Some people may connect the words "street art" with vandalism and crime, but there are actually a lot of amazing street artists who manage to brighten up our days with sometimes simple, sometimes more complex works of art that are inspired by our daily surroundings.
One of these street artists is Jamie Paul Scanlon, better known as JPS, who can't walk along a road without getting inspired by cracks in walls, weeds growing out of concrete, or other simple things that most people would overlook. Using the location to inspire the artwork itself and make people's everyday life colorful, he is more than just an average artist.
Nowadays, JPS is not only well-known for his clever placements and eerie horror-themed pieces in abandoned places, but also for his funny puns, which leave no one passing without a smile on their face.
Born and raised in Weston-Super-Mare, a small seaside town in the UK, JPS's creativity showed from an early age.
"My father was very talented at art and taught me very young to draw. Sadly, he was an alcoholic and not a nice one, so he spent a lot of time in prison and passed away when I was 18. By 4 years old, I was impressing my teachers and this was a pattern that would continue throughout school. Even though I flunked in most lessons, I did achieve an A in art and an A in design and technology and scraped a C in maths and English. I then went on to college to do graphic design, but when I was 19, they stopped the support, which meant I’d have to find the money to continue, I left college and got a job as a shoe repairer and key cutter," JPS told Fashion Life.
After two of his friends got murdered, he drowned his sorrows in alcohol, his grief led him to heavy drug abuse and he became homeless.
"I was regularly using light drugs and alcohol but this escalated after the murder of two of my best friends from school (in different events 6 months apart). After that, my dependency on alcohol and drugs controlled my life, and I moved on to cocaine and then crack cocaine. I was lucky that I never liked heroin—a lot of people I know were lost on that road."
However, visiting the Banksy Exhibition in Bristol in 2009 was a big turning point for him. He realized that he had thrown his talent away and decided to turn his life around. He managed to seek help and get his life back on track while brightening up his hometown with his own style of street art.
"At 32 years old in 2009, a friend George took me to see Banksy's exhibition in Bristol. I’d only seen a bit of his stuff, but George was forever on about him so I tagged along. It was a life-changing moment that day, I was blown away at how full-size works could be applied so fast and the buzz the place gave off. It was definitely Banksy's best work—it made me realize how I’d thrown away my own life and what a disgrace I’d become over the years."
"As soon as I went back to the place I was sofa-surfing at the time, I tried to cut my first stencil with just a rusty blade and a magazine cover and a stolen can of high-pressure spray-paint. Those first ones were terrible and I’d not faced the addiction still ravaging my life and things went further downhill until it got to the point of sleeping on the roof of an abandoned hotel. I knew life was now at its lowest and stood atop the ledge debating whether I should jump. I remember thinking, 'it’s easy to join your lost friends, just step forward... or you can do the hardest thing and prove that you weren’t all losers like we’d been raised to believe.' I went to my mum's and begged her to let me home and said I’d go to recovery the next day. I didn’t do residential treatment, I basically locked myself away and focused on teaching myself my own technique. As much as Banksy inspired me, I did not want to be a clone. I think I’ve developed my own style. I attended counseling and group meetings."
"It’s not been a straight line, I first relapsed after 11 months due to the sudden success and stress of it, but I’d already made enough of a mark around the town to snap back out of it. Every time I fell off the wagon, I’d get back on. Eventually, you get fed up with going through withdrawals. Addiction is something you never cure, you just have to learn to take each day at a time and don’t let a slip-up be an excuse to not stop."
We asked JPS where he draws inspiration from.
"As a youngster, my influences were Dali, Escher, Cezanne, Giger. Obviously, Banksy inspired me a lot, but I later inspired him. I have a few different areas I like to explore in my work: movies and music are a big factor in my works, but I also like the intervention stuff, it’s a case of never being predictable. I can also be inspired by current events, but prefer to paint stuff that doesn’t expire."
Besides pop culture characters like heroes, villains, or lifelike horror movie characters, he often uses brings urban settings to life by inserting his artwork into unexpected places and making them interact with each other.
"I look for interesting fittings, features, or shapes, and then kind of brainstorm the best. Then I check Google to make sure I’m not biting anyone."
JPS said that the most challenging part of being a street artist is the business side of it, but getting positive feedback keeps him going.
"I grew up very poor, so trying to price my work was tough and I was often ripped off. Also, the occasional hater can make life crap, but the good outweighs the bad. I find that the most rewarding is seeing people post pics of my works or their pets, etc. It’s the best feeling in the world to make people happy, especially as I carry so much guilt from the person I once was."
JPS is not worried that some people view his interventions to the surroundings as vandalism. He says: "I guess art is subjective—some people will always view it as a crime or simply not appreciate art the same as others."