We extend our gratitude to JW for setting aside the time to share his insights with us in the midst of what he’s gone through. JW our thoughts are with you and we hope your art continues to reach and move those around you. Make sure to keep up with JW on Instagram.
We know your upbringing and growing up in a heavily artistic family was instrumental in your development as an artist. Has this also worked its way into your style and thought processes as an artist?
It truly has. As you’ve mentioned I come from an extremely talented family and I’m really just playing catch up. All of the children in my family were lucky to receive a Waldorf education from Pine Hill in Wilton New Hampshire. That system of education places a massive emphasis on every manner of the arts as a teaching tool for greater concepts. For example we were learning geometry via basket weaving techniques as early as the third grade, and writing and presenting thesis papers by grade eight. When we moved from New England to Vancouver Canada I continued this line of education through high school via the Vancouver Waldorf School. Whether we acknowledge it or not all of our pursuits and the way we interpret life in general have been shaped by this system. Artistic interests being no different of course. I will forever be grateful to my parents for that gift.
What inspires you as an artist?
I’m inspired by any effort of expression by professional or hobbyist. My largest inspirations in artistic life are people such as Stanley Kubrick or Nikola Tesla. I enjoy layered work with a multitude of meanings leading generally to one truth. I love Kubricks movies for this and truly enjoy Teslas Vortex Math concepts for similar reasons. Within painting I’ve always looked up to the greats such as Tristan Eaton, David Choe, or Marcus McLeod and drawn inspiration from their works.
From blank canvas to finished product, is there a method to your madness? What is it?
The method is to prepare as much as possible first to make sure I’m not searching for something while I’m in the swing of things. It’s called mis en place in the bar industry. It followed me to art and has been tremendously helpful. From there I will draw my image on to the canvas. Once that’s done I will usually make a coffee and reassess the proportions of said drawing etc. From there it’s go time. I set up the camera and try to get the painting done from start to finish in one shot.
From the outside looking in, for someone who’s unfamiliar with your work and style, what’s something that one might easily miss about your paintings?
As I mentioned above I’m a massive fan of hidden concepts as well as vortex math so I hide a lot of these concepts within each painting. If you have no understanding of this reality it easily slips past, but those who do catch it will often slide into my DMs with excited questions about what I’m trying to convey. When this happens it makes what I do extremely special to me and 100% worth it.
What’s the most interesting piece you’ve ever completed or worked on?
That is a difficult question to answer as every painting creates different pathways. I did a painting for Carmen Electra early on in my endeavour to become an artist which acted as the catalyst to getting my foot in the door with a celebrity clientele. It wasn’t the most interesting piece ever, but it certainly was one that carried momentum and came to mind immediately.
Do you feel your artwork and style have changed over the last five years? How so?
I believe my style has changed dramatically year to year. I feel like I’m learning a lot. I’ve come to taking painting seriously late in life, so most of what you will see on my Instagram feed are experiments in, and the struggles of, making mistakes and getting better. I like what I’m producing at present but I have my sights set a little further down range.
Mid-way through a painting you’re frustrated and unsatisfied with how it’s turning out… what do you do?
I purposefully control my will and I don’t allow myself to stop. I think that is the key to unlocking the knowledge that the exercise of painting provides. I’ve found that you will be your own harshest critic/judge in life and with art, but this is a massive disservice to oneself in this type of pursuit. The best creations often times will look like a garbled mess half way through. If you use your intuition and gut it out, it will usually turn out far better then you were giving its potential credit for. It takes experience and repetition to learn this. If I could give any piece of advice to someone trying hard but who finds themselves frustrated… Just keep going. You will learn a lot about yourself if you do so, plus your resolve in general will be strengthened. If you can learn this lesson via painting, apply it in an everyday situation and watch the potential for your life expand as well. Always come to the canvas full of resolve and ready for battle.
Is there one aspect about art that you enjoy above all else? Why?
There isn’t one particular aspect of art that I would place over the other but I do enjoy how much art in general forces you to focus. We currently live in a society that is obsessed with being up to date so we are frantic in our approach to life. Everyone is always on their phone or distracted in some way or another. Art is a place where that doesn’t exist. If you see a person out with a group of friends who isn’t on their phone but engaged in their surroundings, you can bet they are an artist of some sort, or have managed to master focus in another way…. Or maybe their phone is dead, but I bet it’s the latter.
Having been an award-winning bartender in your past life, what’s your go-to drink?
That was a very fun time in my life and I miss certain aspects of it to this day… but there has never been anything better than a whiskey sour made by Lauren Mote. That is a true expression of art.
Many of your social media videos have music playing in the background. Does music play a big part in setting the mood while painting? If so, what artist do you find most on your playlists when working?
That is a great question. Music and the manipulation of music is extremely important in my art. I will get back to that in a second. I’m usually listening to podcasts as I paint though. This is going to sound somewhat lame but I’m open to being vulnerable (obviously I post art on social media) I’m alone 99% of the time, so I enjoy hearing voices and conversation as I work. As an artist who isn’t in a collective I work alone, therefore I find long form podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience or Dan Carlins Hardcore History to be invaluable. Back to music. If you pay close attention to what you’re hearing you might notice a fair bit of layering. I usually choose a hip hop track that I’ve been listening to in my car, or as I prep my mis en place, and then layer it with binaural beats or certain frequencies derived from vortex math as well as sounds from nature. Once that is complete and it’s giving off the feeling I want you to feel as you watch, I couple it with the video at a certain speed. This is all part of what I was speaking of earlier where I’m placing messages and concepts into the art. Each piece has been thought out visually as well as harmonically and laid in a specific spot on the feed.
In the grand scheme of things, what do you want your biggest contribution to the art community to be?
I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of my place or contribution to the art community. I do hope to catch some eyes and ears of those people who will come after me who might also be interested in the concepts I present. I never think of art as something for the here and now but a message to the future. A rare few artists are appreciated in their day and I’ve been extremely lucky thus far, but my hope is always towards the future.
We know that the completion of a work of art is a very subjective and personal thing. When it comes to your own paintings, when do you know you’re finished? Or perhaps you know a painting isn’t finished, but this is as far as you’re willing to go. When do you know you’ve gotten to that point?
This question has two answers the first being that I paint a lot of images from Instagram so they are finished when they closely resemble what I’ve scrolled past. When it’s a more personal work it is always just a feeling. The temptation is always to over paint… but conversely to not put enough paint on the canvas is an amateur move. That leaves you with your intuition and feeling for the sense of completion within yourself. Once you’ve felt that don’t second guess it, set down the brushes and start to clean up. If something is truly glaring and bothering you, wait to see if it’s worth setting back up. If it is you’re not done.
What’s one thing outside of art supplies that you can’t live without as an artist, something you can’t work without in the studio?
Great Light! I’m extremely fortunate that my loft has 20ft ceilings with floor to
ceiling windows, so the light is fantastic from morning to night. I try to never paint
with artificial light unless forced by a deadline and I’m very thankful that is
possible where I am currently.
What’s next on your journey as an artist?
That is yet to be seen. My life has taken some drastic turns as of late with losing my fiancé Erin Dance (who also happened to be my business manager as well as the best person I’ve ever met) to cancer after a long expensive battle on December 2nd. Moving into the hospital with her last April I essentially gave up painting for a year while we fought and tried to get our life back. During that time I lost some pretty massive jobs and sales which unfortunately took the wind out of the sails as far as momentum for a career in art is concerned. This last year has taken more from me then I care to describe at present but it has also taught me not to plan to far ahead or hold on to expectations to tightly. You never know what life has in store. I hope to paint some large walls soon, but what I know for sure is that I will continue to paint and create videos as often as I can.
To wrap things up, what’s been your most memorable experience as an artist?
I have been very fortunate in this short time, my art is all over the world at this point and I have had some major milestones and celebrity clients etc. But to be honest and this is kind of sappy… The look on Erin’s face when I sold a painting or agreed to be in a show are the most memorable experiences at the time of this interview. I’m an extremely private person and I would always turn down opportunities that most people coming up in the art world would only dream of. I had also been successful in a few business endeavours before art and felt making art something I did full time instead of continuing on in business was just a pipe dream. Erin hated that… So when I would agree to go to a show she had put my art in without my knowledge, would do an interview for TV, take on a commission, or sell my art, she would light up. It made her so happy. Continuing on artistically in general has sort of been a love letter to her as she was the one who encouraged me to follow this dream. Erin lived her dream by becoming a prominent lawyer and opening her law firm (Bolton | Hatcher | Dance) at such a young age. She was extremely passionate about making sure I reached my goals as well. I’m starting to open up to more of these types of activities and opportunities in her memory. Those moments are priceless works of art in their own right and will stay with me forever.