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Jeff Blackburn and Waves Apparel

Jeff Blackburn and Waves Apparel

Jeff Blackburn is a Toronto based illustrator and painter. He loves mixing different colour pallets and textures to his pieces often using acrylics to add extra depth and life to his sprayed murals. You can find his work on canvas, garage doors, electrical boxes, beer cans, resin sculptures – you get the picture, this guy puts the work in and it truly shows.

He grew up in Kitchener, Ontario, with both his parents working for different departments at The University of Waterloo. Art and creativity ran through his family for decades. A young 7 year old Jeff submitted a drawing for a contest at his local library to design a bookmark. He drew Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Legend Joe Carter and won. As he grew, he continued to draw and doodle and create art, it was synonymous with who he was.

On weekends as a teen he'd head to Toronto and roam the alleys and streets scoping out the graffiti scene. Siting Elicser as one of his early favourites, Blackburn was in awe of his ability to create whole new worlds with his style. It got a young Blackburn thinking; “If I had a style, what would it be?”

An avid artist as a child, it made sense to enrol in the Studio Arts program at York University where he also minored in Art History. Upon graduating in 2007, Jeff dipped right into the world of being a professional artist. He had to leave his Convocation early in order to make it to Niagara Falls in time where he had been commissioned to complete a live painting exhibition where he would cover the side of a bar in what would be his first paid project. Not even a day into his life after school, and Jeff had already been commissioned to have free reign on creating art.

Working at bars, painting some more commission pieces and saving where he could, meant that Jeff was able to take some time to travel around Europe and get to see some of the pieces he had been studying at university in real life for the first time. Coming to the end of his trip, he met up with his sister in Cambridge where the flip of a coin decided their fate – eventually moving to Glasgow where they would rent a small apartment and live for the next few months. It was here that he picked up a sketch pad and some red Bic pens, and with these tools he would eventually create a series of 24 portraits of people he had met travelling along with family and friends. He eventually submitted his series to a competition, which he ended up winning and gaining access to 10 feet of wall space at the “One of a Kind” show in Toronto that spring.

The same 24 pieces also got Jeff his first gallery showing in Toronto. A humble and inspired Jeff listened to all the advice he could and quickly learned how to properly position and market his artwork. He kept putting the work in hoping he could snowball the handful of commissions he had into a career of being a professional artist.

Influences and Line work

A major influence for Jeff has been comic books, most notably Scud the Disposable Assassin and Cerebus the Aardvark. The latter of which was drawn and inked by Dave Sim and Gerhard who were able to “pair everything down to black and white, and create an entire world from just a pen”. Something that Jeff is extremely interested in and is constantly trying to find “how far can the medium be pushed, and how dynamic can a piece be when it is made from the most basic of tools. Seeing a lot of these comic book guys being able to create intricate and crazy detailed settings out of black and white hashmarks was inspiring.”

The last thing he learned at school was proper technique on lines. In His fourth year drawing class his professor realized that none of the students actually knew the proper basics of drawing.

“He got frustrated, ditched the curriculum and taught us how to actually look at things, and how to pay attention and study line and talked about weight and all of these things, we just started getting a crash course on learning about line and technique and then we graduated soon after. But that’s probably also why I’m obsessed with line. Figuring out how to push that stuff. All this actual exciting talk about technique, and it’s like a conversation that never got finished so I continue to think about it.”

Jeff continued to draw and paint and work on his skills for years. Taking commissions as they came and continuing to hone his distinct style based heavily on line work. This led to Jeff being commissioned by Pabst Blue Ribbon to design a can. Over 1.2 million of those cans were sold across Canada for 3-4 months. “I became litter… It was awesome.”

When it comes to Utilizing Spray Paint and Acrylics

“Whatever I can do to get the best possible product at the end of the day is what I will use to get the best piece of art that I can create. I can’t always build the texture I want solely using spray paint, it will just be too matte and if I go to layer up it’ll just chunk in a colour. As opposed to if I’m doing brush work I can water it down and get half tones, there are all kinds of other things that I can do with a brush that allows me to incorporate different details and textures. That was a lesson that took me a couple of years to figure out.”

Today Jeff is proud of what he has accomplished so far and aims to continue to grow as an artist and hone his skills. We’re thrilled to present his creation in the form of a t-shirt, get your limited edition shirt and print until April 30th.

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Follow Jeff's Story Here:
Instagram: @blackburnjeff
  • April 17, 2017
  • James Blackmore
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