Interview: Jed Grainger, artist

Jed Grainger is a Brighton based urban artist. Born in London in 1996 and currently studying at the University of Sussex, Jed creates intricate and detailed urban art which weaves political satire into psychedelic, complex creations layered with references to music, cinema and literature.

Interview by Tom Robinson

Quarantine the Quasar

Jed, your work could be described as dark, moody, political, psychedelic and surreal. Could you tell us a little bit about what motivates you to create these pieces?

I start with a basic idea of what I want the end product to be, but as I am drawing I adapt the image to what I am interested in at that time. For instance, when I was drawing “Stranded in the Desert” I was listening to the new Mastodon album and I wanted to create something that looked like how that music sounded.

What steps do you go through to create these pieces?

I started drawing cartoons and political satire, but initially they were drawn simply and on my cracked phone. I now use an iPad with a dedicated drawing program which allows me to create the intense detail by using many layers – my Trump piece is still a work in progress but has 80 layers. I don’t sketch my ideas on paper beforehand, or have a draft, instead the whole process is done on my iPad, from beginning to finish.

I also use the most basic pen available on the software and only tend to compliment it with the tattoo and smudge brush, I enjoy the frustration and difficulty, I find it breeds ideas for me. I find myself getting lost in the heavy detail and the difficulty of it and find that to be a very creative process for me.

The Second Coming (Work in progress)

At first glance your drawings appear chaotic and fragmented, but as you’ve said your style is very controlled and precise. What’s the significance of this seeming juxtaposition of chaos and control?

Many of my artistic inspirations feature detailed imagery and strong colours. I don’t actively seek out specific inspiration, although I do enjoy the work of Bosch, Boneface and Gilbert and George, but I’m more inspired by eras and music.

My work has a very chaotic subject matter so detail is another way of creating chaos, the more detailed a drawing is the more difficult it is to just scan it and the more raw and turbulent it becomes.

Stranded in the Desert

Many of your recent pieces focus heavily on eyes and mouths, what’s the symbolism behind this?

I would say it symbolises vulnerability and judgement and the contrast between the two. In some ways the eyes and mouth are the main features of the face that reveal your inner emotions, and are the window into a person’s psyche. I also use eyes to show judgement and have them looking down, as if judging what is going on like some divine being.

By drawing eyes I want to create a reaction in the person who is viewing my art, the eyes and gaping open mouths are starting out directly at the viewer, this is all intended to make the spectator feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. Creating a cycle of judgement, the audience judging the art and the art judging the audience.

Sam’s Room

The Manic Street Preachers lyrics smeared in lipstick on a mirror “I believe in nothing, but at least it’s my nothing” shows what you do very well, constructing references to politics, literature and music within your art. How do you choose these references and what do they mean to you?

I use lyrics and poetry a lot – lines I feel either resonate with me or fit within the drawing I am working on. I often use cultural references as a way of bringing my personality into the drawing. They are definitely the most personal aspect to my work, despite not actually having originally been written by me.

The Rise and Fall of UKIP

Many of your drawings hint at corruption, both personally and politically – with Trump, Bannon and the rise and fall of UKIP. Could you tell me a little bit more about this?

I like to show the darker end of society in my work rather than the lighter, purely because I find it more interesting. When I was younger I drew what would now be seen in retrospect as quite disturbing and dark imagery – only because I felt that it had more to say than a pretty picture. I am drawn to things like Trump and UKIP because I want to highlight, in my way, the ‘wrongs’ of society. Mainly though I focus on the dark and the disturbing as it’s a more interesting, it creates a far more disparate set of reactions than just a normal happy picture of something that everyone likes!

My Family and Other Animals

Jed Grainger is open to commissions. Email

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