Do you remember the first time you fell in love with art?
Ever since I was a little guy, I’ve loved making messes, coloring and doodling. At that age you don’t care about getting things right, whether your art looks good or not, and certainly not whether it generates income to pay the bills. Back then, creativity just felt inexplicably right in the moment and driven by curiosity.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I remember hearing the expression “starving artist” when I was young, and it will stay with me for the rest of my life. I had the idea that artists lived lives of financial problems and the few we read about in the history books found recognition long after they died.
As a child, I believed with all my heart that I would never pursue a creative profession. That hasn’t stopped me from spending countless hours drawing, painting, screwing things up and learning about the graffiti counterculture. I have never done anything to make money or to be considered an artist. I was just having fun.
After some graffiti mischief, I started learning about branding agencies and the advertising industry. I quickly learned that creative people can make serious money from their craft. The act of creating that has brought me so much joy and perhaps some difficulty over the years turned out to have the potential to become a career. So I ran with it.
I am grateful that things happened in this order. Turning a passion into a career and a way of life hasn’t been easy, but it’s even harder to find passion in a career chosen for money and retiring as the ultimate goal.
When did you start graffiti? What originally brought you into this world?
oh brother I was asked this question and I continue to ask myself this question, especially since I grew up with a police officer father. It’s very hard to justify risking my life to write on a billboard, arguing with other graffiti writers for missing my tags, and constantly risking going to jail just for a lead to leave. The best answer I can think of is curiosity.
When I went to elementary school with my mother, I noticed stickers on newsstands and tags on walls. I wondered what the tags said, who did it, why they did it, and how they did it. As a kid, I spent countless hours reading books about graffiti, replicating tags I saw around town, and going to great lengths to document graffiti in places and neighborhoods a child shouldn’t visit. I have graffiti to thank for helping to fulfill my passion for creativity.
What fascinates you so much about roses?
Well, I love red and my mom had rose bushes in the backyard growing up, so maybe that played a subliminal role in the appeal. But to be honest, I never intended to draw that many. I’ll say it made me appreciate her a lot more.
They’ve got those beautifully flashy red pedals that catch your eye and a thorn-covered stem. The contrast in something so beautiful and has the ability to ruin your day when you grab it is mesmerizing. Plus, they’re just fun to draw. They can bend and transform into pretty damn near any space.
Talk to us about your use of strong, bold lines. When did you realize that you wanted to specialize in this?
The bold lines are definitely influenced by my graphic design roots, traditional American tattoos and graffiti. Design taught me to practice simplicity; There is an old tattoo that says “fat keeps”. Catching massive tags with thick caps and markers has always been the most satisfying.
Tell us about your connection to traditional tattoo imagery throughout your art?
I’ve always been a fan of tattoos and the people within the culture, but never thought I’d have one. Then I got one. From there it was all downhill.
I’m lucky enough to travel a lot and meet world famous tattoo artists. I do my best to be distinguished in every new place I visit or live. I can look at each tattoo and reminisce about the day and the conversations that went on while I got them. It was only natural that iconography from classic tattoo flash found its way into my work. Daggers, roses, skulls, all that stuff is just fun to draw.
How many places do you think you’ve tagged “JB was here”?
dozens? hundreds? call my lawyer [laughs].