Step into the rebellious and dynamic realm of lowbrow art with none other than Jess Baker, a visionary tattoo artist who will leave an indelible mark at the Flying Piston Benefit Auction on March 4, 2024. She’s competing in the Art on Deck competition presented by Gnarly Magazine amidst the electrifying atmosphere of Bike Week. Brace yourself for a fusion of inked ingenuity and skate culture as Baker’s creation takes center stage.
We caught up with Jess Baker of Eight Bells Tattoo (@JessBakerTattoo) on a January snow day in Pennsylvania . She talked about her art:
Q: Ok, what poor decisions did you make that created superb art?
A: Not many poor decisions. Just hard work and grinding that got me where I am today. 🙂 (Note: I asked Atomic Bob about bad decisions and got a crazy answer. This doesn’t seem to be an universal experience.-ED)
Q: Talk about your background and your style of art?
A:Yeah, so um, I went to art school for a little bit. I’ve always painted. My grandpa was like a Bob Ross-esque type painter. (Ross did a “wet-on-wet” oil painting technique, also known as “Alla Prima” over a thin base layer of wet paint.) So, I feel like I just kind of grew up around this stuff my entire life.
But as far as my style, I think that in the beginning, when I first started tattooing, I was really into classic traditional design like Sailor Jerry. And then over time, it’s evolved into weirder and outrageous designs.
Q: The 1st word on the board is Gnar. Please explain.
A: Two things: One is Gnarly Magazine—they reached out to ask me to do it. Two, in skateboarding, shredding-the-gnar typically refers to skilled and stylish skateboarding, especially in challenging or extreme conditions. It references a nice story.
Q: What drew you to a Lowbrow style of art?
A: I don’t like anything that’s pretentious and overcomplicated. So I think naturally I’ll be drawn to things like that. I also think that Lowbrow style of art is meant for blue collar people as opposed to like, a lot of it’s ending up in super high end galleries for pretentious celebrities hanging on their walls and telling everyone what it costs. You know what I mean?
Q: Can you talk about your influences?
A: Mostly tattooing. I’m an owner of Eight Bells Tattoo and you can see my work at Jess Baker Tattoo. But also influenced by cartoon culture. Like old timey cartoons. My dad was big in the race cars and motorcycles and stuff like that. So I feel like I saw a lot of that growing up as well.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working with unconventional and non traditional themes in your art?
A: That doesn’t have to make sense. You know what I mean? Like, I’m just mashing it up together, because it’s two things that you wouldn’t expect to see together. But somehow it works.
Q: How do you approach your creative process when you’re working on a tattoo design?
A: So it really depends, obviously when people come to me for custom work, if they have a pretty good idea of what they want, I can just kind of riff off that and make it my thing.
Q: I’Re asked the process from a number of artists and some say coffee, some say alcohol, some say pot. Is there any adult consumption that you like to use while you’re getting in the groove?
A: Nope. I think anything that slows me down when I draw will start me overthinking something, or take me two hours to draw three lines. So for me, it is timing and time of day. When the end of the day hits, I have a specific time slot after my kids go to bed. And I know I have 2 hours to sit there and I can watch trash TV and draw. I look forward to that all day. This is my grind time.
Q: In your designs, are there symbols or themes that you find you’re consistently incorporating in your tattoo or other art?
A: I wouldn’t say it’s a symbol, but I consistently use flames. Also, the weirdest thing I focus on is teeth. I love me some wonky flames and missing teeth. Check out the gorilla for my Art on Deck competition skate deck. His teeth are jacked up and cracked. I don’t know why I’m drawn to that. (pun intended) But I think it’s so interesting.
Q: Let’s talk about how storytelling plays apart in your art.
A: I’ll be 100% honest. I try to avoid that at all costs. But as far as like storytelling in my artwork, I don’t want it there.
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