It’s hard to break free from the comfortable. Blake Jones did exactly this when he traded his computer desk job for a life of murals and fine art. He hasn’t missed a beat since. With exhibitions across the U.S., Japan and Hong Kong, it’s safe to say made the right decision to pursue his passion. His new body of work extends his old, contemporary themes but introduces an almost, kid-book illustration feel. Like he says, if your work isn’t changing, you’re not growing. We spoke with the Chicago-based artist about music, art and send your CV to gallery owners.

Hometown/Currently Residing?

Originally from Houston, TX but I’ve been working out of Chicago for the past 6 years.


If you had a theme song, what would it be?

I think I would have to go with something I think relates more to how I want my work to feel and that would be something like The Unicorns – Les Os or Grandaddy – A.M. 180.

The last show you binge-watched?

Right now, I’m binge  watching more movies with the last few being Femme, Late Night with the Devil, and The Sweet East but Im perpetually always rewatching Veep.


Words of wisdom?

Shove your art in peoples faces, make them see you.

What are some of the things you can’t work without?

I constantly carry two pairs of headphones (earbuds & over ear) and two sketchbooks (drawing & notes) with me at all times. I actually have this really nice leather travel portfolio that holds two sketchbooks back to back.


Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got started as an artist?

So I actually went to school for a degree in design and started my career doing corporate and editorial illustrations for a newspaper. After the paper went out of business, I did freelance design work for a few years before moving to Chicago and beginning to enter the gallery and mural world. I had moved to a brand new city and just didn’t want to get stuck behind a computer again.


How would you describe your art style/genre in your own words?

I guess my work falls into the more general contemporary art and illustration scene, but I really just try to make art that I feel like I will enjoy making. The practice of just making and enjoying the process is much more important to me than trying to generally define and label the work itself into a genre.


How do you come up with the ideas for your characters?

Whenever I first began what I would call my entry into making physical fine art and not just design, I was very unsure and lacked confidence in how I wanted to stage a painting or composition so I just filled up the entire space with random characters. It wasn’t until I really started exploring more textured and simpler work that I more or less decided to stop worrying about filling every inch, and to just start building a defining world from step one that I started enjoying my work more and seeing a larger reception from audiences and galleries.


Do you create your art with the intention of having a specific message or do you prefer for the viewer to interpret the art in their own way?

A lot of the work I have been making lately, I wouldn’t say has a specific message but tends to show very universal and shared memories. I will say though, in every body of work I exhibit there are always small easter egg/references to usually very niche nerdy pop culture-zeitgeisty things (factory records logo, Gorillaz T-Virus shirt, etc.) that I always assume most people don’t even notice but the few who do have a little bit of insider jokes with me now.


Do you have any unusual painting rituals or habits that you think enhance your creative process?

Maybe it’s unusual but I almost always have to start a painting with music, loose and quick, but when it comes to zooming in and doing the details I kind of have to have something like TV or a movie on. Music seems to make me not be able to focus on tighter areas.

How do you feel your art has changed or evolved over the years?

Absolutely, I more or less feel like if your work isn’t changing you’re not challenging yourself.


What is the biggest risk that you’ve taken professionally that has paid off?

I don’t know how risky it is, but I don’t believe a lot of artists understand that just introducing yourself to potential clients/collectors/galleries with a proper email, CV, and PDF of recent work can open so many doors. One email can lead to this event, that leads to this show, to this gig, etc.


You’ve been able to travel to some pretty cool places to show your work. Do you have a favorite exhibition you’ve done so far, or any place that sticks out in your mind for any particular reason?

So far in the past four years I’ve been grateful to be able to show my work in solo exhibits on both coasts, one solo exhibition in Japan last year, and one solo exhibition in Hong Kong. It’s very hard to pick one favorite or one instance as each one—the work, traveling, meeting people, and learning new places—all end up becoming the next part of my career; each trip inspires and builds upon the last.

What are some things you like to do in your free time?

As mentioned before, I’m a big movie watcher, I usually go once a week to my local AMC for lunch after morning studio time. I also tend to get really obsessive about things as a hobby. The past few weeks, I’ve inhaled a lot of media about Dune, which led me to watching a bunch of Lynch movies, which led to watching a bunch of Laura Dern movies—my brain just kinda goes thing to thing.


What are some things you’re working on now that you can share with us?

Right now I’m just finishing up my work for an exhibition in Japan with DDD Art, the show will have about 20-25 new pieces and also be the public premier of a new vinyl toy I just finished producing with UVD Toys. I also have a big solo exhibition in October in Chicago at Vertical Gallery that I’m very excited about. This show will feature a few new sculptures as well as some animations and video installations in theme with the paintings.