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The pair got together and repainted the outdated private karaoke rooms in Karaoke One7, giving new life to each room with a brand new theme.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.”