Jake Whitbread has been drawing and creating images for many years now, it began by listening and attending Jungle raves and Hip Hop nights in the mid nineties. He saw that the raw energy and passion in both cultures were particularly powerful and rather than taking a musical route into these areas decided to develop his creative skills such as drawing to document both movements as they grew and flourished. Peaceful warrior was a Alias that was found which best suited himself and his work, from this he started to draw portraits of the individuals and crews that inspired him in a artistic form and in a more deeper way to live life. We catch up with him to find out more…
When did you realise you could draw and were a gifted artist?
I genuinely don’t see myself as a gifted Artist! I think that I have spent many many years “learning” how to draw, how to use depth of field or how to draw an image in proportion. I see these as skills, like learning a trade, then as my confidence began to grow I started to build my own particular style and experiment with different mediums, different types of paper and different sized images. I remember one of the first portraits I completed was of skinnyman (Mudfam) and it was on a really small piece of paper in biro and through practicing my technique I found what best suited the format for me drawing portraits; now generally keep to a standard size and find that pencil and graphite help magnify the different features in my images.
You have drawn so many inspirational figures from the world of music… tell us a bit about how you decide who to draw and what compels you to bring them to life through your art?
Well again, I started off drawing individual musical artists whose work really influenced me, mainly from the world of Jungle and Hip Hop. I love Jungle because it is a musical genre that was born in the UK, in fact born in London and I was lucky enough to observe that birth in the early nineties going to jungle raves and seminal club nights such as ROAST, AWOL at the Paradise club and other events, it sounds clichéd but I feel quite privileged to have been around at the right time and the right place to see jungle develop from its roots. I felt like I needed to document these times so I decided to draw people that represented the scene such as Congo Natty AKA rebel MC, MC GQ, Micky Finn. The same goes for HIP HOP; I chose to draw UK artists and again because I witnessed some of these seminal UK releases like Skinnyman’s album “Council Estate of Mind”, Rodney P, Life MC PhiLifeCypher. The decision of who I draw seems to naturally correlate to the individuals that inspire me.
You bring the elements of Hip Hop to life through your art, your work is full of positive figures! How has art helped you in life?
Art or at least the creating of these images, looking back gave me a purpose, it’s really deep, there have been many times in my life where I have felt like I’m no good at anything, then I would look at the portraits I was creating and it lifted my spirit on all levels. It felt like it was something that was unique to me and something that needed to be done, to draw these inspirational individuals in a style that remained constant over the years, to build on this catalogue of portraits. I wanted to draw people that spread good vibes and in turn develop the positivity already present in the music in a visual manner.
Have you been able to share your art with those who you have drawn? What has the response been like?
Yes I’ve been lucky enough over the years to get nearly every portrait I’ve drawn signed by the musical artist that it is of. I think as anyone would be at the start, I was nervous to show my work to the people that have influenced me and my life in a massive way, but as I said earlier the more images I created the more my confidence grew. The style that I draw isn’t particularly close to the genre, it’s not Graff, I’m not a writer and I’m not an emcee, turntablist or break-dancer. I’ve purposely come at it from a different angle, I wanted to represent all that was good in the scene in my own style. The response has always been really positive, I remember taking a portrait to be signed to Life MC and feeling quite nervous but he really digged it. Same goes for Congo Natty but it was all blessed and actually received with a lot of love, I suppose that it’s something fresh maybe for them to see, rather than trying to spit bars at them or getting a video of them I was presenting them in a humble way a piece of me, a drawing that I had spent hours creating that was trying to capture their own unique essence.
You are a massive supporter of the jungle and hip hop movements, and get to reach a lot of local events. Are there any music artists that really stand out for you?
Absolutely, I think it’s important to represent what’s going on around you on a local level, it’s important to show love to independent nights and independent record labels. If you are really feeling an artist I think you need to buy the vinyl, cds and be proactive in what is going on around you, this is how the scene grows isn’t it? Every person has a foundation from which they have grown and developed. For me the home grown local crews and artists within them that stand out past and present are Soldjasouls, Music Lessons, Antisocial Music, Def Tex, J Roots, Rebel Lion, Chronic Redeye Music and individual artists such as Reds, Franko Fraize, DPF, Strumz. There are so many man!!! I don’t want to miss any heads out!! For me Barker, DJ Eddie, Harry ixer, Hannah Tobias, Reds, Neme, Strumz, Case and Ricky Lix are killing it at the moment.
Your artist name is Peaceful Warrior — what does this symbolise?
Ha Ha TOP secret!!! …….well a veteran in the scene told me many years ago that you are kind of given your name, directly or indirectly, so it’s come from several moments of synchronicity, I hope it’s what I am really… a warrior, but a peaceful one!
Have you exhibited your work anywhere, or do you have any plans on doing so in the near future?
Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to have my work exhibited in a lot of places such as The Art Of Norwich, The Forum Library Norwich, I’ve had my work featured in a few magazines and in digital formats. I’m really proud to say that I have had my work shown at The Coningsby Gallery in Central London. I’m particularly proud to have exhibited there because it’s quite a prestigious gallery and gave me an opportunity to break some of the barriers that the Art World seems to have created. I think the Art world in general, what is perceived as “proper” Art and Art Exhibitions can be very very pretentious. This issue is very detrimental to us all on every level of creativity, there is no room for exclusivity when it comes to showing creative work. Inviting all people from all walks of life should be actively encouraged to participate in viewing “Art”, there should be a feeling of complete unity, unfortunately
What are the toughest challenges you face as an artist?
This is not the case and I am very mindful of the saying “divide and conquer”… no one has the right to dictate how you view creativity, I took a load of images at set a stall up outside a large store in Norwich and put a sign up saying “everything is free” I gave away a lot of images that day, it was really powerful to experience and challenge what people put materialistic worth to. Anyway, It was a really good day and I met a lot of really sound people that might not have chatted to me about my art work had it not been for the context of free Art, and someone did actually ask to by the “everything is free” sign…. I charged them a pound.
With the rise of social media, do you feel this has benefited you as an artist or created a saturated market?
A bit of both I think, I use social media to get my images out there and I have benefited from linking with individuals that I might not have done otherwise and have developed friendships. But I try not to get too caught up in that world, I work with a pencil and paper!! And although I am not stupid enough to expect my work to reach people without pushing it I also like the idea of actually talking to people about their particular projects rather than it all being done through the web.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
I’m working closely with some local Artists on several projects, I’m really excited to be featured on a EP called “The Heartist”, I’m actually doing a spoken word piece in this project rather than any visual work and it’s always been a bit of a dream to lay down something that I have written. I will be continuing to draw portraits of Musical Artists that inspire me. I would like to, at some point publish my drawings, this is an ongoing project called Music and Pictures but I have not invested too much time and energy into this concept at this present moment. I’m going to continue to go to local events and show love. I’m gonna continue to keep my work real and you can expect me to shout out to anyone who feels the vibe I’m on to contact me! We all need to help each other in this industry no matter what your particular skill is….. It’s all love.
Check out more of Jake Whitbread’s art and keep up to date with his upcoming projects on his Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jakewhitbread/