The best part of graffiti: doing it!

Have you ever woken up in the morning and thought to yourself, I should be doing something artistic with my life? Passion and artistic ability are the two most important aspects for a successful creative career. Dedication and persistence are also important, since it can take some time for many artists to see their careers go anywhere.

Patience paid off for Jimmy, American graffiti writer and founder of GlossBlack Services. Read the story of a young man whose career ineluctably shifted from Science to Art.

Tell us about your journey as an artist, how did it all get started?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I was always interested in art and learning new techniques and methods. I was very interested in graffiti and graffiti culture in high school and that’s definitely when lettering became my focus. I would draw graffiti and mess around with traditional wild style lettering, all in a sketch book, never trying to paint it.

I was accepted to Rutgers University where I studied Marine Science and Ecology. At the same time, I was being pulled towards graffiti in a stronger way, I was seeing it everywhere and a few friends were painting so we all formed a crew and started painting heavily. That was right around 2006, and I was painting graffiti weekly and also working a full-time job pertaining to my major. When I moved to Philly after school, I also started fishing around for mural jobs for extra cash. Most people that were interested were roller rinks, daycares, and residential clients with kids- rooms. In 2015, I did a handful of murals in Fishtown that looked more like my artwork and canvas work. After that, things started to snowball and I was painting murals almost weekly, as well as picking up some major corporate clients.

In the Spring of 2016 I quit my day job and became a full-time artist. It was absolutely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

What is above all your favorite thing about the Graffiti Art form? 

The best part of graffiti is the act of doing it, everything else is a byproduct. I have total freedom to paint whatever I want, as large as I what, wherever I want. It’s a very empowering feeling, I think that’s why graffiti is so popular and people either want to do it or just ride the coattails of graffiti culture and pretend they are ‘in it’.

Is there an artist you absolutely admire and would love to collaborate with?

I think art looks best when it’s one person’s vision. Since I have a background in graffiti, I gravitate towards and admire graffiti writers who have transitioned into the art world. I think it’s because I’m educated on their backgrounds, struggles, and work ethic, and it’s that that has brought them to where they are today. I admire and relate to that the most. Artists like Dceve, Kaws, Revok, Rime, and Twist are a few of the most inspiring artists to me.

What is the craziest project you ever worked on? 

The Gap commercial that I was part of last year was by far my craziest project to date. My work typically comes in waves, with very busy weeks of work followed by a lull for a few days or so. Leading up to this project I was working for 3 weeks straight, no days off, working on and completing 3 other projects back to back to back. The day I arrived home to start my mini vacation, I received a call that I would need to be in NYC the next day. For some reason, it was all very last minute, and as soon as I arrived in Brooklyn, I sat down with Director X and the art director in order to nail down the set design AND paint it FULLY overnight. The next day I was told that I would be painting another free-standing wall and also being fit by wardrobe since I’m actually IN the commercial. I was there for three days, exhausted from my previous projects and running on little sleep, but that was definitely the craziest project (for many different reasons) that I’ve ever worked on.

Do you like to prepare and draw before painting or do you sometimes just totally improvise? 

Since most of my commission mural work is directed by my clients, I almost always provide a sketch for them ahead of time, just to make sure we are on the same page. Certain styles of my mural work I can freehand on the wall without using a grid or projector, but there are some projects that are so big I just absolutely need to use a projector in order to trace the sketch. For my canvas work, all the lettering, shadows, accents etc are sketched out in pencil before any paint touches the canvas.

What is next for Gloss Black

As always, I have a handful of projects or potential projects in the works as we speak. I’ll be painting a massive mural in Center City Philadelphia later this year but that’s about all I can say about it. Until then, I’ll continue to follow leads and schedule meetings with clients. As much fun as it is to work on my own art, I actually enjoy the pressure and challenges of working with a client and their brand image. Looking forward I want to continue to sharpen my skills, provide a high-quality product to my clients, and always stay positive and thankful for the fact I’m creating art for a living.

See more about Jimmy here:

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