• Artist Editions: Aye Jay! X UO

    Designed exclusively for Urban Outfitters, Artist Editions is an ongoing series of limited edition graphic t-shirts created by a rotating roster of artists from around the globe. 

    Born and raised in Chico, CA, Artist Editions contributor Aye Jay! steeps his work in the worlds of music and skateboarding. We stopped by his studio space to chat with him about his Artist Editions designs and the other projects he has up his sleeves. 
    Photos by Phillip Tang

    Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? 
    I was born and raised in Chico, CA. I was drawing before I could talk and knew early on that all I wanted to do was draw. I spent the first ten years after high school making local fliers and art, and after having my first child in the year 2000, I self published the gangsta rap coloring book, that lead to the next decade plus of work outside of Chico, first in pop culture coloring and activity books, then into clothing, print, and skateboard illustration. I'm very lucky to be doing exactly what I dreamed about doing from a young age.

    How’s life in Chico? How has living in Northern California influenced your work throughout the years? 
    Chico is my favorite place in the world. It's the "city of trees," founded by an arborist, it has one of the the country's largest urban parks running right through the middle of town. It's a liberal arts-based community that I was very fortunate to grow up in, where most artistic endeavors were available to you if you wanted them. By the age of 18, I had acted in plays at the local theatre, made posters for rock shows, played in a band, and promoted music and art shows. It was a great way to see what was out there and find my own personal passions.

    Are there any artist or designers you’ve admired throughout your career? 
    So many, for so many different reasons. Keith Haring and Warhol first, then into the graffiti and skateboard work of Futura, PHASE 2, Pushead, VCJ and Jim Phillips. Modern masters like Aaron Horkey, Barry McGee and Shepard Fairey factor in prominently also. Something about art for something substantial like a shirt or skateboard appeals to me so much, seeing what these people did informed my desire to create. 

    From rap to punk to metal, your musical activity books project created quite a stir. How did you first come up with the idea for the books? 
    It started all with a thought that kids book hadn't evolved with a newer generations. Wouldn't it be funny if I, as a new parent, who had grown up on gangster rap, punk and metal had kids coloring and activity books that reflected my interests? Those books were heavily researched and I tried to get as many folk that I thought were important into them as possible. I'm really proud of all of them and love that people are still discovering them so many years later.

    We love the idea behind your book, The Rest is Up to You, in which your 2 year old son collaborated with some of the biggest names in art and illustration. How important is collaboration to your work? 
    Aside from the amazing folk I worked with on the covers of the books, my type of collaboration happens more with my freelance clients. It's my job to get their vision to them best I can. Being successful in that sense is the most important thing to me because it means I'm doing my job well, hopefully.

    Does your son still make art now? 
    All of our three kids draw, but it's not something we ever pushed them into doing. Cohen thought his art project was cool, and at fifteen now appreciates the experience, but he has a bunch of interests and I wouldn't say art is one of the primary ones. The project started so modestly, went on for so many years, it's by far the coolest thing I've ever done.

    Can you tell us a bit about your Artist Editions designs? That’s the chillest bowl of pho that we’ve ever seen. Where did your ideas for the designs come form? 
    I was influenced by the silly cartoon designs of seventies iron on shirts. I was thinking back to the bold designs of the 1970s iron-on design shirts, something slightly cheeky that would jump out at you and hopefully pull you in with a wink and a smile. I brainstormed 10-15 ideas and went from there. That being said, that bowl of pho is so chill he don't care that he's changed the proper pronunciation!

    Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to design? 
    I have some criticisms of some modern trends, but it's not up to me to be the design police, I just try to focus on doing the best work I can and getting my stuff out there in front of as many eyes as possible.

    What makes wearing a t-shirt so special?
    There's some kind of magic in t-shirts for sure! Before the Internet, t-shirts were the Internet, they were a way to share your interests, core beliefs or flights of fancy right there on your chest. 

    What are your favorite t-shirt designs of all time? 
    So many, but the Mickey Mouse icon and the Ghostbusters shirt jump right to mind, also the punk logo work of Raymond Pettibon and Winston Smith. 

    What’s next for you? 
    More shirts, skateboards, and prints hopefully. I am always for hire so looking forward to getting to do new fun projects all the time.

    Shop Artist Editions