Californian-based artist, Dave Jay, makes “extradimensional Transplutonic paranormal” pieces of art. Over the past year or so we’ve become good friends and in that time I’ve watched his art evolve and take on a life of its own; it evokes a energy and power that you can’t quite put your finger on but you just sense while in its’ presence. I have some of his works hanging in my home. He also creates cosmic polymer statues, most recently a set of chess pieces! Excitingly Dave’s also created his very first comic book, which has a badass heroine at its heart who infiltrates cults and takes down their leaders. Welcome to the intriguing world of Dave Jay!
BIANCA: Where did your passion for art spark from?
DAVE JAY: It started when I was a little kid. In my family there’s tons of gnarly artists. My great-grandmother was the first person to play Carnegie Hall, solo, as a violinist. My great-grandfather, Louie (we’re all from Czechoslovakia) did these eggs; they’re not Fabergé eggs, just painted eggs. Every Easter he would send them to The White House. I have all these signed letters from Roosevelt and all the old presidents saying thank you for these eggs. The eggs would actually be in The White House as Easter presents. My whole family are very artistic. I guess I inherited that.
B: Why is art important to you?
DJ: I don’t know [laughs]. I have these silly thoughts, these grand illusions of why art is important… it sounds stupid for me to say it but, I believe that as a civilization we would be nowhere without art. I think of things on a grand scheme as a human being. I think people take art for granted, from art hanging on your walls or buying art, all that stuff. I think it’s something that I’ve been born into doing.
B: I agree. Let’s talk about your journey as an artist.
DJ: Sure. I’ve struggled and still do struggle so bad with doing my art work at times; I’ve struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse. I’ve always linked the two together, art and doing mind-altering substances to help me on my art work journey. I still struggle to this day to have the two meet, it’s hard to explain. It’s a touchy subject to me. There’s a certain area, a cosmic zone, which I am trying to reach. Things like magic mushrooms always help open me up a bit, they help me to open that little Third Eye that we all have. It helps me to create. I find I have a hard time finding it when I am sober. I know I can get there. I have to be honest though and tell you that it has helped me, it helps me to draw out things. I have trouble explaining it.
B: I think that’s one of the beautiful things about art and the creative process, it can be hard to define. It’s like it can just evoke these feelings, it doesn’t even need an explanation with words because if it transcends the word; it has its own language, if that makes sense?
DJ: Right! I went through a couple of periods where I didn’t do art. For me doing it, it’s kind of a blessing and a curse. Art for me, is me trying to express myself because I have a hard to time trying to express myself through talking… as you’re experiencing right now [laughs]…
B: Ha! You’re doing fine Dave.
DJ: When you see my art work it’s gnarly, it’s not a joke, there’s a lot of stuff that goes in there. It’s that third limb on my body that has the paint brush and its painting. It’s intense and you can read a lot into it.
B: That’s another cool thing about art, people can interrupt it in their own way and find their own significance, story and value in a work. Who are some of your artistic inspirations?
DJ: M.C. Escher was the first one that really grabbed me. I always loved doing drafting and architecture as a little kid. I started off with a Spirograph, doing circles and whatnot. For some reason I’ve always been fascinated with symbols since I was a kid. In third grade I remember getting busted because I had created my own alphabet so me and my friends could pass notes to each other and cuss. Unless you had the key for it you wouldn’t know what we were talking about [laughs].
B: That’s rad! I used to do that with my nieces too.
DJ: I’ve just been addicted to symbols. Getting back to the question, I love Escher because he’s a solid, mathematical dude, when it comes to drafting and architecture, I love that. It’s so hard to do all of that stuff though. It takes so much patience and time to do it. The drawing I sent you of the girl meditating in that temple, that took me a week to do and I don’t necessarily like doing that stuff. I do it though because I am just driven to. I’ve had a couple of art teachers tell me I’m a frustrated artist! I have people telling me that it should be super fun for me [laughs] …but it isn’t really all the time.
B: What art do you enjoy doing then?
DJ: Stuff I’ve really been enjoying lately that I’ve just fallen into is getting a canvas and throwing paint on it. Whatever I’m feeling, whatever mood I’m in, that comes out, it’s an organic thing. I throw the paint on the canvas and swirl it around and it will start to take shape—it’s kind of like automatic drawing, you know, Austin Osman Spare [artist, occultist, draughtsman]. That’s what I love doing. I’m good at the other stuff but I just like doing the more organic stuff. The other day I took a blowtorch, lit my painting on fire and threw it off a cliff! I throw those things like Frisbees dude.
B: [Laughs]. Sounds like to me while you are deadly serious about your art as you say, you still like to have fun with it.
DJ: They fly so far and they hit the brush when they land which can create an interesting effect. The video I sent you the other day was where that thing had landed. I get so mad about stuff and getting to throw paintings off cliffs helps, it’s a way to get that out.
B: It’s cathartic for you?
DJ: Yeah, for example, I get so mad if I break up with a girl and I don’t’ know what to fucking do so, I’ll just start painting something. There’s a couple of sides to how I do my art. There’s the throw paint on a canvas thing then there’s the sit down and do a pencil drawing that’s’ really planned out.
B: You mentioned you were attracted to symbols and I see symbols within your work; are there any particular symbols that you find yourself gravitating towards?
DJ: Probably the yin yang symbol. I’m a Cancer and that’s what my horoscope sign is or whatever.
B: You make up a lot of your own symbols and do sigil [a symbol used in magic] work, right?
DJ: Absolutely, I’ve been doing that since I was little, it goes back to me making my own alphabet. The one rad thing I did hear once was, the thing about the symbols… you can have a book of symbols, put it in your backpack and trek around the land and in that one book, in those symbols, you can have the equivalent of many books because each symbol in that book means so much. I don’t feel like there is anything profound about my stuff, I just do what I do.
B: I understand what you’re getting at because I used to think that way about what I do too because like you said, I just do what I do; it’s normal to us because we do it every day, that’s our life. I eventually realised though that it is actually profound.
DJ: I guess it is profound because it really is an extension of myself.
B: Yes! Did you study art or are your self-taught?
DJ: I went to college a little bit for it, I didn’t really pick up on it. I wasn’t ready for school at that point, I wanted to go surf and smoke bongs [laughs].
B: So you mentioned that your art was a very serious thing to you; have you always felt this way?
DJ: About a decade ago I started to feel that way. Before, I was fooling around with it and people would always tell me, dude, you should be an artist! Ten years ago, I decided that I really want to give it a go, I wanted to leave some cool art behind. I’d give pieces to my sister to put away in her attic. I tend to take all the art I’ve done and paint over it because I don’t have enough canvases. I made a conscious effort to give my sister my painting so I wouldn’t paint over them I wanted her to store them for family members, that’s the main thing for me. I want my niece and then if she has kids, her kids, to find this neat art in the attic painted by their crazy uncle [laughs]. I’m content with that.
B: That’s really lovely. To me you’re not crazy Getting to know you as I have been, to me you’re pretty normal.
DJ: [Laughs] I get that a lot.
B: Let’s talk about your comic book you’ve created.
DJ: The comic is an invention I came up with because I’ve always wanted to do comics. I’ve loved and collected comics since I was a kid. I love comic book movies. Two years I decided to make a comic book. I was going through hard times, my girlfriend had just gotten out of hospital and we broke up. I need an outlet so the comic book was it. I started contacting every comic book artists I loved, like Frank Miller… I emailed everyone. I told them about my idea but said I didn’t want to draw it. I wanted someone to help me draw it because I had no idea how to do it, I didn’t have the patience because I was going through the trauma of my girlfriend being really sick. Three people got back to me, one – Javier Rodriguez – told me there is no way that he could help me draw it because it’s too insane, special and gnarly. He told me that, you’re going to have to do it yourself. When he said that, something clicked. I thought, shit! I am going to have to do it myself. It was really cool. He told me that when I got done with it, he’d draw the cover for me!
B: That’s awesome.
DJ: After that, I went to work on it. The main character, June Rachel Parsons, is an amalgamation of a lot of the girls I have met that have been abused in their lives. She’s a heroine, in the vein of the assassin, The Bride, in Kill Bill, and infiltrates all these weird cults and kills the leaders because they’re doing bad shit. The basic good verse evil comic book stuff. It has a bit of a spin on it though because it’s got [Aleister] Crowley [occultist, painter, author] stuff and the Tree Of Life. I expose just the top layer of occult things. She uses the Tree of Life and Kabbalah as tools. It’s my baby. It’s super personal.
When I started it, all I did was kept drawing the girl’s face. I’ve been drawing her for years. I was drawing this girl mediating so she could explore extradimensions of outer space or whatnot. It all occurs inside your mind though, that’s the main thing, it’s not literal, all these things you’re experiencing. That’s the fun part of the comic! She gets to flip around and jump on the little circles on The Tree Of Life with her staff and bow. She goes from circle to circle and fights demons. That’s where you get the rad action kind of Spiderman type stuff, she wears a leotard! [laughs]. All this is happening in her mind, she sees herself how she wants to see herself, ‘cause these are all on the astral plane when she is doing her meditations. She’s bad ass. On the flipside of the story in real life, she’s a convict, she just got out of prison. She killed a dude because she was molested and hurt by the people that adopted her. As I mentioned before, I took the inspiration for the character from woman I have known in my life and things they’ve been through—it’s about human rights! Have you ever seen the show Dexter?
DJ: It’s kind of in the style of that. My character goes and infiltrates these cults and kills the leaders, making their deaths look like accidents. On the outside in reality she’s a murder but on the flipside where we get to do the fun meeting the demons stuff, that’s in her head where she gets to fly around and do whatever. I’m basically grounded in reality and I am sceptical of all these spiritual things; it’s kind of me trying to find a balance between those two things.
B: After hearing all this, I’m even more excited to read it. Now I know why the guy told you that it was really special and you had to create it yourself.
DJ: I’ve worked so hard on it. I’m scared of just going, boom! Here it is! I guess that’s just me not being confident though; it’s so personal, putting myself in there and then putting it out there, that’s a big deal for me.
B: I think that can be a big deal for any creative. We all can be sensitive, especially when we do put so much into our work and it is an extension of us. In your comic you mentioned that there are themes of the occult and Crowley’s work, which you and I as friends have spoken about; how did you get introduced to that stuff?
DJ: I was first introduced to all that stuff via Led Zeppelin’s IV when I was in 8th Grade. You’d send 99 cents to this place and they’d send you ten CDs. It was a little club. I ordered every Led Zeppelin CD that you could get, so I got all these CDs in the mail. The cover of Led Zeppelin IV just freaked me out, it was so gloomy and doomy and weird. When I was young I didn’t know about any of that stuff or whatever it was, same with one of the [Black] Sabbath covers, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath . I listen to the CDs and fell in love with Led Zeppelin, you could ask me any Led Zeppelin trivia and I could smoke you on it [laughs]. That’s when I first started getting into it.
All the people I went to high school with, none of them was into this stuff; I’ve been there since the very beginning. I was seeking out Crowley books before any of my friends. I put it down though, it was elaborate, all of the information contained in it. For ten or fifteen years I had it in my draw with my other books but, I knew it was important for something. At the time though, I couldn’t follow it.
I had this experience with my girlfriend and was traumatised, so I started reading again. I didn’t know what else to do so I just started reading the dense material, it really caught me; that’s when I switched over to Kenneth Grant [novelist, writer, ceremonial magician, founder of the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis]. That sparked my imagination again! I had a dry spell with my art for a good five years. Kenneth Grant’s work just lit me up. Whenever I needed something it got me through and it drove me to create art. When I wasn’t feeling it, I’d pick up his book and I’d flip to whatever page and it was like ‘boom!’ it would blow me away.
B: What’s one of the biggest things that you take away from Kenneth’s work?
DJ: I look at all of this stuff as a giant tool to spark my imagination. Stephen King does that too. I always loved reading. I take a lot from authors, reading sparks my imagination to create art and helps me with whatever I’m going through in life. I need an extra little giddy up to do my art.
B: I get that too. It seems like I’ll pick up a book at the exact perfect time and it will be relevant to whatever is happening in my world. I get the same with the interview work I do too, usually something in the chat will coincide or be useful with something that is happening with me. That’s why I consider my work to be an essential part of my spiritual practice. When I chatted with Gary Lachman from Blondie I realised that! Sometimes I have these total revelations or epiphanies mid-chat but I’ll have to keep it together and keep focused on my subject. Anyway… as far as Crowley and magick goes, what are your thoughts on that? What is real magick to you?
DJ: I’m totally conflicted on that because I’m 99% sure life is scientific, I lean towards that. I’m a skeptic when it comes to UFOs and all that stuff. There’s that 1% in my brain though, where I leave that little spot for all these cool things. I grew up loving Big Foot and all that kind of stuff but when it comes down to it, personally, I’ve got to see it to believe it. Like with the Crowley book you gave me, that guy was just trippin’ [laughs]. But, there’s that one small percent, that one when-the-stars-align thing, that one metaphysical part that gets my imagination going. Mostly I’m a non-believer. I think it all lies in our dreams, that’s why I love Kenneth Grant a lot. He gets it. Crowley got it as well but I think Crowley was yanking our chains, I feel all these kids that are buying into it are just led astray. I’ve read every Kenneth Grant book cover to back at least four times, I love him because there’s always a little thing in the appendix that basically says, it’s a joke—I love that!
B: So would you say as far as occult themes and symbolism in your work, you have more fun with it than take it seriously?
DJ: Absolutely! I take it completely with a grain of salt, but that said, I leave that 1% like we were talking about, open. I don’t put any stock in it though. It’s Dungeons & Dragons, its Harry Potter stuff to me, it’s fun! I’ve never performed any ceremonies or any silly stuff like that. When I make my clay statues I’ve done little things but what I think that it is, is just something to spark the imagination. A ritual, that’s what I really like, of doing things… see that’s what these people we’re talking about were all saying: if you focus on one thing, it’s going to sharpen your brain and get your imagination going. Imagination is so important.
Find DAVE JAY’s art at: tenminuteworld.com.
All art courtesy of Dave Jay. First art image by me; original photo by Dave’s sis.