MAGICJACK is an abstract artist from Portland, Maine. The 18 year-old apinter has quickly gained a following on social media thanks to his hip-hop and pop-culture inspired pieces. MAGICJACK makes it clear, though, that his work is much more than hip hop fan art. He says he wants his work to be “something new, unique, and memorable for all types of people.” Check out his artwork below, and read our interview with him that follows.
You have a very distinct style of art – how would you describe it if you had to?
The first word I think of is spontaneous, but even then I spend a lot of time trying to make my work appear simple and quickly put together. I think the best way to put it is “controlled mess.” I can suggest the idea of a known concept or image – such as the album cover reworks – but if you really look at the piece it begins to lose form and turn into a very textural abstract work. In short, false simplicity and controlled chaos.
That’s a great way to put it. I see that pop culture, especially hip hop, has a huge influence on your work. Is the goal to one day work with these artists you base your work on?
Yeah it’d be awesome to do some work for a major artist. So far I’ve made a couple connections with smaller “underground” artists like UnotheActivist, Yung Bans, and Cochise, so I really feel like it’s just a matter of time before bigger names take notice. I wouldn’t say it’s the ultimate goal, but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to. I’m speaking it into existence [laughs]. My pop culture elements are really just starting to be explored as well. I grew up reading old comic books from when my dad was a kid and I still think that stuff is so cool. I’ve got some solo work planned that’s based around that 80’s/90’s era of superheros and shit like that. I’d maybe even make my own comic series.
What’s your creative process like when it comes to making artwork from scratch – like your original paintings that don’t have reference images to go off of?
It depends…some pieces are planned out on paper beforehand, and I’ll either study a historical theme or another artists’ work. I’ve constantly got documentaries and studio footage playing when I paint, too. But some of my favorite pieces just [come from] an idea that pops into my head and I’ll just go at the canvas and see what comes out. Paying attention to current events has also been a part of the process – there’s so much to take away from how messed up some people are, which serves as great inspiration. Also, in most of my solo work, I like to have storytelling elements, so all the details matter and play a role in the narrative conveyed.
Who are your biggest influences on your style of work You mentioned playing studio footage while you paint – who would you be watching?
The biggest influence is Picasso. It sounds cliche, but his work is just on another level. His versatility is unmatched, honestly. My latest self portrait is actually a study of his Blue Period, which was a really fun process to work through. A couple other honorable mentions go to Ralph Steadman, George Condo, and Madaski. All these guys I really admire for their ability to incorporate their striking signature styles into portraiture, as well as their modern allusions to art in general. Each one has taught / is teaching me a distinct aspect of my art as well. Steadman is showing me how to draw things without actually drawing them. Condo is showing me how to make abstract elements seem real. And Madaski is showing me how to feign simplicity. Madaski is also a big reason as to why I started studying art history on my own in the first place, actually. But my all times favorite documentaries / interviews / footage have to be “Jean Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child,” a Condo interview titled “The Way I Think,” and Picasso’s studio footage. They just act as a direct shot of creativity, and have great music and great ideas too.
I noticed you’ve grown your following on social media pretty rapidly. What has social media been able to do for you as an artist? And what’s it like to have a bigger following now?
Social media is my biggest dilemma. I’m so grateful for the ability to have so much free marketing at my fingertips, as well as the ability to connect with other super-talented people who I would have never met without social media. I live in a small town in Maine, so its hard being the only person doing what I’m doing for hundreds of miles. Being on social media makes it super easy to connect with the world. Having a bigger following so quick is a huge blessing too. A lot of that is definitely due to posting more hip-hop related stuff, but now I have a growing platform to show my solo work and eduncate people on my artistic influences. At the same time, though, I’d love to not have to worry about posting every day and making sure I’m active and all that. It’s become a hard habit to just get rid of, because it would actually lose business. I’ve definitely been able to cut back [on social media] since I started, though, which feels really great. I’m able to focus more on quality rather than how fast I can push out work for my followers.
You said earlier that you’d like to work with hip-hop artists, but that it’s not your ultimate goal – so, what is? What kind of impact do you want to have as an artist?
I’d be happy if all that happens from it is that I make a normal living off of it. But honestly, I think it’s going to be way more than that. I want to be in a position where I can help out the “bedroom artists” like what I am right now. Whether that be providing a gallery space for young talent, or a free space to come work. I want my name to be remembered after I’m dead by people other than my grandkids – that’s something I’ve been saying since I was younger and it wasn’t until I started really being an artist that it started to feel like it could become a reality – in due time, of course. The hip-hop art is cool and all, but it’s never been the end goal. I want my work to be something new, unique, and memorable for all types of people.