You might not have spotted them yet, but J.Ace’s ‘little faces’ have been watching over the Cathedral Quarter for more than a year now. Read on to find out more about J.Ace’s background in art, which street artists have influenced him, and which of his little faces is his favourite.
Will you introduce yourself?
Hi I’m J.Ace…some pronounce it ‘Jay-Ace’ (which I like; some even say ‘Jace-Face’) but my nickname for a long time has been ‘Jace’.
Did you study art?
No I actually studied something opposite. But I did art and graphic design at school, and I’ve been experimenting with different approaches and developing my style since.
How did you get into street art?
I’ve always drawn. I started painting and printmaking in my teens. Graphic design, illustration and ceramics followed later. I’ve had numerous solo and group art exhibitions (under a different name) and I still get commissioned for editorial illustrations. So art has always been a part of me. Years ago I went on a street art tour of London and it blew me away. That started a growing obsession with street/urban art.
I was a passionate observer for a while and documented street art on my travels. My early attempts involved a couple of stencils and a handful of pasteups (actually I still really like them). The small faces started only a few years ago with three crude attempts in Paris, at which point I was still completely naive as to how to install them effectively.
Do you have any influences, artistic or otherwise?
So many. I’m inspired by many different painters/illustrators/designers and really enjoy discovering new artists on my travels. But as for my approach to street art, I have two French artists to thank for that; Gregos and Invader. They changed my whole mindset. Only through them did I realise I could do it in a different way as opposed to using a spray can (which I highly admire and enjoy, but am not good at).
From your initial idea, to getting your design on a wall, how does the process work?
Almost always it begins with my sketchbook, drawing different ideas. Then I make them in clay or other materials. Some I cast in polymer resin, but mostly the little faces are originals/one-offs. I work on multiple things at a time, and it takes a few hours a day for 2 – 3 days to finish a handful of faces. Sometimes I make a face with an exact wall in mind. Sometimes the face is inspired by the city/country, but its final place is only defined when I get there and see it.
I like installing them on walls and although I know that all street art is impermanent, I always hope they last long enough for some people to enjoy.
Are there any other street artists in particular that you’re a fan of, or would like to collaborate with?
Because I work small and don’t use spray paint, I really admire what others can do on a large scale. I love the work of Seth and his placement of murals. Ayrz and his use of colour, and both Cranio and Kashink share important messages but in a colourful and humorous style.
I’d consider collaborating with anyone who has a passion, similar values and a good idea…
Which of your ‘little faces’ has been your favourite?
One of my favourites is my ‘pair of faces’ next to Stik’s couple in London. They get photographed a lot because Stik’s painting is important and beloved by the local community. I put my pair there in homage to his painting, which I have admired since the first street art tour I did in London.
What’s your favourite place in the world for street art?
London. It’s where it started for me personally. It’s so dynamic and the scene changes by the day. I think East Berlin is pretty cool too. I have a genuine fondness for Belfast and I enjoy seeing new and vibrant work there. I’m proud of it. I love to travel and am fortunate that I’m able to do it as much as I do. But now I can’t go somewhere without leaving my mark; it’s like an addiction…
What are your upcoming plans?
Always lots of plans…I’d really like a bigger project in India; I know I was there recently but I can’t get enough of their culture. I just love it. I also have a few trips soon to various countries in Asia so watch this space. Oh and of course I’d really like to be involved in Belfast’s Hit the North this year (I have some fun ideas with the city in mind).
And finally, is there anyone you want to shout out, or anyone we should check out online?
Dave Stuart at Shoreditch Street Art Tours has a superb knowledge of, and a passion for street art. He wrote about me a few times in various blogs and I have him to thank for the slogan #smallfacesingreatplaces. Also thanks to you for this interview and your support, through which I have gained more fans in Belfast and Northern Ireland.
Also check out the Shoreditch Street Art Tours blog; a really fantastic read!
And when you’re next in the Cathedral Quarter, remember to look up!