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Track Light Interview #10—> Mario Jin (Italy)

Wall mural by Mario Jin in Milan

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery from their various places around the globe.

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Today, I talk with Italian graffiti artist and illustrator Mario de Stefani aka Mario Jin.

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John: So where did the name Mario “Jin” come from?

Mario: When I started to do graffiti as a kid in Milan everyone had a tag. So I decided to start with Jin, like the character from the PlayStation game Tekken.

Mario Jin graffito tag on wall
A bit more than a throwie.

Mario: But later I discovered a different meaning for this word: jin, jinn, jinie.

John: You’re sounding like David Bowie there.

Mario: Haha. I mean the djinn or genie. A demon or spirit… like a soul. For me, the meaning was like another way to be myself. Another form in which to express myself.

John: And where did you grow up and do that early tagging?

Mario: I was born in Milan and grew up in the southwestern suburbs there. Now I’m living right here in the city as a senior designer for my firm. It’s my home for now. But I’ve been feeling the need to travel and find and live in new places, too. In the future I don’t know where I will call home.

Wall mural painting of Indian by Mario Jin
A wall mural painted by Mario Jin in Milan, Italy.

John: if you could paint a wall anywhere in the world, where would that be?

Mario: Anywhere! Really. Anywhere.

John: Who do you collaborate with in Milan?

Mario: In Milan there are a lot of great artists I regularly work with. Most of the time it’s Foskia, Yems, Prosa, Daste, Trust, Plinio, Zelig, Draks, Close, Tawa e Dada, Poms, Mr. Pollo, and the 10G crew. We just paint walls together for fun.

Wall mural painting by Mario Jin and Tosk
A wall mural painted by Mario Jin and Tosk in Milan, Italy.

John: And how did you get started painting?

Mario: My aunt was a painter and teacher of art. When I was in her home as a kid I would get alot of inspiration. I was also influenced by manga and hentai growing up. And I started with graffiti in the streets in 1998.

I first started by copying the heroes and protagonists of manga or hentai and cartoons that I read or saw on TV. Some of my favorites were Lupin the Third, Kenshirō from Fist of the North Star, and others from The X-Men and Dragon Ball Z. I remember drawing them everyday on my desk at school. 

Later I started to redraw my friends and brothers in an anime style. And when I discovered graffiti, it opened a new world of inspiration, colors, and ways of expressing myself.

Wall mural painting by Mario Jin
A wall mural painted by Mario Jin in Canarias, Spain.

John: And being Italian, have you been influenced by any of the greats from the past?

Mario: A lot influenced me. I don’t have any specific preferences, but for sure I remember moments like the first time I saw Caravaggio’s paintings or one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces.

John: What are you communicating through your work? Are you?

Mario: Sometimes I work in freestyle simply as pure expression. Other times I think about the sick world in which we live and how I would like to change it. Or maybe that’s just a way I take refuge from it.

John: What do you mean by the world being “sick”?

Mario: I’m talking about a world full of pollution causing global climate change. I’m talking about bad vibes like hate and racism. I feel many people are thinking only for themselves these days.

LunchKraft lunchbox print designed by Mario Jin
LunchKraft Lunchbox screen printed design by Mario Jin.

John: Yes, I remember our first conversation about your design for the LunchKraft lunchbox. I asked you to just come up with something you felt strongly about and would want to communicate even through the canvas of a lunchbox.

Mario: I was thinking about our overuse of natural resources at the time, while also the respect for nature that people can and do have.

John: So the gas-masked figure is trying to protect that fragile bit of nature under the domed glass.

Mario: Yes.

John: I also asked you about drawing that LunchKraft lunchbox into the design itself, because I have some of the same concerns about our use of resources in a consumer culture. Sometimes I wonder if I’m helping or harming by manufacturing anything at this stage in history. I’m hoping to change a certain consciousness about fashion in small ways, but I still wonder.

Mario Jin's Classic DrawBag
A Classic DrawBag hand-painted by Mario Jin.

John: Currently, we don’t really play up the eco-friendly elements of the bags much in marketing. We focus on the art. But maybe we should. It’s been more of an attempted baseline rather than a marketing angle, and in some ways using it to market would feel deceptive to me.

Anyway, yeah… I’m trying to figure these things out.

Changing topics… you and I were talking recently about Playdead’s video game Limbo as well as their (somewhat) more recent release Inside. I brought it up because you had devoted a wall to the former. What is it about these games that have inspired you to reinterpret them in your work?

Wall mural of Limbo video game by Mario Jin
Wall mural painting by Mario Jin inspired by the video game Limbo.

Mario: Yes, I really like these games. The world and characters are so simple yet wonderful at the same time. But the gameplay and the stories are the best things about them. You have to think about how to overcome puzzles all the way up to the end. And the stories are speaking into the darkness of the world that the characters are entering.

I like how their stories inspire my imagination… and not in a way just meant to get you to buy the next episode. They really made me think. I did a piece of work based on Limbo. I think I’ll do another one about Inside also.

John: Cool. You can check out more of Mario’s work on Instagram and his official website.

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OWAG Track Light #4—> Jade Beale-Linklater (New Zealand)

sketching at the beach

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

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Today, I talk with Kiwi illustrator, designer, and educator Jade Beale-Linklater.

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John: Hey Jade! Congratulations to you and your husband on the birth of your son, Quinn. How are you managing being a mother and an artist these days?

Jade: Thank you! Funny you should ask. When I was pregnant I asked a friend whether I would be able to continue with my art once our baby came. I realize now that was a silly question!

Art-making has simply become stop-start, stop-start since giving birth. Most of it is done late at night when I should be preparing for Quinn’s wake-ups. And during the day, now that Quinn is moving, he likes to be a part of work himself… as the materials-eater, ha ha.

Jade & baby Quinn.

John: An unpaid assistant! Nice. So tell us about your life there in New Zealand.

Jade: Just to clarify… New Zealand is a separate country from Australia.

John: Ha.

Jade: And yes, we have TVs here. We don’t wear grass skirts. And yes… there are lots of sheep!

John: Okay, we got all that out of the way, ha ha. So you are from the North Island?

Jade: Yes. I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Tokoroa, which is a town in the centre of the North Island. It’s close to the mountains, lakes, and beaches, and is known for forestry, farming, and a pulp & paper mill, coincidentally.

A view of Tokoroa from Colson Hill Lookout

So much talent comes from Tokoroa. In particular, a huge amount of professional sportsmen and women. And of course, awesome artists! But I now live in windy Wellington, as my husband is teaching at a Catholic boy’s school here. It’s a pretty cool place with a real artsy vibe.

John: Let’s talk about your art and design work. To me, your work is very intricate and ordered… and very calming. Is that at all reflective of your personality or temperament?

Jade: Yeah, I think I’m pretty cruisy and calm (sometimes perhaps too calm!) and that comes through in my work. I’m definitely not very organized, though. I do try to be neat, now with baby Quinn here. But my art doesn’t usually have an intended outcome.

 

John: So not organized in the sense of you knowing exactly what the finished design is going to be?

Jade: Yeah. I kinda just start, wing it, and hope for the best. Lots of happy accidents occur and I usually end up with a beautiful mess! At times I will regret a mark I’ve made, but it’s a challenge to try and fix it.

John: That’s why you gotta get an iPad.

 

Jade: As the patterns are so detailed, some pieces take me quite a long time. At times I’ve spent several hours to then just decide I can’t stand a piece and will put it away for months. But then I’ll pick it up again down the track and go from there. In a completely different head space, I’ll create something pretty cool… only several months later! I think this is pretty normal? Is it?

John: Sure! There’s no real definition for what’s normal. And when did you start drawing? Do you remember your earliest interests in it?

Jade: My mum told me that as a young kid I wasn’t so interested in reading, because I couldn’t really keep still. But when there was the option to draw, I would sit still for hours and doodle. As a teenager, I would sit on the phone for hours and doodle like this.

I remember really starting to love art at intermediate (middle school), when I was asked to be in Extension Art (which is an advanced class). The art room was my happy place at school and I realized that I was most relaxed there. I’ve never been naturally gifted, academically speaking, so I had to work really hard in all areas. But in Art class I could just go with the flow and not worry about getting it right or wrong.

John: What other artists have influenced you over time?

Jade: Growing up in New Zealand and in Tokoroa, which is such a multi cultural community, I was lucky enough to be exposed to a variety of artists growing up. I especially loved Maori and Pacific artists and lots of my senior research and folio works were based on artists such as Robyn Kahukiwa (Maori), John Pule (Niuean), and Fatu Feu’u (Samoan). We have such incredible artists throughout New Zealand, and I was a big appropriator of their work.

“Savage Island Hiapo” by Niuean artist John Pule.

 

Woodcut in a series by Samoan artist Joshua Bashford.

John: Yeah, your work actually reminds me of Josh Bashford’s. He was a student of Fatu Feu’u, I believe.

Jade: There are some amazing Maori artists who visually represent Maori culture though their art. We’ve grown up visiting the Marae (meeting house) where traditional painted and carved symbols surround us. Ta Moko (traditional tattoo) is another beautiful representation of Maori tradition. Growing up, we often saw Maori symbols, particularly Kowhaiwhai (Maori patterning) which is how we learned about the different symbols.

Ta moko– traditional Maori tattoo.

Two examples are koru, which is a symbol of a fern frond, and hei matau, which is a fish hook. I bring symbols such as these into my own art, but with a contemporary twist.

Koru necklace.

 

Hei matau necklace.

 

John: You’re still managing to do some commissioned work these days when not mommy-ing and teaching?

Jade: Yes, I am. Thanks for the plug. Anyone can see my work and reach me on Facebook if interested.

John: You’ve been an educator for some time; that’s actually how we first met in China when I was teaching Drama and you were teaching Visual Art. What’s the value of art or creativity in education, do you think?

Jade: I believe it’s so important to give children the time to explore and create. Growing up in New Zealand, we were so blessed to have had opportunities at school to play and to think for ourselves. We were taught the basics of art, but we were given the freedom to follow our interests and just go for it. We were given a “skeleton” guide, and a variety of ideas, and support, and lots of discussion… but ultimately it was our choice to create our own unique art.

Teaching in China a few years ago, I really had to work hard to get the local Chinese high school students to think for themselves and to make the shift away from copying…  to get them to inquire and not to worry if they made “mistakes” because it’s all part of learning and a mistake can be a good thing.

When we moved from Guangzhou to Beijing, I was teaching Grades 3 and 4, and I absolutely loved it! There were no walls up, they were such sponges who were interested in everything I had to show them and really went all out to create the coolest art without any worry about what others were thinking.

How can we do this with teens and adults?

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OWAG Track Light #3—> Jesuso Ortiz (Málaga, Spain)

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

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In this post, I talk with Spanish illustrator and painter Jesuso Ortiz.

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John: So where are you from and where do you call home these days, Jesuso?

Jesuso: I was born in the province of Córdoba, in the south of Spain… although I have been living in Málaga for almost twenty years now. I came to Málaga originally to study, and after finishing my university degree I stayed here for work. The weather and the people here are wonderful!

John: How did you first get into drawing or painting? What were your earliest influences?

Jesuso: I’ve always been interested in art. Since I was very young I liked to draw, and when I was fourteen years old I entered an art school in my hometown. My first artistic influences as a teenager were Monet and the Impressionists. What I liked about them was their use of color and the shape of the brushstrokes. I found their style very delicate and at the same time very free. A bit later my tastes changed, and I was quite inspired by the work of Andy Warhol when I found him.

John: Yeah, I think in your paintings (which I’ll ask you about later) those influences are reflected a bit. Matisse comes to mind for me.

Jesuso: Honestly, over the years I’ve been inspired by many contemporary artists. Nature also inspires me a lot. I think the world hides beauty in every corner; you just have to be awake to find it. 

John: The first illustrations of yours I saw were the ink drawings on top of photographs of flowers or food or other small objects. How did you begin this series? Where did the idea of working this way come from?

Jesuso: The idea of mixing illustration with photography arose spontaneously. One day I just came up with the idea of a picture and a drawing together, and when I posted it, it became very popular among my Instagram followers. So I kept experimenting on that line.

John: They’re very delicate and playful pieces. And you sell these illustrations online?

Jesuso: Yes, on my website.

John: But your painting on the DrawBag is quite different from this. Recently you started sharing more paintings done in this style. Can you tell me more about that style of yours?

jesus ortiz painting 2

Jesuso: Yes, the painting I did on the DrawBag is totally different from the illustration we just spoke of. Actually, I only recently returned to painting in this way, and I thought it would work much better for this project.

I started out as a painter and not as an illustrator. And in my painting, I would experiment with flat and strong colors and the restraint of geometric shapes. The result was quite appealing. I recently created a new Instagram account for my paintings in this style, and I also have an upcoming exhibition.

John: I noticed a bit of writing by Alejandro Jodorowsky on your website’s homepage. I think he’s gained some wider appeal in recent years due to the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, which is about his pre-production work on what would have been an earlier film of the famous sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert. Has Jodorowsky been an influence to you as well?

Jesuso: Yes, Jodorowsky is an artist who I deeply admire. I’ve learned a lot listening to him and watching his movies. I like the message of awareness he sends to the world and the ways he transmits that. He uses his art to teach that problems are not outside of us… they are inside everyone.  It’s the way in which you look at the world that determines what happens in your life. It’s not a good idea to blame others for everything negative that happens to us– it’s better to look at oneself and to change this.

John: Do you think that’s a message people are really receptive to these days?

Jesuso: Yes. I think that people are much more open to waking up. Many have already discovered that wealth and material well-being is very good, but it’s not enough to bring real peace to one’s life. When one starts to question many things they have previously believed to be true, it is through this that they can gain new awareness.
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OWAG Track Light #2—> El Mordi (Mexico)

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

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Today, I talk with illustrator and designer Jaime García (El Mordi).

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John: Hey Jaime, what’s up? I really dig the DrawBag you recently did.

Jaime: Thanks, John. It was a pleasure to collaborate with you.

John: As you know, the artists involved in the OWAG project are from all over the world. Can you tell us more about the design you drew?

Jaime: My illustration is basically a modern representation of a character from Mexican culture known as La Catrina, which represents death during El Día de Muertos (the Day of the Dead).

John: Now, you go by the name El Mordi, which is different than your birth name. How did that come about?

Jaime: It’s actually a cheesy story. My ex-girlfriend started calling me that after a phone call in which I was eating a sandwich. She asked what I was doing and I offered her a bite by using the first two syllables of the word “bite in Spanish which is “mordida. She thought it was funny for me to say “mordi,” and started calling me Mordi. Shortly after that we started calling each other by the name and I created a couple of characters which represented the two of us: “Mordi & Mordi”. From that moment on I started signing my artwork under this name.

Self-portrait by Jaime Garcia (El Mordi).

John: What were your first memories of art-making?

Jaime: I started drawing at a young age. One of my first teachers was my older brother. I remember drawing by his side… as a matter of fact, at the beginning I just used to copy his drawings. And I’ve been connected to that early way of expressing myself ever since.

John: That’s funny, I had the same experience with my older brother. And were there any working artists or illustrators that influenced you in your development over time?

Jaime: I like the work of contemporary artists such as Mark Ryden, James Jean, Alex Ross, Sachin Teng, just to name a few… because honestly, I really like a lot of artists.

John: I would say there’s a bit of tension in our world right now…

Jaime: Yes… I agree.

John: Are there any artists who are interacting with those tensions in a way that inspires you?

Jaime: There’s a lot of chaos in the world right now. I like to use creativity as a way to criticize political and moral aspects of society, and so Banksy’s work is an inspiration to me in that way.

John: What form is your own artwork taking these days?

Jaime: I’m currently freelancing with my art and before that I was fully into web design. But now as a freelancer I have been focusing on children’s illustrations. I like the world of children’s tales a lot.

John: And what about when you aren’t drawing..?

Jaime: I like watching movies, playing video games, and hanging out with my friends. The truth is I’m pretty ordinary in my interests. But what I enjoy the most by far is drawing and getting inspired by the artists I follow!

You can see more of El Mordi’s work on his website or follow him on Instagram.

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OWAG Track Light #1—> Acer (Portugal)

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

<- – – – – 

Today, I talk with graffiti and street artist André Perreira (Acer).

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John: So, André– how did you get into art and graffiti/street art?

André: It started when I first began art school and met some big names in the portuguese graffiti scene at the time. This was around ’98/’99, at António Arroio, which is the best art school in Portugal! Most of those artists aren’t even active anymore, but I remember the names of Capone, Hel, Res and few others that were pretty strong in the scene back then.

John: What’s your memory of your first piece?

André: I have memories of my first attempts, but the biggest memory I carry with me is from when I entered my first “wall of fame” in 1999 along with some artists I admired.

John: So why do street artists use tags instead of their birth names to identify themselves?

André: In the graffiti scene all (graffiti) writers have a tag, which becomes their identity. Once the “street art” movement became part of the picture all that changed. So it’s all a matter of where you come from. I stick to my tag (alter-ego) of Acer because my background is as a graffiti writer. 

John: Why did you choose Acer as your tag?

André: Acer came from the word “Ace” and also just mixing up letters from my name. My friends picked it up and  started to call me by it, so it stuck.

John: Haha, simple enough. What’s the street art scene like in Portugal? Do you travel much to do work?

André: Portugal has a very strong street art scene right now with many local artists getting their work recognized all over the world. I travel a lot, but that’s mostly for modeling and acting jobs.

John: Who do you usually collaborate with? And who (or what) are some of your artistic inspirations?

André: I have to say the members of my crew Zk’s are both my partners and my biggest inspiration.

Acer and Zk’s.

John: What about modeling? How did you get into that?

André: Well, I started modeling for fun and to get some extra cash, because when we got hit by the financial crisis I couldn’t afford any longer to live only from my art. But soon I realized I had potential to do much more and became a professional international model and actor working around the world.

John: Nice! Sometimes what looks like a setback is really a kick in the ass to move forward, right? I actually had the same experience running a small black-box theatre in Manhattan. We shut it down around Christmas of ’98 and I left for South Korea, which launched the rest of my life’s work, really.

André: Failure is part of life; only when you fall down will you be able realize how strong you are to get back up. My advice to younger artists is to be true to yourself, find what you love and stick to it all the way… see and try different things, get inspired and keep developing your style and identity.

John: Right on. So who is the woman in the DrawBag you did up?

André: That woman is my wife. She’s my muse and the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. The design on that DrawBag is all about love. If I named it, I would call it “Romance Dawn”.

John: It’s a beautiful piece. So what music are you listening to these days?

André: I like to go heavy when it comes to music. Lately I’ve been listening to August Burns Red and Architects a lot… I mean A LOT.

John: And how can someone connect with you?

André: I have Instagram accounts for both my modeling and art work. And anyone can message me through Behance, too.

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Crossing The Threshhold

All art is made in the moment;

And all that is made in the moment is art.

 

 

 

The secret to performance is no secret at all;

But instead what remains when there are no secrets remaining.

 

 

 

During my final year of graduate actor training at the University of Delaware’s former Professional Theatre Training Program, I took up brush and ink painting. During rehearsals, when not acting, I would quickly paint scenes from the production I was part of on cold-press watercolor paper no larger than a postcard.

Of the many hundreds of sketch-paintings I did, there were only two that painted themselves.

These two remain sacred to me, and reminders of the gateway before which I stood many times… never crossing the threshhold fully, though poking my head through unknowingly from time to time.