We love talking to our artist members to learn all about their practice and what makes them unique – both as artists and as individuals. This week, we were fortunate to catch-up with artist and retired magician, Jay Fortune.
Jay has a BA Hons in Art, but only began painting in earnest following his retirement from a successful, 18-year career in magic, in 2019. This experience has coloured his approach to visual arts, and he has since quickly established himself as “one of the UK’s most exciting young artists”, receiving commissions by CEOs, business leaders and entrepreneurs in New York, Las Vegas, Milan, Paris and London, including one limited-edition commission from a Las Vegas premier convention.
As Jay explains:
“I graduated from University in 2000 in Art. While at Uni, I was street-performing as a comedy magician and became a pro magician upon graduation. I gradually branched out into entertainment management. I managed a diverse roster of artists – including a speed-painter – during this time, and also arranged many high profile events which included art exhibitions, street art displays and installations
“Magic is a creative and expressive artform. Success relies on establishing a unique style and good choice of material that fits one’s style. There’s definite cross-over with art. When I began painting in 2019, within weeks I was offered representation with one of the UK’s premier publishing agencies. One of the reasons, in my opinion, was I was able to quickly establish style and identity, while also picking subject matter that fit my personality.
“All of this was possible through the many years of branding myself in entertainment.”
A jack of all trades, Jay has worked as a consultant with the BBC, hosted his own radio show, published two books and received a blessing from “Del-Boy” on the set of TV’s Only Fools and Horses. Jay also created Magic Moments, his charitable initiative which has raised over £75,000 for good causes to date. His artistic style has been described as “vibrant, exciting and modern” with “a well-honed eye for detail”.
Jay’s approach to painting combines a creative spark with a business mind developed over years in various areas of the creative industry:
“My girlfriend is a full-time artist (www.artbyjen.co.uk) and I used to manage her. Together we would work closely with galleries and clients developing art for their specific audience and brief. When I decided to transition from the stage to the studio, I already had good experience of recognising market trends. I began painting in oil, but due to demand for volume I changed to acrylic as they dry faster and I could work quicker.
“However, with a change in my business model, I’m looking forward to creating new work in oil in 2021. For me, a work can’t go on for too many sessions or I lose the creative spark and energy which gives my finished pieces their distinct vibrant and energetic feel. I guess this also comes from my days as a performer; shows would be a maximum of 45 minutes long so I created that live performance to a tight time.
“With my art it’s the same; I usually like to complete a painting across no more than four sittings. Beyond that, it loses something.”
Jay has received national press and TV coverage for his work as a painter and his organisation of events like the Riviera Fine Art Exhibition (2014) which showcased his work alongside that of other artists. When asked about the other artists who inspire his work, his response is unbiased:
“Well, definitely my girlfriend Jen Allen! Her work is very successful and I’m always picking her brains on my pieces. Having two artists in the house is a blessing as we can often critique each other’s work, something most artists aren’t necessarily able to do before a piece hits the market.
“I’m also really inspired by Jim Moir (Vic Reeves). Our work was displayed together as a charity black-tie event and it’s great to see other entertainers who have successfully transitioned into creating paintings and drawings. I love Jim’s personality which shines through his work. Funnily enough, Jim and I are both christened ‘James’ but I go by the name Jay and he Jim! More masks us performers wear!”
Jay’s career is on the up and up, and shows no signs of slowing down just yet. He has recently released a Christmas brochure with gift ideas for art lovers, and already has his first first range for 2021 ready to go:
“I’ve recently decided to handle my own career as COVID-19 was making it difficult to monetise my art effectively under exclusive management. I’m also a bit of a control freak, so feel happier making my own choices and decisions. In these times, I feel it’s paramount for artists to be able to switch their output fast to meet market demands and respond to trends.
“In 2021, I launch my new Girls & Graphics range and am busily preparing the route to market. I’m also in the early stages of owning a performing space and am excited about creating many art installations there next year, once we’re out of the current restrictions.”
2020 has brought challenges for many in the creative industry, and even a creative powerhouse like Jay Fortune is no exception to this rule. As the UK enters another lockdown period, Jay is doing everything he can to maintain his motivation:
“I’m fortunate as I left the entertainment world in 2019. Many of my friends are performers across all disciplines and they’re having such a tough time. I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of chap, so do try to find opportunities in most situations. Being proactive is in my blood and that motivation helps me to keep going and be creative.
“It’s tough going for almost everyone right now and the more we can inspire and help each other, the better for us all. I have a wall of quotes in my studio, where I write on the wall in marker pen quotes that I like. One of them is ‘struggle=growth’. I think there’s a lot of truth in that. And from that struggle we can grow as artists.”
Artwork in Focus – ‘The Unbreakable Bond’ and ‘Queen of Diamonds’
To get an insight into his unique work, we asked Jay to tell us about two of his favourite paintings.
“‘The Unbreakable Bond’ is a very special painting for me. It was a portrait of one of my dear friends and mentors, Eugene Burger. Eugene was known as THE philosopher of magic and we toured the UK together across two decades. Based in Chicago, he had a voice and performing style that was admired by magicians across the world. Eugene passed away in 2017. I’m currently illustrating his life’s works in two books for magicians due for release in 2021. The painting depicts Eugene performing his signature piece of magic ‘The Thread of Life & Death’.”
“‘Queen of Diamonds’ is a brand new piece from my Girls & Graphics series which will be coming out as a print in early 2021. Again, you can see the influence of my love of magic and art coming through the card pips. I’m toying with an additional idea for this painting and may also begin to experiment in using my magic knowledge alongside the art to market it in a rather unusual way! Watch this space!” Jay Fortune
Article by Toby Buckley.
Jay Fortune can be found online at www.jayfortune.co.uk, and on Facebook, Instagram and his TNG Profile.
All images courtesy of the artist, Jay Fortune.