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In the spotlight with Jamie Paul Scanlon aka JPS

Jamie Paul Scanlon aka JPS is one of those annoyingly great artists (in a good way of course). Whether it’s a genius tongue-in-cheek pun or the perfect placement, his work constantly makes you ask the question ‘why didn’t I think of that’? As a result, he’s gained a large loyal following due to his work continually going viral.

His road to success hasn’t been an easy one but fortunately his strength and determination has culminated in a classic ‘boy done good’ story.

We got in touch with JPS for a chat to find out more about him and his work…

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into street art? Well I was born and raised in Weston-Super-Mare and lived for the majority of my early years (till 17) on the Bournville Estate. Because of this, we always seemed to be treated differently just because of living there.

Through sheer determination and natural talent, JPS has become a leading figure in the street art scene
Through sheer determination and natural talent, JPS has become a leading figure
in the street art scene

My father was a violent alcoholic who spent the majority of his time in prison but he was also a fantastic artist who taught me when I was about 4 yrs old to draw lil 3d cars which amazed the teachers at nursery. My love of art was with me throughout my younger years and I was known at school for my work, which was often selected for display.

After school I went on to art college to do a graphic design course but by this point I’d started dabbling in soft drugs. When, at 19, my government funding for college was stopped I was devastated, this was soon followed by the murder of one of my closest friends and only 6 months after that a second close friend was murdered, I hid my grief with alcohol and drugs and worked as a shoe repairer and key cutter whilst badly hiding my addictions. Eventually my addiction became smoking crack cocaine and drinking heavily, my life truly went to rock bottom.

In 2009 a good friend of mine George said we should go to Banksy’s Bristol museum show, he’d often chatted about street art but I didn’t really take notice I was always so gone. It was a life changing day for me, seeing these big full size stencils and how they could be put up so quick. I’d tried some basic stencil stuff whilst on the graphic design course but when I saw the show, I thought this is how they should be used. The Banksy show inspired me to take his idea and improve and evolve this technique, adding my own humour; I wasn’t interested in being a Banksy clone so to speak.

The seed was planted but I still had the major addiction problem and no fixed abode. I ended up sleeping on the roof of an abandoned hotel and one morning I stood on the edge and thought about just stepping off, I thought it’s easy to join your fallen friends……just step forward OR you can do the hardest thing and change the cards you were dealt and try and prove that I wasn’t the natural born loser, destined for jail or death I’d been told.

I went to my mums and pleaded with her to help me and promised her I’d go to recovery. She let me move back home and immediately I went cold Turkey on everything. I started weekly counselling sessions with an addiction councillor. I distracted myself by continuing to teach myself how to cut and paint and the more I mastered, the more the ideas began to pour into a mind. Putting my mind into something else other than drugs made me feel clearer than I’d felt in a long time. From that point it’s been quite the rollercoaster to say the least.

What is it about street art that appeals to you? That it’s accessible and viewable to everyone, that location and setting can very much become part of the artwork and also how those settings change throughout the seasons and wear over time.

A clever twist by JPS on the iconic Balloon Girl by Banksy
A clever twist by JPS on the iconic Balloon Girl by Banksy

Social media has also really helped. Once upon a time you’d put up a piece of work but unless someone stumbled across it no one would ever see it. Now I can put something up in an abandoned building and stick it on social for the world to see. It’s really helped to get my messages out there.

The beauty of your art is how perfectly it works with the environment it’s placed in. How does the thought process work for a new piece? Does the setting spark the idea or do you come up with an idea and then find the perfect place? It’s a combination really, if the piece has a strong joke or message then the location or setting is not so important to me, but if it’s a character from a movie then I like to put them in creepy places and yeah I find it funny when people contact me saying it scared the life out of them ?.

We wouldn't want to come across Jason on a dark night, talking of dark nights...
We wouldn’t want to come across Jason on a dark night, talking of dark nights…
A classic JPS pun, you can't help but smile :)
A classic JPS pun, you can’t help but smile 🙂

I love urbexing (urban exploration) as a hobby so yeah sometimes I will see a room or a corridor and it triggers thoughts of what would look cool there. I also consider some locations to be too perfect, that my artwork isn’t welcome in the natural decay.

I operate on a gut instinct so to speak and the illegal element of my work is simply a hurdle, it’s not what I find the rewarding part. Some of the intervention pieces I do are also inspired by seeing the spot, they trigger the idea.

You use a lot of iconic figures. Is it important for you to use recognisable icons within your pieces? The characters I use in my work are icons I grew up with but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s important. However, because I’m a fan, I love putting them in cool locations and adding my own humour with a pun, if I think of one I deem good enough.

Superman by JPS is one of our favourites
Superman by JPS is one of our favourites

You’re getting a lot of media attention nowadays. Are you surprised by the success you’ve achieved or was it all part of a cunning plan to become so well known? I guess I’m not so surprised by the success because it’s been such a traumatic and tough road to achieve it, and yes my plan was to become one of the greats and immortalise my memory.

The money and business side of art I hate completely, the top is sadly ran by complete greed and not the same morals I was raised with. I also carry a lot of guilt for my years as an addict and the people it affected along the way, that’s another reason to it all, to try and give good back to the world and balance the scales so to speak. 

This JPS piece is directly aimed at Banksy, questioning the authenticity of the shredded Balloon girl stunt
This JPS piece is directly aimed at Banksy, questioning the authenticity of
the shredded Balloon girl stunt

Lockdown has had a big impact on many artists, has it affected your creativity? Yeah it has to a degree, it’s been very strict here in Bavaria, Germany so it’s been difficult to make the hits. I actually don’t like stencils on canvas they lose their charm to me like that, I’m very much a pure street artist 

Do new ideas come easily, or do you find what you thought was a great idea has been done before? It’s harder these days as there’s so many biters in the game or ones that try to predict your next move and take the idea, but I’m very lucky that yeah I can think of ideas all the time and always have a lil stockpile of them. I always check to see if it’s been done and if so it goes in the bin.

Do you have a favourite piece you’ve created where you thought, yep nailed it? Yeah Go-Go Yubari with the chain, I wasn’t sure how well it would work till I snapped the photo and jeez she blew up big.

What do you think of the current art scene? Who do you rate as a great artist? The scene has become incredibly flooded and stale the past few years because it’s easy to pretend you are a street artist and many of them have no morals and will literally redo everyone’s great ideas and somehow get successful, but lately I feel many have given up, is it due to corona? I’m not sure.

Johnny 5 by JPS, one of his more recent pieces
Johnny 5 by JPS, one of his more recent pieces

Artists I rate as great artists? I’d have to say Odeith and Vile and also Pichi and Avo are truly great professionals also My Dog Sighs.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to make art their career? It’s a tricky one tbh I made many mistakes especially in the early years, I may have got clean but behaviours and reactions took much longer to change. For a while I was a bit too cocky but certain things along the way have brought me back down to earth and I realised that I needed to have more respect, so I guess that’s the best advice……always have respect. 

What’s next for JPS? Well that would be telling. I have a few things in the pipeline so you’ll just have to wait and see ?

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