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Two Js Catches Up with Jeks at Dreamville Fest 2022
Two Js catches up with graffiti/mural artist extraordinaire Jeks. The two caught some time to talk at the Dreamville Fest in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Jeks created an eye-popping mural of rapper J. Cole.
In this edition of Monster Energy’s Gettin’ Up!!!, Two Js catches up with graffiti/mural artist extraordinaire Jeks. The two caught some time to talk at the Dreamville Fest in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Jeks created an eye-popping mural of rapper J. Cole. During the interview, Jeks discusses the experience of making art in a public space like Dreamville Fest and what a thrill it is to have people stopping by and snapping photos of his work. He also talks about his journey from wall-tagging graffiti kid to a serious artist.
Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, Jeks was excited to be repping his home state and Monster Energy at Dreamville Fest. A globally acclaimed graffiti/mural artist, Jeks is renowned for his hyperrealistic monochromatic portraits as well as his enormous full-color art pieces. He set himself apart from other artists in the realism field by imbuing each piece with a meticulous amount of detail, smooth gradients, saturation, and emotion. Fans have seen his work on hundreds of walls across the United States, across in the Southeast, the city of Greensboro, and even the Pabst Blue Ribbon headquarters in Los Angeles, where he was commissioned to paint a wall. His art has also appeared in Canada, and in Bogata, Columbia, where he spent 15 days learning and painting with his friends CEOS and PEAR. Many of Jeks’ portraits of artists and pop culture have become beloved community landmarks in the places where they are installed.
History of Graffiti as Street Art
While lots of people are familiar with graffiti and some have experienced truly phenomenal street art, many aren’t aware of how one form morphed into the other. Urban art (usually people tagging in acts of vandalism) first became popular in the early 70s in large cities such as New York. Over time, graffiti became more elaborate and its artists began competing. This set off what became known as the “Style Wars” of the 1970s, and it’s where street art began to emerge and evolve.
Far beyond simply tagging with their names, artists began creating graffiti masterpieces. Soon, they formed a tight-knit creative community putting out artwork that was not only eye-catching, but that requires huge technical skill. From stencils to spray paint, works appearing on walls around the world started becoming more intricate and detailed, with pieces including portraits, landscapes, and beyond.
By the time Jeks was first introduced to graffiti by a friend as a young teenager in the 90s, the street art world was in full swing. He was initially a skateboarder who went around town putting up self-described “super shitty tags.” Pretty soon, he was taken under the wings of some pretty impressive mentors like EVADE, SCAR, and JAT and became more focused in his graffiti work. His artist name wasn’t always Jeks, by the way; it started out as JEKYL and got shortened over the years.
His beginnings may have been as a skater/tagger, but people in Greensboro soon started to take notice that Jeks’ insane talent was beautifying their city. Today, his work is visible not just in his home city and state, but around the world. From portraits of Bob Marley, Alice Cooper, and Andy Griffith to dogs, raccoons, and bugs so realistic they feel like they’re crawling across the wall, there is virtually no subject that hasn’t received the Jeks treatment. Today, his work is not only welcomed, commissioned, and applauded; he’s one of the most highly sought-after masters of the spray can.