Graffiti Artist Jay Fanakapan Is The Pioneer of "Balloon-Graff"
Meet the UK artist who created a style that blurs dimensions.
Jay Fanakapan got his start behind the scenes in the television industry making props for companies like MTV, Nickelodeon, and B.B.C. His sculpting skills combined with his drawing skills he developed as a kid lent themselves to a natural progression of painting and culminated with the development of a style he calls “Balloon-Graff”. Balloon Graffiti, is exactly what it sounds like: street art that has the appearance of being reflective and 3-dimensional. Using techniques that add shadows and highlights, Fanakapan’s pieces are so realistic that they can easily be mistaken for a mylar balloon at first glance. His work has evolved into other mediums, incorporating acrylics, and other materials into his pieces- bringing his art full circle back to his sculpting roots. No matter the avenue, one thing remains, Jay Fanakapan is a pioneer of a style of art all his own.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town called Weymouth in Dorset (southwest U.K)
What’s your background in art and how did you get into doing this full time?
I have been an artist for as long as I can remember, looking back now I think I used art as an escape as a kid. My dad committed suicide when i was 6. I think that propelled me to create my own escapism within drawing. Eventually I went to art college but I used my time there to get up to no good. I always had good mates but I was choosing drugs over art back in those days. I moved from place to place before deciding to try my luck in London. I moved there when I was 28 and began working for Nickelodeon as a prop maker. Sculpting was always my strong point to start with, I worked in the TV industry for a few years; M.T.V, - B.B.C, Derren Brown, Theming (concrete sculpting) for aquariums all over the world and a prop making company called M.D.M where I helped on projects for Anish Kapoor, Chapman brothers among other big names in the art scene. In my spare time I was always painting with mates, or alone, usually drunk, usually illegal. Slowly but surely my own art took over and that's all I've been doing for the last 10 years roughly.
What drew you into the style you have developed?
One of the first things I painted back in 2010 was a balloon dog at a wedding venue for a mate at Nickelodeon. The effect worked really well so I got the bug and became obsessed with teaching myself how to create more detailed pieces each time I painted (usually balloon based ideas) . Natural progression took me to the balloon alphabet and more reflective qualities within those objects.
You have been coined the pioneer of “Balloon Graff”, can you explain exactly what that is and how you have mastered making your art appear so 3 dimensional?
It's all about getting the form right, highlights and shadows, etc. My prop making days are prominent still as I don't use Photoshop for any design process- It’s all created for real usually. Then I add my own lighting, shadows and tweak to add my own style.
You have been able to travel all over the world, making your mark everywhere you go. What are some of the things about art that make it so universal?
The Joy of using spray paint is that it’s quick and simple to use compared to other types of paint.The colours are already mixed and it dries super fast. You can usually get it in most parts of the world (although I have had to use pretty ropey paint in certain parts of the world) you just need to figure out how to scale up your design (no projectors!!) and figure out the controls of a cherry picker! haha
What would you say are some things that are crucial to your success thus far?
You must see and experience some interesting things spending so much time up on lifts while you are working on large pieces. What is one of the most memorable things you can recall?
It's always funny when people don’t like you being there, those times tend to stick in my head more than the positive reactions from passers by… Had a very grumpy lady in Ukraine giving me an evil stare from her window on a daily basis. I had an overweight cop in New York also just watching me paint a rooftop in the daylight, I assumed 6 floors up was probably too much of a climb so he stood outside of Dunkin’ Donuts and just watched. Haha. The police in Kazakhstan stood back to back, 4 of them moving around like they were stuck together to observe the streets as there wasn't any cctv. Lots of people shouting abuse at me almost makes it even more worth it. I do love it when people stop in their tracks and smile though.
Your repertoire is expansive, from graffiti to murals and prints into other mediums, such as working with acrylics and aluminum sculptures; was this a natural progression, or has it been challenging to expand and try new avenues?
As I mentioned earlier, sculpting came before spray paint so when I had time and a bit of money behind me I decided to get back into 3D stuff here and there.
What is your favorite way to express yourself creatively?
A 4 or 5 story building, a cherry picker, music, sunshine and being allowed to paint absolute nonsense.
After stalking your Instagram, it’s pretty clear you are a thrill seeker, to say the least. How did you get into base jumping and what is that experience like for you?
Haha yeah, I've always had an addictive personality, unfortunately booze was a problem for half my life… I decided to quit (a few times) but 2 years ago I contacted a professional base jumper named Lewis Jones. He was kind enough to teach me 1on1 with no previous experience, only a couple of tandem skydives. I've only done 14 jumps so far and managed to destroy my first canopy and, on another occasion, break my wrist so badly it needed 2 metal plates and 9 screws. I finally got the metalwork out of my arm (it will never be the same) but I'm looking forward to jumping more later this year.
Do you have a favorite piece or project that you have accomplished so far?
It’s hard to pick one but I did enjoy painting in Ukraine, the people were lovely, the food was really good and the balloon rabbit coming out of a chrome top had seemed to look good and only took 3 days…there are too many to list but other places I've fallen in love with are Japan and Sáo Paulo for sure.
You are involved with an international art studio called Ourtypes, can you tell us about it?
Ourtypes are good mates of mine, they take care of any letter based prints I make. They are actually coming to my house tomorrow with my next print release. Looks wicked.
Have you done any collaborations with other artists?
I have worked with a number of great artists including: Insane 51, Nuno Viagas, Voyder, Soda, Envol, Nerone, Cranio, etc; etc.
What are your goals for the future? What’s next for you, career wise?
Next up I have a solo show in Brighton UK, then a show in Tokyo in December and a show next year at Goldies gallery (godfather of drum and bass) in Bangkok. A few big walls in between now and then, prints seem popular at the moment as people watch their wallets a bit more so I expect I'll have another print in the new year.