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Artist Interview: Jacob Daley

Hello Jacob! Great to have you here for an interview. To start things off, where do you create your engaging art?

Richmond, Virginia

What is your art medium?

I utilize acrylic ink pens as my tools and apply the ink to bristol vellum, which is the kind of textured paper I use.

I always like to ask people if they’re the member of any marginalized community, to the extent you want to share.

Does LGBTQIA+ count?

Absolutely! I am a member too.

I also have a genetic ocular disorder. It isn’t classified as a disability, but it’s pretty debilitating.

As an artist, what does it do?

It causes serious eye strain. My medium and this health condition do not go well together at all. (laughs). It’s just a lot. Ocular Albinism is the name of the disorder. The way it works is that humans have a pigment that colors our hair and skin. When you’re a developing as a baby, the pigment helps develop the cones in the back of your eye. People like me get all the pigment for hair and skin, but we don’t for the eyes. So, the things that process all the images don’t reach maturity and it’s not something that can be fixed with glasses. Also, the nerves that run from the back of the eye to the brain run both ways, so the messages get messed up. My symptoms include painful light sensitivity, trouble making out details, and poor vision and depth perception. When I work, I usually use a clip-on magnifier so that I can work for longer than 3 hours. It’s a race between the clock and my eyes to see how much work I can get done in a day.

Is this one of your greatest obstacles?

Yes, it’s always been a challenge since art classes in high school. I had to get super close to the model in art class, and I would sometimes get in someone’s way while everyone else is back standing with their easel. Similar things would happen in college. The teachers were pretty understanding, but they would always tell me that my forms were off. Unfortunately, my condition isn’t one where I can get any kinds of grants, because most are based off of an antiquated understanding of visual disabilities. I’m in a weird limbo of life being really tough, but I cannot get much assistance for it.

That sounds really difficult to live with. Switching topics, how did we meet?

We met in the RVA Makers group (a Facebook group for creatives in Richmond, VA) where we then quickly moved over to Instagram and a budding friendship began!

How long have you been employed as an artist?

I’ve been doing this full-time for about 2ish years. My art career started on accident and then conveniently enough, sarcasm intended, four of five months later COVID hit, making it a perfect time to start a new venture. I felt the call to do art. Even though I knew it would be an uphill battle, I had to do it.

I can relate to that, tell me more.

Basically, I was having a hard time mentally, and the anxiety and depression were eating me alive. I was in therapy and my therapist asked, “If money wasn’t an issue, what would you do?” And I wanted to do the dots, the stippling. She then encouraged me by saying, “It might not be your job or your fulltime time career. But why don’t you just start it?” At the same time, my partner at the time said, “I like it when we hang out and you’re doing art and it doesn’t completely consume your attention.” So, I started doing art!

It was transformative, to say the least. Doing the dots and the stippling is almost a meditative thing. The repetition itches both sides of the brain - the creative side and the side calculating because of the layers of color I do. Now, if I’m feeling really gross, I can tell that I haven’t done dots in at least a day. So if I’m having a bad day, sorry social media and other things, it’s going to be a dot day. If I wasn’t doing the dots, it would be a very different life.

I feel similarly soothed when working on my heavy textured pointillism and floralism. And I started my artistic journey on medical leave for mental health. Twins!

It’s wild how that happens! It started in August 2019, and two or three weeks later, I realized I was objectively decent at this, so I started putting up my work for sale and was way underpricing my skills for pet portraits. I think it was like $20 (we both chuckle). Within a short amount of time, all my slots were filled. Then I upped the price and upped the slots, and within 5 hours all those slots were filled. I just kind of ran with it and didn’t give it a second thought, because I knew that I would figure it out. The art was making me too happy to take a pause.

Describe your artistic process.

For the portraits, human and pet, in terms of stippling, I use only four colors: blue, red, yellow, and black. I do them all in single color layers. It’s a bit of figuring out color theory and analyzing along the way on the fly.

For my cartoon work, there’s a lot of ideas and sketching and staring at blank walls puzzling. Creative dissociation, if you will. I spend a lot of time in my sketch book using pencils and a bit of pen to get the outline and shapes right. I will usually trace the cartoon, scan it on a computer, blow it up, print it out, then trace it again, and then finally start the four-color layering. It’s a lot more freeing because I’m not striving for realistic colors.

I like getting to decide to use whatever color I’m feeling, but each of my styles bring something different to the table. I like both.

Who are your artistic inspirations?

One that has remained the same for years is Nicholas V. Sanchez. His main thing is commissions via ballpoint pen. He also uses those clicky pens with multiple colors and makes realistic images. I realized that if he can do something like that, maybe I can too! He’s a super nice guy, and we’ve been able to chat a couple of times.

Another one is Mark Ryden, an illustrator. His stuff is kind of realistic looking in terms of value and texture, and it is super bizarre. A lot of weird stuff going on in his brain. I like how he lets it run wild. He’s helped me not over-analyze things.

Finally, Van Gogh, Seuret, and Maxfield Parrish are also inspirations to me, though they are no longer living. Seuret’s palettes are a bit too muted for me, but he is the forefather of pointillism. Van Gogh is 100% the king of colors. His work isn’t dots, but his brushstrokes are a similar shape and I love that. Parrish used oil paint and does layering like me, with a layer of varnish in between each later. A lot of people don’t know him, but he was more popular that Rockwell back in the day.

What things have you learned from your artistic failures?

That just because you failed once at some thing doesn’t mean you’re going to fail again. I also tell people: don’t expect perfection right out the gate. It’s not going to happen unless you’re some kind of savant. When you’re trying to learn a new style, take your time.

When I was starting my illustration work, I’d get bummed out because I couldn’t get it. Each would start out fun and then I’d get frustrated, so I stopped doing it for four or five months. Then I reflected and went back into it and decided to let my arm do what it needed to do. I had a sketch book filled with 100 images, and I figured I’d go at it failing to succeed. I went into it with no expectations, and I did a cat with a raised fist who was super chipper and I got him fully rendered in 2 hours. Before that, everything had taken 7-8 hours. That’s when I realized I needed to chill a bit, and since then, I’ve been prolific with my illustrations.

Do you support any causes through your work?

I raised about $1000 for the Richmond Animal League. I’m still working with Lucky Dog Rescue, and we’ve raised about $1,500. And I’m also currently raising funds for Outright Action International to help LGBQTIA+ people in Ukraine, where 9 dollars for any of my limited edition prints and 20% of illustration commissions go to the organization.

Where can people find you online?

IG: @daley.dots

FB: Daley Dots

TikTok: daley.dots

Is there anything else you wanted to talk about that I forgot to ask?

People across social media, consumers and not creators, need to understand how much time goes into our work. And the more we have to do social media, the more we have to sacrifice working on our craft to make the world brighter to grab your attention. So, we work on a piece for 20 hours and then take the time to create a social media post, and then people don’t engage with it. It can be upsetting because we want to connect with you, so please connect back!

No other field or job that I can think of requires so much self-driving power as the independent artist. No other job calls for a whole lot of know-how and requiring you to get up everyday with energy and enthusiasm to do what we do. Yes, we love it and the artwork fuels us, but we need help and appreciate being appreciated.

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