Interview With Jesse Lewis

Jesse Lewis is a 27 year old artist based in Lake Ronkonkoma, NY. He draws characters from Driftwood. Jesse’s work is so inspiring and fun. His work helped me out of an extreme creative rut months back. I was creating my first mural design and his work really inspired me to solve a problem I was having with my design.

Interview:

How long have you been practicing art?

I started later on with art. Sometime around the first half of 2020. I started drawing because I injured my back at work and ended up being home for months in pain and unable to move easily. I woke up one morning feeling very depressed and in pain due to the issue, and decided to draw something because I didn’t want to get up. I haven’t stopped since (Drawing that is. I’ve gotten out of my bed since.) (Side note – I had back surgery in June of this year and am finally starting to feel normal again…whatever normal is….)

How often do you create?

Any second I get! It has become my main support system for helping me feel somewhat sane.

How would you describe your work/art style?

Everything I create usually ends up being tied to personal/ deep feelings some way or another. Some of my drawings start off with an idea I have in my head that I would like to explore. The details that follow usually end up being a reflection of a current or past emotion that is still having an impact on me. Also, some of my drawings can start off with my feelings rather than just a new idea. With these ones, I will envision the people of Driftwood experiencing what I am going through, and I will make the scene reflect the emotions as best I can.  Driftwood represents the image I have given to the process. My thoughts float through my mind like a piece of driftwood, accompanied with the rest down the stream inside.

How have you developed your style over the years?

Endless practicing and sketching. All of my creations end up being some kind of scene in Driftwood, so they are all connected. With that being said, I try to make a conscious effort to not be repetitive with ideas. If a certain scene is already drawn out, I will do my best to create a different place that has not yet been revealed. This is what drives my style development.

What advice would you give to an artist who wants to develop their style more?

Just be you. Mix the things you love in life with the feelings they give you. Listening to my emotions and putting them on paper is the ultimate personal validation. It might not work for everyone or give them the same feeling of satisfaction and improvement, but it could be a good starting point that is worth a try.

What does art mean to you?

Everything. Drawing has given me a new sense of purpose in life. I have always loved art and have been inspired by all different styles. While drawing has been my main source of art lately, writing music and playing guitar was a huge part of my life growing up and still is to an extent. Writing poetry as well is another source of expression for me as well. I feel creating any kind of art is so important for human beings. What we are capable of producing is endless and it should never go to waste.

What do you enjoy making the most?

The people of Driftwood! There are no limits to who lives there and all are welcome. (Any negative characters don’t reside there and are just passing through…)

Who is your favorite character to make the most?

It is hard to name a favorite character. Every person is different due to either their face or clothes.

Who are your biggest influences?

Classic horror movies have a huge influence on me. The Universal Monster movies always had beautiful backgrounds that are constantly on my mind when creating locations. Other movies too like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari have amazing hand painted backdrops. Silent movies as well are a huge influence. The process of watching these with either none/very limited dialogue really gives you the opportunity to establish the meaning of the story in your mind. I like to imagine this is a similar process that some follow when looking at my art. I love cartoons as well, especially older ones. The Fleischer Studios shorts are amazing and so creative when you dig into them. It’s just endless, crazy ideas that make no sense, but yet it does in the context of the story. Musicians like Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett keep me feeling inspired while I am drawing as well. Their lyrics are too relatable to the important things in life that people often neglect when caught up in the daily shuffle.

What is your artistic process right now?

I make sure I always have the outlines done on 2 back up designs before I finish whatever I am working on. This keeps the creative juices flowing while following a disciplined work ethic at the same time.

What do you like and dislike about your work?

I really enjoy the faces that are on my people. When they are staring back at me, it feels like I am having a conversation with a deeper part of me. Something I dislike is the limited colors I experiment with while using markers. I don’t blend much at all and it keeps the color palette limited. Procreate has helped tremendously through with that issue.

Professionally, what is your goal?

My goal is to eventually do this full time. I am holding onto that thought more than anything and am letting that guide me though each day, especially during the 9-5. Art makes me feel like I am doing something meaningful and it never gets boring. I want to take on more projects locally. Whether that be doing art for local acts, or designs for nearby businesses – having my art be a part of the community along with the other amazing local artists would mean so much to me.

What do you wish to accomplish in this life artistically and spiritually?

This kind of ties in with my answer to the last question. To add to that, I would like to explore all different types of mediums. I know I will paint one day and I look forward to that. Spiritually, I would like to be at peace with as much as I can. As I grow older, I am focusing more on the things that are better for my mental health. Learning to acknowledge the negative feelings thoughts in my mind, rather than curb them to the side and try to pretend they aren’t there, has really helped me put my mind, and spirit, at ease. Shrinking the gap between my body and spirit is always the task.

What are your favorite colors to work with and why are you drawn to them? 

Blue and orange are the favorites because I am a huge Mets fan. (PROUD OF IT) Their colors have always been very cool looking to me. Purple/ yellow combinations as well are fun to work with. Besides that, whatever colors fit the piece I am working on the best end up being my favorites. It is constantly changing.

What are your favorite mediums?

Working with brush tip markers on cold press Fabriano paper is how I started and that is probably still my favorite. The way the markers sit on that have an almost rougher, scaly type look, as opposed to the shinier finish of some marker specific paper.

Do you have any tips for using these mediums?

Ultra-thin sharpies or Identi-Pens often work best for outlines. The marker can bleed onto these and be absorbed enough to not escape the confinement. Micron’s work best for very tiny outlines/ faces in the distance. They don’t bleed out as thick as the others listed.

What is your favorite piece of art you have made?

My favorite work is definitely the pieces I have made for my girlfriend. They have the most meaning and made me feel pretty emotional through the whole process. She is a reflection of the most joyous things in life, and that comes out in every piece made for her.

Jesse was trying to emulate his girlfriends style here (with the pink ladies) and does not advise other people to copy her work.

How do you seek out opportunities?

This is still a new process for me. I am actively working on getting my art more noticed on Instagram. This has led to some opportunities so far, but I am definitely seeking out more. As of lately, I try to have a new design every day to post. This can be hard with working full time, but I do this so I constantly have something new out there for people to see.

How do you put yourself in a creative mood when you need it?

Feeling my feelings, listening to music, watching some of the inspiring things I listed on a previous question, etc.

What advice would you give to artists who are just starting out? 

Don’t feel pressured to conform to a certain style or image you might want to have. Start off drawing what feels comfortable and that can help you recognize the things you need to work on more. This type of progression is the least painless (I feel), and will have you coming back more and more with a less stressed out view point.

What new things can we expect to see from you in the near future?

New merch will be coming soon! I am currently working on finding an outlet that works best for me regarding shirt designs. I want to make my art more available to anyone who might be interested.  

Describe a real life situation that inspired you. 

Seeing my girlfriend (@Comfortablefields) start her art career and progress over the years. Being a witness and a part of the journey to some extent has really shown me that it is possible to live out your dream. She is the ultimate real life situation that has shown me anything is possible with hard work and constant motivation.

Above image is by @comfortablefields

Any last words you would like to say to the world today?

Thank you all for taking the time to read this. I hope my art can help people emotionally, spiritually, and any other way that is beneficial to your life and well-being. At the end of the day, we have such a small amount of time here on Earth, and it is so important to make the changes (Starting today!) that you know will provide you with the truth. It is important to take advice and hear out the words of others, but you are the one who knows what is best for you. Some might not approve of your choices, but don’t let that make you lose sight on your journey, if it is truly the route to happiness.

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