Jay Wright is an adventuring illustrator, a travelling image-maker who’s prepared to embrace the open road in search of the perfect creative environment. While studying he spent time in Austria and Germany on both artists’ residencies and on exchange programmes, but following graduation grounded himself in Bristol to slavishly pursue his freelance illustration dreams, gaingin work from a phenomenal number of editorial clients. But he’s recently upped-sticks and left for Berlin, trading the West Country for the old East in a move designed to give his career, and his bank balance, a kick up the backside.
Jay’s work is frivolous and fun, an exciting collection of joyful (if slightly shifty-looking) characters, engaged in all manner of strange activities. But it’s not all fun and games, Jay’s more than capable of turning his hand to serious editorial work when the brief demands it. Here’s what he has to say for himself…
Where do you work?
Well, for the past two years since graduating I have had a studio above a central heating shop in Bristol. Unfortunately it came to an end last week as I moved to Berlin. I moved here with two friends of mine, and we decided to save money and work from home.
Ask anyone living here and they’ll tell you how difficult it is finding a place to live and work in Berlin. After just a short two days we ended up finding a flat with a huge living room that is perfect for a studio. It’s unfurnished so I don’t even have a real desk yet. I feel so lucky to be back here actually working freelance, as I studied for one semester at the Üniversität Der Kunste Berlin three years ago.
This year I also spent two months working in an amazing studio on the top floor of a refurbished 16th Century salt storage building. It was a studio I was given while doing an artist residency in Linz, Austria. It was cool to be out of my usual space but have the facilities and comfort to make some larger sculptural work.
How does your working day start?
My day always starts later than I intend, which is something I’m working on now I’m here. But I usually burn to the studio on my bike and stop by the bakery and get three pastries. They do a sweet three-for-two-pounds deal! I try not to drink too much tea in the morning as it makes me pee abnormal amounts. I hate the fact that I’m allergic to coffee because it smells so nice and it’s a huge part of most people’s mornings.
I get into the studio around 10am. Most days I actually just sit, eat, check my emails and go on the internet. In a strange way, sitting on the internet and eating is a morning treat. After that, and if I manage to resist the mounting number of procrastination opportunities (the biggest being food) I get some work done.
How do you work and how has that changed?
I think when I graduated I thought and worked like an illustrator who enjoyed narrative. But I have been slowly feeling strange calling myself an illustrator. Like a lot of other illustrators working now, they don’t just do editorials and illustrate children’s books. So many people like myself are painting, working with wood and other 3D materials, tackling design, sculpture and even fashion. I’m not sure if it even matters but there seems to be a gap in the creative job titles list for artists that approach things from an illustration perspective.
Like a lot of people I get bored doing the same thing. It’s great to be able to make work for different contexts, out of different materials and approaches. I was a carpenter for three years with my dad before going to art school, so I want to make tons more 3D work out of wood. Why just make drawings when there are loads of other exciting mediums to display your ideas?
Where would we find you when you’re not at work?
Going for a skate with my homie Jamie Jones or playing ping-pong. I have been working really hard for the past two years but also travelling quite a lot. Last summer I went to NY, Canada and also went on an amazing cycling trip from Bristol to Berlin with five friends. I love working in my studio but it’s so important to your practice to get the hell out every once in a while.
Although I have a pretty good work ethic when I’m not there I get paranoid I’m not working hard enough. I’m obsessed with the idea that I’m on a sort of creative treadmill and if I step off it’s just left spinning there all on its own. Unlike most of the illustrators I know, I don’t have an iPhone. It’s cool not being connected to my emails 24 hours a day. But after recently missing a few jobs including two New York Times editorials, it might be a good idea join the iPhone crew.
Would you intern for yourself?
Probably yes. If I interned for myself I would buy me a ton of tasty snacks and drinks. Plus you could just chill out, do some drawing, play ping-pong or go skating. I don’t know, I suppose interns help with some of the boring jobs. But I don’t really have any, apart from waiting for the scanner.