Visual Artists

Creatives of NY // Entry #011 // JAYKO Studios // Collaborative Visual Artists

Hello readers,

It’s been awhile since I last posted an article or transcript from this series. I was dealing with a very serious ankle injury, and then that blended into an illness in my family; however, I am back, and I am ready to start up this project again.

I am very excited to re-launch this project with a feature on the talented artists of JAYKO STUDIOS. I initially met up with Jayson and Yoko at Karaoke One7 in July of 2018, the place where these two talented visual artists first met. 

Both from different backgrounds, Jayson from New Jersey and Yoko from Japan, this duo collaborates to create work that is greater and even more dynamic than just the sum of its parts. Jayson always knew he wanted to be an artist, and set his sights from a young age on attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in the city - it was the only school he applied to. He was admitted, and at 18 took the leap and moved to the city. Yoko, born in Osaka, Japan, was an only child and had strict parents - she wanted to attend art school, but wasn’t allowed to follow that path. She started working, and when she turned 33 she moved to New York City: “I came here just to study English for one year, but I just decided to stay, and I started working here. I met Jason in maybe 2013 or 2014, and he helped me with drawing and painting and such.”

The pair got together and repainted the outdated private karaoke rooms in Karaoke One7, giving new life to each room with a brand new theme. Jayson remarked, “We both actually had no idea that we were both artists, until we started working on the rooms here together, and that’s when we decided to start our own company and just focus mainly on art, fashion… anything that has to do with art.”

Together, Jayson and Yoko developed a distinctive style and formed JAYKO STUDIOS - “At first, we would just say what we were going to do, and she would work over there in one corner, and I would work on another corner, but our styles were a little different, so it stood out. Then we just came up with this whole system where we kept switching back and forth so the whole piece would look uniform, but now we’ve gotten to the point where we forget who did what because our styles have become so similar because we’ve been working together so long,” Jayson said.

The duo is inspired by street art, taking further inspiration from artists who make their work accessible on social media sites such as Instagram. For Yoko, her favorite artist is OkayTina and for Jayson, he grew up admiring Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring, but nowadays enjoys the artwork of Alec Monopoly, Mr. Doodle.

The pair said collaboration isn’t all smooth-sailing - fighting does happen: Yoko laughed as Jayson stated, “It’s two different artists with crazy heads and so many ideas, so to work together as a team, we go through it sometimes, but we’ll just sit down and we’ll figure out her ideas and my ideas and we try to put it together as one idea, and then we build from there.”

“I feel like we have to have each other to make this work. Jayson has a fine arts background, and he taught me all the art techniques and everything,” shared Yoko. Jayson noted that Yoko picks up new mediums quickly and has a meticulous nature when she creates, sometimes making adjustments as she goes.

The artists make sure to encourage one another in the creative process: “Sometimes when I have an idea and I start it, I get really hard on myself because I don’t see it how I am seeing it in my head, so she’ll be like ‘Keep going!’ and I’m like, ‘No, I hate it!’, but then I keep working on it and then I’m like, ‘Fine, I like it.’”

Yoko takes inspiration from her heritage in her process: “Some of my painting and doodling is from my childhood - I’m Japanese, and it’s a Japanese thing, there is a drawing song for the character, and there is a song with the drawing and I can dance to the beat of my childhood, like a younger me. Mainly American people can’t notice it, but Japanese people can sit and notice it’s a childhood drawing,”

Visually-driven, one can’t help but take note of their great sense of style - Jayson and Yoko often sport similar outfits, both sharing an interest in fashion. Yoko said, “So many people ask me, ‘Where did you buy that? Where did you get your clothes from? I want the same clothes as you.’”

Jayson added, “We’ll take clothes and we’ll cut them and sew them up. By accident, I’ll get paint on my clothes while we’re painting. She’s smart - she wears a jumpsuit. I’m always covered in paint, and she’s always the clean one, but I’ll get paint on my clothes and then I just add more paint and wear it again anyways.”

The journey to becoming an artist is a long one; during our conversation, both artists spoke fondly about the people that helped them grow as artists. For Jayson, his high school art teacher helped him build a strong foundation as an artist while providing valuable insight and also managing to keep things light: “I had Nicolle Schuster for several different classes throughout my high school career. She always took me in - I would have breakfast with her every morning, and we would talk about art. She would always make jokes about my art. Still to this day, we’re friends on Facebook, and I post pictures of my artwork and she’ll be like, ‘What happened to that ugly tree you used to draw?’ She was always my favorite - to this day I still love her.”

Yoko said, “My mentor is Jayson, but sometimes I feel that I am better. I can do better.”

(Jayson added jokingly, “We’re in a competition now!”)

The pair of artists values collaboration with other artists and organizations as well - in June 2018, they worked with twenty other artists on “We B Poppin” to raise money for Chashama’s annual gala. “Yoko and I were all visual, as far as when it comes to the lights, the color, and then we had our friend, Anthony Rodriguez, who was all performance, and under him were other artists such as singers and dancers.”

Jayson described the event: “It was a huge gala for about 1,000 people. It was on the 22nd floor of 4 Times Square, and there were probably about 150 different artists/performers that were involved in the gala, and it’s an old office building - it’s actually the old Vanity Fair office - each artist got their own room or space within the office, so the whole thing was that the people who bought tickets for the event would be able to experience what was going on in each artist’s room or space. The event lasted for six hours, so something had to be going on inside of your room at all times for six hours. We actually ended up getting the lobby of the 22nd floor, which is the largest room, so everyone would come out of the elevator and already be part of the ‘We B Poppin’ experience with our entire team.”

Most recently, Jayson and Yoko had the opportunity to paint the inside of a silo of a warehouse for Elements Fest in the Bronx in August. The room was lit with a blacklight, making their creations glow in neon along the walls. (Click here for pictures of this amazing installation.) They also had their first art show in December at Artspace PS109 featuring some of their newer works.

For both Jayson and Yoko, living in New York City is central to their artistic experiences. “New York is really cool - for me, I don’t have any art background, but so many people have given me so many opportunities... I can do what I want to do… it’s a good thing that I’m here; I’m really here,” Yoko said.

As for aspiring creatives hoping to move to New York, Jayson left this piece of advice: “Just follow your dreams. Do whatever you love. Don’t listen to what other people say about your work. If you like it and feel inspired to do it, then just do it… there’s always going to be somebody who’s going to like your work.”

You can find out more about JAYKO STUDIOS on their website or follow them on Instagram.

Yoko and Jayson on 35mm film

Yoko and Jayson on 35mm film

Yoko and Jayson on FP-100c

Yoko and Jayson on FP-100c

Jayson and Yoko on 35mm film

Jayson and Yoko on 35mm film

Yoko and Jayson on 35mm film

Yoko and Jayson on 35mm film

Creatives of NY // Entry #009 // Brandon Sines // Visual Artist

Brandon Sines is the brain behind the familiar face of Frank Ape. Working from his studio in Queens, Sines' space is chock-full of Frank - whether it be through paintings and dolls, or pins and stickers. 

Sines was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Toronto. He moved to New York City and created Frank Ape around 2011. For Sines, art wasn't always the obvious answer, but he gravitated towards it as a child: "When I was a kid, I was really interested in drawing and that was kind of my favorite thing to do, more so than kids that were into sports... I was just into drawing, and I always liked art class. When I got older, maybe around fourteen, I stopped kind of paying attention to that so much and got into some trouble, did that whole teenage rebellion thing and forgot about art for a little while. I got back into it again when I was in my early twenties. Moving to New York was a big catalyst for sparking my creativity again and really having this passion and an audience to speak to." 

Sines developed Frank as a character to use in a couple of paintings that he would write little messages on alongside the painting. "I wanted a character that was not really a person, but not really an animal, and maybe a wise soul who was not fully evolved, but felt things deeply. I felt like a Sasquatch was kind of a cool thing to play with, and so I first used him in a painting in 2011 and I just ended up using him again and putting him in different situations, and then I remember a friend of a friend asking what his name was and I said 'Frank' kind of without thinking about it. I think I was thinking I would come up with something better later, but it really just quickly turned into its own thing... people just knew Frank, so obviously I couldn't change it, and I thought it was actually kind of the perfect name."

From humble beginnings, Frank's character has been growing: "His voice has been developing over the years. I did a lot of pop culture references in the early days, and then I kind of decided I wanted him to have his own voice and have his own universe and feelings and kind of stand for something." 

Sines' work gained popularity through Instagram - people connected with Frank as a character. "It was really exciting to see this character reach people. They were all different kinds of people of all ages and backgrounds."

For Sines, his favorite medium is watercolor and ink on paper - growing up looking at comic books, he is drawn towards an illustrative style. "I feel confident using those tools, but I've also been getting into a lot of other things, like spray painting and large-scale canvases with acrylic and I've been doing a lot of murals lately, which of course involves spray paint and stuff. I've been experimenting with a lot of new things, and getting my bearings with everything." 

Sines was inspired in the early days by wanting to have his work seen and liked, but with Frank, he wants his art to make a positive impact. "I want Frank to be accessible for really young people. I'm thinking about doing a kid's book right now. I want it to be inspiring. I want Frank to be someone that makes you feel like you can follow your dreams and inspires you to be the best you can be, be nice to others, and be a loyal friend... all these things that I feel like I'm learning myself. It's kind of like an alter-ego for me. As I get older I realize what's really important in life and what values I think are important. I try to have Frank put those out there, and it's just really all about positivity." 

His latest project of note includes a mural by One World Trade Center (his biggest mural to date at 150 feet wide). "I went down there the other day to check it out, and it was so cool seeing all these tourists taking pictures... it was really rad to see the connection the people were having with the piece. The message on that one is 'Everyone is different, and everyone is the same,' so I feel like people are responding because it's timely. It wasn't something I was really even thinking about - it was just something I felt Frank was all about." 

"There are two sides of it - it's kind of a new thing for me to be having this career where I'm able to take care of my basic needs like my rent - I can take care of that stuff just from the stuff I'm doing with the art and not have a side gig. It's very exciting. I'm always doing new things, and I'm sometimes stressed taking on new projects, and I think it's important to take the time to reflect and be proud of the accomplishments I have so far... on the other side of it, what's fulfilling about being an artist is inspiring other people. Whenever I do a show and meet people that are into Frank or Frank's world and they say something about how it inspired them or how it made them feel connected, that's what really makes me super happy and inspired to keep going. I think if it wasn't for that, I might not be going with the same energy that I have." 

You can visit Brandon Sines' website here.

You can visit the Frank Ape website here.

You can follow Frank Ape on Instagram here.

Brandon on 35mm

Brandon on 35mm

Brandon's assorted spray paints on 35mm

Brandon's assorted spray paints on 35mm

Frank Ape on 35mm

Frank Ape on 35mm

Brandon on 35mm

Brandon on 35mm

Frank Ape on Polaroid 600 film

Frank Ape on Polaroid 600 film

Brandon Sines on Polaroid 600 film

Brandon Sines on Polaroid 600 film

Creatives of NY // Entry #008 // Sean Maldjian // Art Director and Illustrator

Sean Maldjian is the mastermind behind the Instagram account @horror_meets_music. An art director and illustrator, for Maldjian, his art is inspired by his New Jersey roots, horror films, music, and a unique surfer style. I met with Sean along the West Harlem Piers for our shoot and interview.

Allison: Tell me a little bit about your background.

Sean: I'm from New Jersey. I'm from the shore, but not from the terrible part. It's a pretty coast town. I've always been doing art. I work in advertising design, so I'm kind of a sellout, but I still do my own stuff on the side. It evens out, I think. I have a big family: four siblings and my parents. The seven of us - it breeds a lot of creativity and we bounce weird ideas off of each other. Hobbies other than this? I like to surf, and I used to skateboard, but do so less nowadays. 

Allison: What is your preferred medium as an artist? 

Sean: I'm pretty lazy. I really like when I can just draw something and scan it in and manipulate it in Illustrator. I like the capability to blow it up to bigger sizes - you can do whatever you want with it, but if I'm not doing that, then I just like to use oil paint pens on any wood I can find on the streets. That kind of stuff appeals to me. 

Allison: What fascinates you and inspires you to create?

Sean: Oh boy... I don't know - I see a lot of stuff. My work is inspired by movies or TV shows. I'm really into a lot of 60's - 70's horror movies, and then kind of mashing it together with that kinda cliche surf art that you see like Rick Griffin or Rat Fink... just really exaggerated forms and blending those two together to make something. It's hard to get someone to watch an entire scary movie, but you can show them a cool piece of art inspired by it, and they can take it in, and you can have that connection with them on that level. 

Allison: So how did you start your Instagram account? What made you decide to start making drawings based on horror movies and music? 

Sean: I remember I hadn't had a day off in three weeks; it just got really crazy at work. I kinda realized I wanted to make a picture, because I hadn't done that in awhile. I went on my Instagram and I hadn't posted anything in three years, so it lit a fire under me. I wanted to make stuff that I cared about again. I care about my work, but it's still just work, ya know? I'm not ever gonna be 100% devoted to it. I just started thinking... I really have always had a passion for movies, and I've always had a passion for music, and if I could just find a way to put to pen the weird kind of connections I see between the two of them, that could be really cool. The first one I drew was an alien and an old song from The Byrds, and I thought it was really funny. Whenever I'm watching movies or listening to music, I always try to put sound to one or put vision to the other. I was already doing that automatically. 

Allison: What artists, either from your mediums or other mediums, inspire you? 

Sean: Well I mentioned before Rick Griffin. He's huge. Robert Crumb... Johnny Ryan...Matt Furie is awesome. A lot of people that really use that cartoon-y style and a lot of colors. Throw John Carpenter in there because movies - he creates an awesome atmosphere. 

Allison: Who were some of your mentors you met along the way?

Sean: My older siblings... my sister and my dad were huge - they always liked doing art, and I was always trying to hang out with them - there was a gateway into that. From there, a lot of kids did art in high school - there are a lot of people from my high school that do a similar kind of style... just from the shore. Martha Maynard who I went to school with and her boyfriend Taylor Ray... I remember drawing with them a lot in high school. That definitely solidified that same style. It was like an echo chamber almost. A lot of local people... aside from huge names, I never really seek out other artists to hang out with. 

Allison: How did you develop your style?

Sean: A lot of trying to mimic what I saw on TV shows and almost re-drawing and creating depth to make a convincing image... what parts and features to exaggerate, a lot of that I take that from watching old cartoons. For really bizarre stuff, I'll watch old horror movies like Society or Suspiria, just to get weird ideas that I wouldn't have thought of and to just illustrate them. 

Allison: What are your favorite and least favorite things about being an artist in New York City?

Sean: My favorite thing is that there are a lot of other people doing it and it feels like a good space where there are other people seeking out other artists to collaborate and all that. There's nothing really too bad about it. You kind of feel overwhelmed at times, which isn't always a problem - because then you get excited. Sometimes you feel like you're running into a wall and you don't know what to make. There's a lot of people making noise, and you don't know how you're gonna cut through, but everyone's all trying to do their own thing, so it doesn't really matter.

Allison: What advice do you have for artists hoping to move to New York City? 

Sean: Just make something everyday. Honestly, that helped me so much. I don't think I would have been nearly as successful or would have had anything I would really be proud of if I wasn't constantly making stuff every day for a solid two months after I first started the account. It just forces you to stay on top of it. Keep that goal in mind. If you want to make a living doing this, you're going to have to do it very often. Don't ever think something's not good enough; just make it in a day and just post it. 

Allison: Is there anything else you would like readers to know?

Sean: I liked what I said before - do something everyday. Doesn't even have to apply only to art. Do something everyday, and eventually you're gonna get good at it, and if you don't get good at it, at least you can say you did something you like everyday. 

You can follow Sean on Instagram here.

Sean on 35mm film

Sean on 35mm film

Sean on 35mm film

Sean on 35mm film