This week Brighton Journal spoke to Jason McQuillen, also known as the street artist I Own This Art. Jason describes his work as ‘big and bold, round, bouncy and fun, always fun.’ His work is constantly influenced by Brighton itself, inspired by the ‘non-permanent fixture the street gives.’ He’s the artist behind recognisable art across the city, including the design of one of the Brighton and Hove buses. Jason is currently creating originals on wood and print designs for the I Own This Art website. We discussed some of Jason’s most exciting projects, and how his work is frequently interlinked. Take a look.
What are you doing today?
Today my family and I will be walking the dog on the downs, doing a bit of creative fun with paints and some home school bits as we are in lockdown. I’ll sneak a few pencil drawings in a small book over the day if I have any ideas. But mainly getting the fam out in fresh air.
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
In my head! The ideas and almost creating of ideas happens at home or in the very back of my head. I do really enjoy a late night when everyone in my house is asleep and I’m up scribbling and watching horror films. I just got an iPad, I’m still pretty old school, but getting into the digital world slowly.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?
I’m truly fortunate to have worked in some very exciting places such as Quakecon and live events, festivals like Glasto and End of the Road and of course competitions are always exciting. But best of all are the wall murals I’ve done for my children as I get to see them enjoy them over and over.
What made you decide to become an artist?
I always enjoyed drawing and when I was very little, I was lucky enough to win a few drawing competitions, one where we drew our dream playground and then the company made the playground. That was when it hit me that drawing can be a job, and then comics hit me hard in my teens – the imagery was hard hitting. I was forever noticing art where it shouldn’t be, on the street and the walls around town. That all made me know I wanted to do the same.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment personally I’m trying to draw with the kids as much as possible. My daughter likes a big chunk of chalk and a blackboard. Work wise I’ve been making some originals on wood and some print designs to put on the website. The new website is still a wip, working on trying to get it live. Lockdown has kinda diminished the mural work for a while.
What are the key themes in your work?
My key themes are big & bold, round, bouncy and fun, always fun. There are key images I like to include such clouds, pyramids and a lot of linear foreground background patterns. I like the symbolism. Together it sort of follows my rules for practical applications.
What would you like people to notice about your work?
My work is linked to other work. If you’ve found a piece of my art, it’s probably near to or linked to something very close. Be it a secret wall in a pub or a shop front, or a themed bus or even a sticker that will catch your eye. It’s always near something new to see just around the corner…
What attracts you to the medium you work in?
I love using a special ink that I can fill many different tools with… big and small pens with various nibs, brushes, even sprayed out of a water gun. My ink is non buffable, so it drys instantly and is incredibly permanent. It’s fun, and although I work neatly, there is alway the excitement of a drip or some unforeseen happy accident.
What equipment could you not do without?
I always need multiples of the same pens and nibs and a supply of ink… a pencil or chalk and an eraser are still priceless to me. And I love painting with spray cans when I can.
Who or what inspires you?
I was always inspired by the city. I’ve lived in Brighton my whole life and seen so many things come and go, or seen a painting I’ve loved disappear or be replaced by something new. I like that non-permanent fixture the street gives. As well as local inspiration, I was always inspired by skate culture, including music and art. People wise I like Keith Haring, Basquiat, and the NY York club scene. And mostly friends and peers I’ve gotten to draw with over the years like Richie Phoe, Unknown and Will Blood.
How is your work affected by living in this area?
A lot – as I said having lived here all my life, it’s been a massive input to who I am, being literally the same streets and areas I’ve walked down for 35 years now. They’ve shaped me and I’ve had my chance to add to them. Literally shaped my own environment.
What’s your favourite thing to do locally?
I love the woods near me and the downs. If I can I like to head out for a walk in the woods every day.
What’s your favourite gallery (or place to see/experience art)?
I really like Conclave, I think it has a good representation of local artists, always has some beautiful pieces in and is affordable. And dynamite gallery exhibited my work for a while, and I’ve had some lovely shows and evenings down there when the experience of working as an artist was still very new. Studio45 in the Open Market is rad too.
If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?
I’d love to have lived or worked with da Vinci or some of the artists that decorated ancient Egyptians tombs. Something that would be a real learning curve. Failing that I’d have loved to see the people marking caves, to see people making the first images we recognise would be a real treat.
What’s your favourite colour?
Pink is winning today.