Jackson Joyce

Where are you from and where do you live now?
I’m from Shreveport, Louisiana. The kind of not-well-known Louisiana town that still allows smoking in some restaurants. Now I live in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.
What’s your favorite part of living in Brooklyn?
Somehow, everyone I know – from childhood, college, whenever – has ended up in Brooklyn. I really have a great community of artists and friends. Lots of people that inspire and push me. That, and the proximity to so many great galleries, will keep me in Brooklyn.
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
I wake up, make my bed, and fold my mattress up into the plywood box I constructed to disguise it. Presto: a studio appears. The walls have three or four paintings in progress hanging at any given time. I make a list of what each painting needs, and am constantly moving between each painting in progress. Sometimes what a painting needs is that one leaf to be a warmer green, sometimes it needs to be spontaneously gessoed over. I take it day by day, and insert lots of chess breaks.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
Lots of coffee.
Did you go to art school?
I got my BFA from RISD. The teacher who influenced me the most was Chris Buzelli. When I met him I was making black and white ink drawings. I revered these graphic novelists and artists that work in ink like Charles Burns, Raymond Pettibon, and Adrian Tomine. I tried in vain to make ink work for me as a medium. One day, Chris said something like, “If you aren’t making work you are excited about, you’re doomed, because no one else will be excited about it either.” I had to take a step back and figure out what was going to make me excited about my work. I remembered plein air painting on the porch of my house in Louisiana. I think a week later I was doing these colorful, off-kilter paintings and never looked back.

I’m less interested in making a reflection of our world, and more interested in making a world where things look the way they feel. — Jackson Joyce
What makes the paintings off-kilter?
Sometimes it is a familiar scene, like reading a book, but the thumbs are too big or the sky is an unnatural pink. Everything in the painting almost makes sense, but then it doesn’t. Some elements are heightened, others are muted. I’m less interested in making a reflection of our world, and more interested in making a world where things look the way they feel.
How do you see your work evolving in the future?
Over the years my paintings have gotten flatter and flatter. In the future, I want to make something 3D. There are lots of designers and sculptors I’d like to collaborate with.
How do the different elements of color come together in your works?
I spend 10% of my time drawing a piece, maybe less. The rest of the time, I’m moving colors around. I studied a lot of color theory, but at some point all of that goes out the window. I like to have a balance of harmony, discord, and something unexpected in each painting. Those three things influence the whole mood, and it takes a lot of iterations.
How do you make choices about color?
I try to start with a limited palette to keep things from getting out of hand. I use technical things – triads, analogous color – to create harmony. Then, I start adding elements of color that disrupt that harmony. That part is more intuitive, and has less to do with technique. I aim to make colors that are hard to describe. If a friend and I need to argue over whether something is pink or orange or gray, then I nailed it.
Are you influenced by any author or non-visual artist?
I’m influenced by music quite a bit. Not by any artist in particular, but by the approach to storytelling songwriters have. Songs tell a story, although you don’t follow it from beginning to end, you find something to hold on to and respond to. When I realized that, I decided to start painting in a similar way. Each object or color is a beat – a chord. I leave hints of a narrative without telling the whole story. Right now, I’m painting love songs.
Are there any songs that you’ve tried to render as a painting in a literal sense?
Though i like to compare my practice to making music, I haven’t tried to directly translate a song. If I had to start, I’d go with “In Dreams” by Roy Orbison.
If a friend and I need to argue over whether something is pink or orange or gray, then I nailed it. — Jackson Joyce

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