they cleaned. As the images were quite small in the magazine (around the size of a thumb), reducing the forms of the characters and scenes was essential.

Original artwork by Jay Daniel Wright
Original artwork by Jay Daniel Wright

 

 

Liked this? Check out Joy Miessi’s process

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