Interview With NYC Artist Jake Wallace
Jake is a native New Yorker, artist, designer, photographer and dad. He sees beauty where many others see decay and has been photographing street textures, signage and urban architecture for over 20 years. He combines his passion for design, typography, graffiti, photography and silkscreen printing to create unique mixed media works inspired by the urban and industrial landscapes of his hometown, New York City, and the history behind them.
“The buildings tell stories, they hold the memories of the past that people have long forgotten. These stories are told through great brick facades, the foundations, the cracks, the peeling paint and the messages printed and painted on their walls. Many of these great structures were there when my great grandfather first came to this city over 100 years ago. His eyes gazed upon on the same beautiful architecture that we see today. But unfortunately a lot of that history is disappearing forever.” - Jake Wallace
Q&A with Jake Wallace:
How long have you been creating art and did you always want to become an artist or was it a long journey?
I have many artists in the family including my Dad, Uncle, Aunt and especially my Grandfather. From a very young age I was surrounded by art and inspired to create my own. My Grandfather used to challenge me to drawing contests, which he always won, but kept me motivated to get better. I studied Graphic Design in college and became more serious about my fine art career in 2008 after taking a class in silkscreen printing at SVA.
What is your preferred medium?
Most of my work is mixed media, a combination of spray paint, acrylic, stencil-work, collage and silkscreen printing. I got into silkscreening about 15 years ago and absolutely fell in love with the process and the aesthetic. Being hands-on in the print shop is one of my favorite parts of the process.
Do you plan each piece out before you start, or do you let the piece “take shape” as you go?
It’s a combination of both. When I start the background or base layer of a new piece it’s completely organic. The goal is to layer color and texture to create an abstract painting that has the feeling of an actual wall you might see outside in NYC, covered in graffiti, stickers, posters, ads and urban decay.
The foreground layers, which are all based on photos that I have taken of NYC architecture, factories, trains, bridges, water-towers and people are usually a little more planned out to work together with the background that I previously created.
How does NYC and the industrial landscape inspire you?
NYC itself feels like an ever evolving piece of art to me. There is so much history on every block. The buildings tell stories, they hold the memories of the past that people have long forgotten. These stories are told through great brick facades, the foundations, the cracks, the peeling paint, the signs and the messages printed and painted on their walls. Many of these great structures were there when my family first came to NYC over 100 years ago. My relatives gazed upon the same beautiful architecture that we see today. But unfortunately a lot of that history is disappearing forever.
How has your art changed since you first started creating it?
The scale and complexity have evolved significantly since I first started. Nowadays I am doing much larger scale works and commissions. The amount of layering that goings into each piece is much more involved / detailed.
What motivates you to create?
There is something extremely satisfying about coming up with an idea and then bringing that idea to life as a piece of art that has conceptual meaning and visual interest to other people.
How do you define success as an artist?
I originally started out creating art for myself, as a creative outlet and did that for a few years before I started exhibiting my work in shows. That first show was a very humbling experience, to have people actually really interested in what you created. After that first show I started to get a pretty steady stream of commission work. To be able to create your own art and partner with amazing personal collectors and companies at the same time is an amazing evolution.
Are you a fan of puzzles or have you tested out your Brooklyn puzzle at home?
I love doing my puzzles myself. During the initial COVID lockdown a few years back, my family and I got into working on puzzles while we were cooped up inside the house in Brooklyn. At that time I came up with the idea to create a puzzle from one of my paintings, so I ordered a couple of samples from a print on demand company and they looked great. Shortly after that, I started with teNeues to manufacture a puzzle, pen set and sketchbook based on a few of my designs.
See our quality stationery collaborations with Jake below!
7-Train by Jake Wallace Sketchbook
Williamsburg Bridge 8-Pen Set
Brooklyn, NYC 1,000-Piece Puzzle
To see more of Jake's work, visit his website at: jakewallace.art