Anyone that has spent time in London, and more specifically, Southbank, has most likely crossed paths with Jeremy Jones.
When he’s not skating the undercroft in an undeniably unique fashion, he’s there, can of spray paint in hand, with an idea for a piece fixed firmly in his mind. He is equally dedicated to his art as he is to his skating; he’s just as willing to layer up in the dead of winter and hit the streets as he is putting hours, sometimes days, into a painting. When I called him up for this interview, he was sitting on the banks of the Thames in idyllic Richmond, not far from his Twickenham-based home. A true gentleman, read on to learn more about his art, current video projects, and plans for the future.
As we approach summer 2021, where is the Big Smoke at in terms of COVID-19?
Lots of sunshine. London’s been busy; there are loads of people out. Most people have been vaccinated. There are a lot more elderly people out walking around, which is nice to see. It feels normal, in a way. You are allowed to be in groups of up to 30. I rarely chill with more people than that, I don’t have 30 friends [laughs].
Being born to creative parents—a comedian for a father and an illustrator for a mother—I’m sure that you never lacked inspiration growing up. When did your journey as an artist begin?
I guess the first stuff was copying, or making up, skate graphics. I would pretend like I was asked to do a graphic for a brand. I think skating at Southbank and seeing people painting the walls and the pillars had an influence as well. When I was younger I did a lot of griptape art. There was a Habitat Skateboards demo at Bay 66 Skatepark that I went to. [At the time] I had done a Habitat logo on my grip. Ed Selego was giving out a board, and he gave it to me because he saw my grip and liked it.
Who are some of your artistic influences? Have you been influenced by other skaters who make art?
Yeah, definitely. A big influence for me was a book I got given around the time I started skating, called Concrete to Canvas, by Jo Waterhouse, about skaters who made art. It had people like Vaughan Baker, Mark “Fos” Foster, David Earl Dixon, and Bobby Puleo, to name a few. I studied every detail in that book and it inspired me to try out those sorts of styles.
What are the different mediums you use and do you have a preference? Care to expand on your process?
My favourite mediums to use at the moment are acrylic paint pens and spray paint on canvas boards. I usually layer up with spray varnish as I go along, which sort of saves the progress. During the first lockdown, I got into watercolour painting which was nice for a change but found myself drifting back to my trusty paint pens and cans.
Tell me more about your graffiti workshop gig you have.
The workshops are now picking up again. I really enjoy them because it’s a little bit outside of my comfort zone. I have to do a little bit of public speaking at the beginning by giving a demonstration to the group. I’ve done it over a hundred times now, though, so it’s become second nature.
You work with both adults and kids, right?
Most of the time it’s adults; we do corporate parties where they’ll come get drunk, eat pizza, and start spray painting the walls. We’ll do small canvases, where they do a stencil and take it home with them. Or we do a big piece together for their office. It can be really stressful but rewarding when they have a good time—especially the kids.
The kids are the hardest to work with, but when everything goes well, it’s the best because they let you know exactly how they feel. If they like the art they have done, they’ll jump around and do a little dance. I’ve got one this weekend. A kid’s birthday party; 16 screaming children with spray cans and scalpels running around [laughs]. The gallery is in a nice part of town, Portobello Road.
What have you been working on more recently, in terms of some of the cartoon-style pieces?
For me, it’s a way to practise painting as well. I don’t usually paint realistic scenes. It’s a nice change to paint a landscape, or a train scene, for example. Now, when I’m walking around, I’m noticing things: ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a character in this scene?’
I remember that most of your work is done on small and medium-sized canvases, but now you are doing prints as well?
Yeah, I’m doing them as unlimited prints. Why just do one painting and then it’s gone forever? I’m selling them cheaper so that all my friends can afford them. I’m releasing some more ‘luxury’ paintings in the future.
How do you find the balance between painting and skating?
They both hype each other up. The moments when I’m skating the most are the times when I’m painting the most. If I am not feeling creative artistically, I don’t feel as enthusiastic to go out on the board. It’s ups and downs. This week has been a good week; I’ve been skating every day.
Any run-ins with the law when painting around London?
No comment, officer [laughs].
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By the way, congratulations on being officially introduced to Magenta Skateboards. I saw that you had your welcome ad in Grey.
I didn’t even know it was going to come out. So that was quite nice, having it be a surprise. I knew that I might have a photo in that issue, but I didn’t realise it was going to be an advert. It was cool seeing the Magenta logo there.
So you are working on a new video part then?
Yeah, I am working on something with Hold Tight Henry [Edwards-Wood]. We are trying to get something going with Glen Fox; a joint two-part video. I’ve been quite busy, so it’s coming along slowly but surely. I’ve got some stuff that I’m stoked on so far.
What are some of your goals in terms of your art, moving forward?
I want to just keep trying out new ideas and exercising my imagination. Work on some projects that are slightly out of my depth so I can learn from them. Perhaps develop more of a unique illustrative style that I can separate from my painting style.
What words of advice would you give to the kiddos out there, in terms of pursuing art?
Keep churning it out. Don’t be precious with your materials. A lot of people will buy a canvas and then never end up using it because they think they might ‘ruin’ it. Don’t hold back. If you are thinking you want to buy some pens or paint, just buy them. Then use them—you won’t regret it.
[Audible splashing in the background]
Whoa! A heron just caught a fish!
Nature man, we’re out here [laughs].