The Collective /SHARE
The term ‘artist’ doesn’t really cover what Jason Woodside is or does. “I see myself as more of a visionary or a creator,” he says. Woodside's ultimate mission is to engage, inspire and channel some positive vibes, however that may manifest. He makes art, yes, but he also owns a café, Happy Bones, that aims to “inspire and energise New Yorkers” via great coffee and a design-driven space that showcases the creations of the talented young things living and working in NYC. In Australia for Vivid Sydney as a guest speaker at art and design conference Semi-Permanent, Woodside chats to Russh about spending eight days straight attached to a wall, and the magical creative powers of coffee.
I read that before you became an artist/designer you pursued a career in filmmaking. What made you change direction?
It's a shame. I really loved film, specifically writing and cinematography. In the end I felt it wasn't self-sufficient enough long term. Too many moving parts and personalities to coordinate to create the end result. Painting and what I generally produce these days is something I can do in my own.
Tell me a bit about your creative process – how does a work journey from inception to completion?
My process starts with something or somebody triggering positivity in my mind. Whether a song, a passing encounter with someone or seeing something in nature that stokes me out. I think my art speaks to this as it’s nothing hugely specific or figurative, but more an energy brought about by something vibrant or stimulating. My outcome or what I'm trying to achieve is to touch on the nostalgia through contrasted color combinations. The shapes aspect for my exterior works speaks to the location and the people living there. After all, those are the ones that have to look at it everyday. I try to gauge the vibe of the culture and the surrounding building shapes and plan something that works nicely with the local environment. The execution side of things is a bit less glamorous or theoretical. I'm usually attached to a wall or on a lift for five to eight days straight and work from 9am to 9pm - some quick naps in between and a beer or two to finish the day. I very rarely use interns as I feel I need to see and feel exactly what I'm creating. If not, I could risk feeling a disconnect between me and the piece. I guess the bottom line is I love what I do and the hard work process is all part of it.
How would you describe your style as an artist?
I see myself as more of a visionary or a creator. Painting is what I do for a living, but I feel it's so much more than that. Personally I think labeling the style can almost limit the experience, as it's more about the subconscious outcome for me. Does it make someone happy for five minutes? Does it inspire a city kid to want to create something or think bigger? Positive vibrations are the best.
You opened a café and local art space, Happy Bones, in NYC a few years back that you say “exists to inspire and energise New Yorkers.” Aside from the obvious use of great coffee, how do you aim to achieve this through Happy Bones?
I feel coffee fuels NYC and creative thinking. When Happy Bones first opened we wanted it to be this radical creation tank. Have meetings over coffee and connect with other creative people doing their own thing. Aesthetically, we wanted a beautiful space and go the opposite direction of any of the current coffee shop culture. Thinking more towards an art gallery sense and let the focus be on the coffee and local city kids doing cool things.
What do you love and hate about living in NYC?
I love the opportunity that NYC can bring. If you're open to it, it will find you. If you're negative, then you'll probably find more negativity. I feel it's a pretty magical place for that sort of thing. I'm going on 15 years living in downtown Manhattan and I'd say only about five to six years ago I tapped into this and sometimes it can be very, very literal. Sometimes I think of it as a vessel and I'm on this crazy trip. The bad parts are I miss the ocean, incredibly. We have beaches here but I find the culture and environment to be quite different and hard to relate (to). Growing up in Florida, the beach was the babysitter. When there was no surf we'd fish or swim. It was the best and I miss it.
Who were your early influences?
The core of my influence comes from experience or a culture in general and less about one individual or a thing. Most of the time it's not even hugely art-related. I was attracted to some punk cultures early on. I grew up surfing and skateboarding so these were pretty influential in my life when I was a young one.
What turns you on creatively?
Mostly music. Music stokes me out.
What would be your dream collaboration?
I'm doing this at the moment! I'm launching a new collaboration with Haydenshapes Surfboards now and releasing a signature board print with them. Overall, after working in the surf industry for a few years when I was younger, I found it to be one-dimensional. Every company feeding off one massive company and the art or the dreamy/creation side of things bit the dust. I feel Hayden and Danielle are pushing the boundaries in their market, curating their collaborations and business directions in the best way, and that's why I'm psyched to team up with them on their journey.
Jason Woodside will be speaking at Semi-Permanent in Sydney on May 23.