Acclaimed tattoo artist, Jay Freestyle’s website starts off with this quote – “If I could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.”
It is fascinating because of the way he tattoos. It is truly fascinating to see the care put to detailing even the website as well. Having seen Jay work at Heartwork Tattoo Festival 2016, I understood that he is a man with a magnificent eye for balance, composition, and a meticulousness for required details. Over the last few years, Jay has truly become a global sensation, with his avant garde style of tattooing raising eyebrows, and finding a lot of takers from all over the world.
And, with his rising popularity, Jay Freestyle’s ‘freestyle’ has also rubbed off on a lot of other tattoo artists, who are adopting his freehand form of tattooing, but are they true to that type of tattooing? That is the question. And who else would be better to answer that question than Jay himself.
Couple of days back, I wrote to Jay asking if he could spare some time to discuss he rise of his style of tattooing, and the evolution of it in others’ hands. He was gracious enough to answer my questions in less than 24 hours, despite crack-a-jack schedule. Here are some of his perspectives on his style of tattooing, and other aspects of the same.
Shubham (S): Starting off with some background, how did you come to call yourself Jay Freestyle?
Jay (J): I guess it came about from when I started tattooing. I’m self taught and never had anyone to help me. It sounds stupid but I never knew how to put on a stencil, so I ended up always drawing my designs directly onto the skin. It became the standard way I worked and approached the tattoo design, so that’s how the “freestyle” came about.
S: When and how did you embark on this totally off-road tattooing style, which you call freestyle?
J: I’ve been doing it for about 4 years now. When I started tattooing I never knew which direction I wanted to take and so I dabbled in all styles of tattooing. The problem with being all rounded is it’s hard to distinguish yourself from other artists, so I decided to come up with something that I could call my own. I basically thought of all the things I like to tattoo and combined them together to form my style. I take a lot of influences from my favourite artists and interpret certain aspects that I like in my own way.
S: Can you tell us what do you imply with the term ‘freestyle’?
J: I use the term freestyle because all my tattoos are spontaneous. They’re all designed on the spot without any pre-work. I never do any research or go into detail with my collector about what they want to get. I leave it up to the day of tattooing to come up with the design on the spot. Most of the times, I don’t even know what it is that I have to tattoo until I speak with my collector.
S: Is it really that broad and accommodating a style that anybody can call whatever they do as freestyle?
J: I don’t really think it’s a style, or at least I don’t call it my style. To me it’s more of an approach to doing a tattoo. For me, it’s about the spontaneous creation of art, no plans, no designs, just leaving it up to what ever comes about.
S: Do you think the popularity of it has taken ‘freestyle’ to a pedestal, where it is more abused than adequately used?
J: I think the term freehand is more correct, and that it refers to drawing freehand on the skin rather then stencilling. It definitely is more popular and more people do freehand work than before. In terms of the style, avant garde/abstract art is becoming more and more popular. I do find the term freehand is often used as a crutch to try be “cooler”. There definitely are a lot of people out there that abuse the term to try sell themselves or use it as an excuse for poor work, kind of like how artists who can’t really draw like to do traditional because they think they can get away with not being able to draw and think the style is easy because it looks simple but in actual fact, it’s very hard to master it correctly.
S:On the other hand, how does it feel to be such a pioneer when it comes to ground-breaking modern tattooing?
J: It obviously goes without saying that it’s always a great satisfaction to be able to inspire other artists. I’m just trying to do my own thing, it’s sometimes hard to realise that so many people follow my work and I’m so grateful for that.
S: What is the future of professional tattooing, from your perspective?
J: I think artists are going to continue pushing the limits of what is possible to put on the skin and breaking more and more rules. Crazier styles are going to keep arising as technology is becoming more popular with the design process, allowing artists to create images that in the past weren’t able to create. Tattoo equipment is constantly getting better allowing us to be faster, more efficient and get better results.
S: How do you feel when you come across so many artists on Instagram using the term ‘freestyle’ almost like a trend? Do you look at it as a trend?
J: Yeah, I guess it’s trendy, I don’t really care what other artists are doing, I’m rarely on social media. I’m just trying to do my own thing, what someone else is doing doesn’t really concern/bother me. I’m also not bothered if people copy me, I see it as a huge compliment as well as a sort of reassurance that there’s one less artist to worry about because those who innovate will always lead, those who imitate will always follow.