John Boylan - aka Artjeb

Project 1612: How would you describe the art you make?

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John:  The easiest way to describe my art is to say its Mixed Media and be done. However, saying that does a disservice to the question and myself. I’d say there are two key parts to this question, the content and the process. 

My content these days tends to focus on elements from my childhood, such as big wheels, old TV shows, and coloring books to name just a few examples. I enjoy exploring “vintage” concepts and bringing them forward in time, so people can connect and reminisce and also to introduce them to younger people who are often unaware. A lot of the content has personal meaning to me, but sometimes it’s as simple as just making me laugh or smile. 

My process and/or technique is varied depending on the project at hand, but it’s usually some combination of acrylic and enamel paint, edited-images (mine and others) mixed with paper, glitter and anything else I find appealing at the moment. I use several different methods to transfer images to my canvas and wood panels. I primarily use an acrylic gel medium, but I’ll also experiment with other mediums and solvents to achieve specific effects.

Project 1612: What drives your practice?

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John: Practice. Why are we talking about practice? Why aren’t we talking about the game?! I give my heart and soul to the game! HA-HA. I’m kidding, but I’ve been driven to be creative since I was young. I’ve always had this “bug” to present myself or situations in unique ways and I recall always going the extra mile when I was younger to make my playtime creative. Perhaps being a latch-key child played a key role in this development for me?

Over the years, my creativity has been split over many mediums due to work, life, and balance. When I left art school, my kids, life, and financial security took priority over many of my artistic ambitions. It’s only been over the past two years that I’ve been able to carve out the necessary time to begin producing physical art again. Before that, my creativity was primarily targeted to photography, computer graphics, video games and being extra goofy.

What drives my current practice is my ambition to be relevant before death. It sounds a bit morbid, but as you get older you begin to realize the things that are important to you and you begin to focus on prioritizing those things and eliminating the waste of everyday life. As you gain wisdom through life, you also learn how much you’ve been sweating the small stuff instead of focusing more on the big picture. A lot of small things can add up to big things, so don’t take that the wrong way. I was more referring to those type of situations where you stressed out way too much about giving a speech or taking a risk.

Project 1612: Your studio is full of artwork, finished and in-progress paintings. Can you talk about the number of pieces you have going and why so many at once? 

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John: I often have fifty or more works in progress at any given time, plus finished pieces that line my walls and spill into other spaces outside my studio. I work on a lot of pieces at one time for several reasons. My process can often be intensive with the layering and removal of paint which calls for multiple applications and drying sessions and leaves me plenty of time to start another piece. I also feel having so many pieces in progress at one time helps my creativity stay rampant and provides many avenues to detour from plan or experiment with new techniques or styles. Occasionally, I find that mixing an older painting in progress with more recent techniques can result in unplanned happiness for me and I dig that. 

Project 1612: The color is your work is pretty vibrant, lots of neons. What influences these color choices?

John: Color choices for me are often influenced by things I see in day to day life like road signs, safety cones, fire hydrants and graffiti. I’m also a child of the 70’s and 80’s so there certainly was no shortage of color in my upbringing. I enjoy the pop of neon and the assault it can have on our brains, but I’m definitely guilty of overusing it. Recently, I feel that I’ve found a better balance with it and have been using it more strategically verse in your face.

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Project 1612: Explain the role pop culture has in your work.

John: I find inspiration from many things, but there is no denying my love for pop culture. Perhaps this was partially due to my MTV upbringing and that need to be in the NOW. The pop culture most often represented in my work would be vintage pop culture, although I do some work based on current events. I’ll often find inspiration looking through old vintage magazines, coloring books and watching old TV shows. You’ll be able to see some of this style in my MR.T series coming this summer. 

Project 1612: What problems do you face in the studio? How do you overcome them?

John: I don’t think we covered this yet, but my studio is an old bedroom in my house. Having a studio in your house is amazing, but at the same time it’s disastrous since the bathroom next to it is full of dirty paint brushes, paint splatters and the hallway leading to it is full of paint tracks.

The number one problem with my studio is not having an adequate ventilation system for the work I love to do. I’m 100% guilty of working in unsafe conditions and absolutely don’t recommend this to anyone. When I’m smart, I try to do the dangerous work outside, but in the winter months or rainy days, it just isn’t possible. I have many heart-to-heart talks with myself about how stupid I’m being and my kids are also great at letting me know. Perhaps, writing this out now will help me think more about the harm I’m causing myself.

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The number two issue I have is space, which I’m assuming almost all artists encounter. For now, I just deal with it and overflow my work into the hallways, other rooms in my house, the garage and outside. I tend to produce a lot of work these days and all that work needs to go somewhere while it’s being made or not on display. I’d highly recommend reaching out to me to purchase said artwork, so we can clear more space for my kids to play.  

Project 1612: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

John: I probably have a few things to say about this, but the number one thing would be to make work, more work and then more work on top of that. Even when you don’t want to make work, make work. I believe the more you create, the more you learn, the more mistakes you make, the more you grow and the more you’ll find your true self over time. I also know there is a balance and it’s good to take small breaks from the physical creation, but don’t ever stop studying other artists, art forms and the world around you for inspiration. 

Be Professional. I’m not saying that you need to lose your persona, but instead to be accountable and follow through on your commitments. Don’t let being an artist be a copout for doing things haphazardly or at 10% effort. People who buy your art, hire you to make art or let you show your work deserve your best effort. I’ve seen many artists lose a lot of great opportunities based on their poor efforts. Remember, it’s a faster path to the bottom than it is to the top.

Be Business. Price your work so that’s it’s fair to you and other artists. This is something I still struggle with today and I’m constantly working on. There are lots of different formulas out there and I won’t get into those now, but you absolutely must learn to not sell yourself short. Despite what the general public says or thinks, they don’t have a clue about the time, effort, and money that goes into producing your original artwork. When artists sell things well below value, then people expect all artists to do the same. 

Be Friendly and LOVE. It’s okay to embrace other local artists and to support them. Try and look at the local art community as your family and build from that. Sure, there will be times when you’ll be competing for space, shows, and admiration, but do your best to be supportive and respectful throughout the process. Learn to compete only with yourself. ☺

Trust yourself. Trust your style, direction, concepts, and ability. There will always be people who try to bring you down or plant seeds of doubt. Believe in yourself and don’t focus on being someone else. You don’t have to make works like the masters you see in museums, books, and magazines to be successful. You don’t have to sell work to be relevant. You just have to be the best YOU that YOU can be that makes YOU HAPPY and FULFILLED.

Project 1612: Do you have anything coming up you would like everyone to know about?

John: Heck yes I do!!! There are two upcoming events I’d love to see you at. Please join me at Tannins & Hops on Wednesday, June 27th starting at 6 PM as they begin their journey to support local art. I’m super excited to be the first artist ever to show at their popular venue. They’re a modern-day speakeasy located at 619 SW Water Street in Peoria, located right between Kelleher’s and 8-bit arcade. I’ll have about 20 new pieces for this show.

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I also have a special themed MR.T show at One World Café beginning July 16th and running through August 13th. I’ll be doing something special on their outdoor patio for First Friday on August 3rd. One World Café is located at 1245 W Main in Peoria across from Bradley University.

You can also find my work represented by Dog & Pony Art Gallery inside the Sunbeam building. They’re located at 925 N Sheridan Rd, Peoria across from Pitch Bar which also houses some of my work. ☺

You can find me on social media on Facebook at Artjeb and on Instagram and Snapchat at PeoriaSpitfire. I’m always open to chatter and collaboration ideas, so feel free to hit me up on any platform. If you want sneak peeks at what I’m working on or to learn more about what inspires me, you’ll definitely want to follow my snaps.

Project 1612: What are your thoughts on the art community in Central IL?

John: I’ve seen a lot of growth in the Peoria area over the past couple of years, but I see potential for so much more and that’s what exciting. I think there are untapped opportunities to connect deeper with other communities in Central, IL. I’d like to see some type of artist or city art exchange with other communities such as Bloomington, Morton, Champaign, Urbana, etc. to name just a few.  

Within our community, I love the work going on with the 1612 project and Emerging Artists Collective. The community seems to be growing with artists, venues, and observers. The next step now is figuring out how we turn more observers into consumers and get more local venues to see the value in partnering with local artists. Chelsie Tamms of Lettering Works and Jessica McGhee of Hey Lola are just two examples of local artists and making a huge impact in our community. 

Last, the talent located in Central, IL is phenomenal and never ceases to amaze me. LOVE.

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John Boylan is an artist working in Peoria, IL. More of his work can be found on here