Every other week we spotlight artists who are contributing directly to action sports culture. Check back here to meet the industry creatives who are defining the aesthetics of the sports we all love.
Action Sports Painter
Jay Alders, 47, is an internationally acclaimed fine artist, photographer and designer whose distinctive style usually features human characters with elongated limbs participating in a variety of action sports.
Alders has been pursuing his lifelong dream of becoming a thriving professional artist since he was a child. His outlook on success is best described by him in a recent interview with ESPN, “Some people wait around for opportunity to come knocking. I prefer to just build my own door and open it.”
He was born in Lakewood, New Jersey and has spent most of his life living a 20 minute drive from the beach, an hour south of Manhattan.
You can follow him on Instagram and buy his work on his website, where he regularly posts news, updates, a blog and a full online art gallery store with prints and merch. Also find him @JayAlders on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Shredders, meet Jay!
Where do you live now?
I lived up north when I went to school at Montclair State and moved around after college a lot, but am back at the Jersey Shore now with my three kids and wife Chelsea.
What sports do you do and when did you start shredding?
My current roster of athletic stuff I do is: skateboarding, rock climbing, surfing, stand up paddling and scuba diving, although finding much time for any of these things has been challenging since becoming a dad. My sport of choice lately is parenting.
As for when I started “shredding,” I started skating when I was four and surfing at age 17. I probably didn’t do anything worthy of calling it “shredding” until I was a teenager.
When did you start doing art?
I’ve always been doing art. I never didn’t do art.
Where’s your favorite place in the world to do art?
Wherever I am while I’m doing art.
What’s your favorite thing to create on? Your medium…
I love oil painting but have grown to love acrylic probably almost as much. I love how oils can blend so slowly and accurately. I love the historical nobility of oils, but acrylics are way quicker and allow for way fewer rules when mixing mediums and painting. But I also thoroughly love photography, digital art and sculpting and drawing too.
How does it make you feel that people honor your art so much they’re willing to put it permanently on their bodies in the form of tattoos?
It’s flattering. It’s a big honor to know that someone connects as deeply with my art as I intended. Compliments are always appreciated, but when someone inks it, you know they really mean it.
Tell us about one or two of your favorite pieces...why do you love them?
That’s a bit hard to pick. It’s like trying to pick your favorite child, you can’t do it. I can tell you that pieces with a narrative around them always stick with me. Like Rio Jam -- it’s inspired by my first tour to Brazil. I was on tour with some of my then music heroes...Matt Costa, Donavon Frankenreiter, ALO and G Love, so it was an impactful and magical experience. There’s a video on YouTube of the exact jam session that the painting was inspired by. In a lot of ways, that tour is what launched my career on a global scale.
Most of my pieces have meanings like this. Some are obvious and some have encrypted hidden meanings like my painting Fairy Tails. I have some videos on YouTube about some of the stories behind my art that would explain it a lot more than I can here. I love them all for different reasons and I’m grateful for the lessons my paintings teach me and how they document moments in time.
What draws you to action sports?
Probably because I was lousy at team sports. I was the kid that was picked last and the one that got smashed in the face with the dodgeball. I never liked rules, whistles, uniforms, or teams or coaches or referees. The pressure or toxicity that it brings out in kids and parents. I hate all that nonsense. I was drawn towards individual activities like Martial Arts, Breakdancing, Art, skating and surfing because it was just me vs. myself more than me vs. a team. I like carrying the weight of progress (and failure) on my own.
Action sports (and my art) allows me an entrance way to the zone, that flow state that makes you present. Where time stands still.
We saw you were featured at The Sea Hear Now Festival! We love that there is a movement to bring arts, music and action sports together. That’s such an important part of our culture. Why do you think art is so important to the action sports community?
For a lot of the reasons that I was just talking about. Art and action sports particularly are both a form of self-expression and creativity and a vehicle for exploration and play. I think people that crave more time in “the now” do things like art and action sports to feel more alive and connected. I think people like us thrive off of making up our own rules and seeing things differently. Much like a skater sees everything as a ramp, artists see beauty and inspiration everywhere. We appreciate the little things and dream about the big things.
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?
My three children. Hands down...them.
Tell me anything else you think would be rad to mention:
Hmmm...Well, for the past four years, I’ve been writing a book. It’s probably the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken and one of the hardest -- if not the hardest -- creative ventures I’ve put in front of myself. I’m like 98% done with it now and hope to get it released before Summer 2020, maybe as early as the Spring.
I’m really proud of it and I hope that it helps others, especially creatively minded people to sort out the struggles and paradoxes that we all share. It’s largely about my path getting to be a professional fine artist and the lessons and mindsets (and failures) along the way. So look out for that soon and join my newsletter on my website for updates.
Lastly, please be authentic, be accepting, be gentle, be kind...to yourself and others. We need more of that.
Are you an artist who is part of the action sports culture or know someone who is? We'd love to hear from you!