Before Jesse Edwards got his start in oil painting and ceramics, he was running wild in the streets of Seattle, terrorizing all paintable surfaces. I have known of Jesse for some time but never really knew too much about him other than that he had a huge personality, scared the shit out of most people, and ran with the gnarliest graffiti crew in the city. But it turns out he's rather chill--besides painting landscapes of Central Park for your grandparents' living room, he also is working on a pilot for an informative Bob Ross-style how-to-paint show that will air in the next few months. We talked about that and other things as we went for a bike ride when he came to visit New York.
VICE: Are people a little confused when they see your ceramics and oil paintings in high end galleries when before they had only seen your graffiti?
Jesse: Yeah, its like different people know me for different things. Some people know me just for my oil paintings, some just for my ceramic work and then some people they see my graffiti and think it's a joke. They don't realize I have been into graffiti twice as long as I have been doing oil paintings or ceramics. I will have some critic who is really into my ceramics say, "Oh no, we don't like graffiti."
As a fan of your nude women portraits I have wondered where the inspiration comes from?
How do you find the lovely ladies who model live for you?
Seriously? Is that ever a little sketchy!?
The sketchiest thing that ever happened to me was when my brother thought he was pretty funny an slipped some ecstasy into my coffee before I had a Craigslist session with a girl I named Fatticus. She was like, "I can feel a sexual tension in the air!" Fatticus wanted to fuck and I was like NO! I guess I was trying to get her to masturbate while I was painting but I don't remember. I felt super weird and eventually went to the hospital later that day. I found out was going on when my brother called me and told me he put ecstasy in my coffee that morning.
So you don't usually "drop E" when you paint ?
No! Clean and sober. All I do is my art, I paint, do ceramics and I drive a party bus back in Seattle. Driving the bus I deal with enough drunks. All I have had to do is deal with alcoholics for the past four years and having to try and keep them in control is my job. That's all my job is! [laughs] Back in the day I used to drink, smoke, get tweaked out, smoke dope, sell dope, and resell dope after I cut the dope. Fuck dude, I was a man of no hope and it was very difficult. As I started to get more serious into oil painting I cleaned up my act and sobered up. I realized I'm not going to be able to do my thing If I am all fucked up. I also realized that If I don't wake up hung over and I am actually halfway sober I will probably have a good painting. At the time I was starting to get a little more success, and as I progressed with my art I slowly started to cut that shit out and found more interest in art. Getting drunk is cool, it's just that I can get drunk or I can do my painting--so what do you want to do? I like art more than I like getting drunk.
You drive a party bus? What is a party bus?
The Party Bus is basically a party on wheels, like one over-sized limo that's packed with beer and disco lights. People can rent the Party Bus for the night or hop on for a fee. As the driver I just drive these people around while they get drunk and party .
How did you become the driver?
I got into driving the bus after I was fired working security at a club in Seattle. The club promoted this "rap night" and every time it was rap night there was all sorts of problems so I carried my gun to work on these nights. One rap night these fools tried to jump me so I pulled the gun on them and I was fired on the spot. My brother who was driving the party bus at the time told me to get the proper licenses to drive the bus and I could start working with him. At first I applied to be a school bus driver to get the initial bus license and before I knew it I was driving around little six-year-old kids for a of couple weeks until I was qualified to drive the party bus. As soon as I got the proper licenses, I quit and went to work with my brother on the party bus.
Can you explain to me a little about the cult, I mean artist collective, called the Mystic Sons of Morris Grave, of which you are a member and that I have heard so much about?
Morris Grave was like the first really well known and world renowned ceramics artists from the Northwest. My good friend Charlie Kraft was like a little disciple and student of Morris Grave and he started the Mystic Sons to pay tribute and keep the spirit of Morris Grave alive after Morris passed. Charlie found a lot of what was in Morris grave's work in my work as well and he asked me to be a member of the Mystic Sons of Morris Grave, which was just the avant-garde of the Northwest schooling. I learned a lot of my ceramics techniques from Charlie. To be a member of the Mystic Sons is really cool because it's the O.G.s giving me the thumbs up, some respect from the old bastards you know? That's what it is to me and it's more meaningful than some stupid plaque you get from an art school. They hand those out to everybody and all you gotta do is go through the college and pay the money to get a masters degree. You're not going to get respect, if you know what I mean.
I saw a clip from the "How to Paint" show you have been filming and I seriously almost peed my pants, it's sooooooo good.
Hell yeah! I paint bongs, donuts, apples, broccoli, and all types of stuff. I just ramble on the whole time with tips and it's really good and educational. I'm trying to modernize and reinvent a "How to Paint" show, like a Bob Ross type of thing, because he started something but I feel like I need to finish it. Bob Ross got the ball rolling and now I am trying to put the ball up and through the hoop.