Jay Alders 4 page interview as published in the July 2011 “Hang Ten” issue of Lebanon's RagMag Magazine:
Hyperrealist sketches of beaches and boards with overbearing shades of blue – this is what much of today’s surf art looks like. A quick surf of the Internet attests to the aforementioned.That is not to say all of that art is not good – a lot of it is in fact nothing short of amazing. But only a few artists have strained to capture what lies beneath the beautiful tidal wave or the Jaws in their actual monstrous form.
There are some, like Jay Alders, who ride a different wave.
By Maha Majzoub
Music/surfing legends like Donavon Frankenreiter call on him to design their posters and T-shirts; troupes like the Peter Dixon Band feature him on the cover of their albums. Others like G Love and Matt Costa ask him to do art shows with them, while Brazil’s Alma Surf magazine calls him the “Best Surf Artist of the Decade”. Clearly, Jay Alders’ ocean inspired artwork is worth its salt. A fine artist, photographer, and designer with a distinct style and crisp imagination, Alders is recognized across poles for his signature elongated figures and stylized forms by virtue of his elaborate brushwork, powerful colors, and outstanding compositions.
Enamored by the Jersey Shore in his hometown Belmar, a beach town halfway in between New York City and Philadelphia, he is mostly distinguished for creating his own perception of beachscapes. “…Surfing and the ocean is certainly a subject which fascinates me and I obsess over,” Alders stresses. “There are many unique properties to capturing water and motion as opposed to a stationary still life,” he says as he compares his surf art to other genres he tackles, including portraits, figurative, and still life. “Translucency and opacity, warmth and coolness of color temperatures, shadows balanced with reflections all present difficult obstacles at times. I make it my intention to create a believable scene with a surreal twist.” Light, he continues, can be “much more subtle as well as pronounced when it bounces off or pierces a wave.”
A surfer since a tender age, young Jay was raised in Howell, New Jersey, where he and his friends would often sneak onto Manasquan’s Military Beach after school to surf and hang out. Feeling at home by the ocean and becoming smitten by the sundress wearing hippie girls who would kill time with the boys, his love of surfing blossomed. By the time he was in high school, Alders was drawing waves, bikini babes, and surf scenes – all of which he continues to capture in his adult career. His oil works “Out of the Blue”, “Second Glance”, and “Cut Lip” demonstrate his unending fascination with all three sights. Before he became “The artist who is everywhere” as described by ESPN given his constant globetrotting, Alders – who has dreamt of becoming a professional artist since childhood – majored in art at Montclair State University.
Surrealistic, stylized art with classical techniques and modern influences with a lot of emphasis on geometry and flowing lines, Alders’ body of work is dreamy in nature. From the stretched limbs to the exaggeratedly blown up figures, his compositions are almost cartoonish, and in their intricate detail and imposing color even akin to comic books.
Using a lot of oils, pencil, and pastels, and most recently acrylics, he leaves his imagination to roam free. Completed this year, “Fairy Tails” is a color infused representation of Alders’ imaginative prowess, where he depicts two mermaids underwater. Another one of Alders most jaw dropping pieces is “Shifting Perception”, a 16”x20” acrylic on wood work that followed Japan’s Earth shattering tsunami in March. “I grabbed a wood panel that I had leaning against the wall and just started free sketching with no particular motive or plan,” he remarks. “This painting just came to me with a glimpse of inspiration,a feeling of empathy and a sense that it needed to be expressed.” Showing the cracking waves and fault lines with a bright sun in the middle, the piece, according to Alders’ blog, “focuses on the beauty, hope, and power as opposed to the destruction and sadness – a shift in our perceptions of each other and our world.”
“What gives your art this instantly identifiable quality?” I ask him. “Well, thank you,” he says with a stroke of humbleness. “I put as much emphasis into every stage of the piece. I can easily spend days on preparing the sketch, working on subtle nuances that perhaps few people consciously see. I focus every bit of my soul into details and make sure all the colors work with each other.”
He goes on to say, “I try to do something different with each new piece to learn and experiment as much as build upon what I know works for me, but it’s always a learning process of trial and error.” He can easily spend two to three months working on his more complex and larger pieces. He admits that during this process, he changes directions dozens of times whether on canvas or mentally, adding more detail and exploring ways “to tap deeper into that zone that surfers and artists share an addiction for”.
The process, he says, is a spiritual and educational journey. “I start with a rough sketch, which I spent a lot of time with. It is the foundation which I build upon, so it’s very important to me that the composition is balanced, loose yet very thought out.” From there, he generally builds up glazing layers on top of a monochromatic under-painting combined with opaque lights and highlights. “I focus on creating my own unique surrealistic paradigm, painting that which could not be photographed, and striving to give my art a coherent structure that makes it ‘believably unbelievable’ while symbolically paralleling my life experiences,” he elaborates.
As his art is a visible articulation of the cutting edge, I question Alders’ decision to continue painting as opposed to attempting conceptual or video art. “I do see many artists being lazy and not pursuing …how to be an artist. There’s a trend in childlike art that lacks skill and craftsmanship,” according to the young artist. “A lot of people in the art world think that a piece of dog poop on a pedestal could be art, but I am not one who believes that anything is art. Art is a noble pursuit with thousands of years of progression, which takes a lifetime to attempt to master.”
A skateboarder since the age of three, Alders used to draw halfpipes and skate company logos in his sketchpads. Alders is yet to grow out of his childish fixations, as he continues to skateboard as well as snowboard and produces some of the most extraordinary skate and surfboard art on the market.
Other extreme sports that figure heavily in Alders’ world include scuba diving, which he will be doing plenty of once he moves with his girlfriend to Florida. “I don’t have any surf trips scheduled for the summer, but I plan to get to Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and back to Hawaii sometime soon,” he says. Wherever he chooses to dive, sweat and the sea will always be the salty water that flows through Alders’ artwork, which always turns out sweet for the eye