Artist Spotlight: Jordan Wesolek
Jordan and His Stippling Technique
Jordan: My name's Jordan Wesolek. I live up here in Humboldt Park in Chicago. I grew up near St. Louis. I illustrate high contrast pieces. A lot of ink. I've done a little bit with watercolor, a little bit with paint, but primarily pen. I use a lot of stippling technique.
Nolan: How did you get into making your art?
J: I grew up drawing. My mom's a really good artist so I kind of took those genes from her.
N: What kind of art?
J: She draws as well. She does a little bit more realistic stuff so, she can look at something and then replicate it really, really well. It's pretty amazing. I, on the other hand, don't do that as well. I just picture something and then I try to put it on paper.
N: It's working.
N: What type of tools are you typically using? Are there specialty tools for getting the job done?
J: I have a drafting pencil, that's how I'd lay down the outlines first, whatever that happens to be, and then go over it in the end with a Copic multiliner pen. I've got different diameter nibs for different sizes. I trace it out with the pens. I have some little rulers and, whatever the little circle, I don't know the term for it.
N: Yeah, like a...
J: It's like a..
N: A protractor?
J: Yeah that's it. Yeah.
N: You're taking me back to bad memories of geometry class.
J: [chuckle] Right, right. Well, that's primarily all of... My work has a lot to do with geometry the way it fits in borders of geometric features.
N: Are there any hidden messages in your work?
J: No, not that smart to have that.
N: Like Da Vinci's...
J: Illuminati stuff or whatever.
N: There's a bigger story behind your work.
J: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
A Work in Progress
N: Do you have a process for creating your art? Do you like to create while in a certain type of setting or environment, listening to music?
J: Yeah so, for my previous job that I had, I traveled a lot. When I would have down time, instead of staying in my hotel room, I would go to cafes, coffee shops, wherever we happen to be in, whatever small or large town that we were in that day. And I'd post up shop there, spend a couple hours just lazily drawing. At the time, when I first started getting into this specific style, I'd put on a Local Natives Spotify playlist, listen, and see what would happen.
J: But, yeah, the coffee shop setting is pretty ideal. I view my house as my place of relaxation. If I wanna get stuff done I have to go somewhere. So I associate spots, different areas where there's a coffee shop area in the city to relax outside or to go meet up with friends or to work. I associate cafes typically with sipping on a cup of java.
N: Okay, so there's coffee involved.
J: Lot of coffee involved, yeah.
N: Not to put you on the spot, but do you have a favorite coffee shop to work at?
J: Oh man.
N: Where you feel best in the zone.
J: Yeah. Gaslight Coffee Roasters. Up on Milwaukee and Fullerton. That's my jam.
N: I gotcha. I know the place.
J: It's been a while since I've been there since I was out of the country traveling a lot and then when I got back, I moved down to Humboldt. I used to live really close to Gaslight. That was my space. I used to go in there, people there remember me or at least recognize me. Good bunch of people there.
N: Nice. Gaslight. That's the place, you get a cup of coffee at Gaslight.
N: Some pencils and paper, and...
J: Gotta sit up at the bar.
J: That's the thing, yeah. I sit at the bar, the first stool right by the register.
N: They got a tag there? Like, this is Jordan's seat?
J: [laughter] They should. Yeah.
N: You mentioned that you were traveling. I think you were traveling in Iceland, right?
J: Yeah. Iceland was March into April and then I was down in Patagonia.
N: Oh, nice.
J: For January. Hiking and camping, did a little bit of bouldering. Yeah, that's where most of the inspiration comes from.
N: It's all coming together now. I'm looking at your art and now you're explaining where you've been.
N: You aren't just, necessarily, just sitting at the coffee shop.
J: No, no.
N: Or maybe a coffee shop in those destinations.
J: That's exactly it. The coffee shop in Iceland where a lot of the work that I've been producing lately was either at a Reykjavik Roasters. Cool people there, so friendly. And then, also another place called The Laundromat. There's a laundromat in the basement. You can sip a cup of coffee or grab a beer or some food while your laundry's going. Or you can just draw, that's what I did.
N: We talked about your art, you talked about how you create, the tools you use, where you go for inspiration.
N: Are there artists that have inspired you?
J: Yeah. I don't really have much of an art background. I didn't go to school for art specifically. I don't know a lot of, maybe more of the famous artists that a lot of other artists do. But, one of the inspirations, one of my good friends, he's a photographer, focuses a lot on a documentary style, shooting, also digs the outdoors, goes on camping trips, hikes, he climbs as well.
N: Oh okay. What's his name?
J: Josh Sheldon.
N: Josh Sheldon, maybe I'll recognize the face.
J: Yeah, yeah. He's been to BKB every now and then.
N: Okay. Cool.
J: Yeah. Josh Sheldon, he's got some killer photography.
N: Yeah. Like outdoors type.
J: Outdoors, yeah.
N: Adventure, that sort of theme.
J: Yeah exactly, exactly.
N: Why do you like it? Is it like an escape from the city?
J: I guess.
N: Like getting out of the urban environment?
J: I think so. The end of, I guess it was July... July last year, I spent the month in between San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver visiting friends.
J: Very outdoorsy lifestyle there. To be in those settings and just to be climbing and camping and hiking really paved the way and then again going down to South America for about five weeks and seeing some of the most... The mountains in the Pacific Northwest are beautiful, but the mountains down South are... I've never seen anything... They just looked angry.
J: But, yeah, just so, what's the word? Intense. Very sharp peaks.
N: Very aggressive.
J: Just aggressive, yeah exactly... Yeah, so that's a lot of the mountain shapes specifically come from South America. The mountain ranges that I've seen down there, the Andes, are just unreal. To see Mount Fitz Roy, Torres del Paine, those were the two main areas of Patagonia that I and some friends were in. That's a lot, just really sharp, jagged cliffs, very steep, very aggressive.
N: I think I can see some of that in some of the stuff you've created.
J: Yeah. That's what I try to do. Earlier on, it was a little bit more, I would say, more inspired by the Pacific Northwest so, not quite as steep but still very majestic.
N: Yeah. Pacific Northwest, you've been down to Patagonia, what's next? Is there a destination that you have not been that you've got next on your list?
J: Oh man, the friends that I was in Patagonia with, we were talking about going over to the Stans in the Middle East. Apparently, there's some really, really beautiful nature out there. Some crazy lakes, some big mountains. I mean I'd love to go to Nepal and check out Everest, at least from a distance.
J: But, I've been the most inspired by Iceland. If I can go back there. I like to go to a new place if I can help it. But that place, I don't know, it's got something that just keeps... I just want to go back. If I could live there, I would, at least attempt to live there. It's so expensive but...
N: Is it?
J: Yeah, it's really crazy. But, the landscape is just unreal. It's just so beautiful.
N: It seems like there's a lot more of tourism from the States going there.
N: I've seen on Facebook, Instagram, friends, and friends of friends that I just see, it keeps popping up.
J: Yeah. It was crazy. I went there maybe four years ago for just a few days on my way to Europe and that, in contrast to this last year, was so different. There are people all over now whereas before, you could just walk down the street and you'd be lucky to see a group of people. There'd be people out and about, but now, you can't avoid people out there. It's pretty crazy, at least within the city center, it's nuts.
N: Yeah, it's probably mixed feelings from the locals. It's cool 'cause they're getting people coming to see what it's all about and it's good tourism, and it's also probably a little bit of like...
J: It's destroying the culture a little bit. Yeah. Got a couple massive hotels going in right downtown blocking a lot of the view, blocking the view of the harbor. Yeah, two massive Radissons going in.
N: Wow. Yeah, that changes the landscape, for sure. Well it's cool you were able to go and you've seen it in different times. I've gotta ask then so Iceland, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, talking about Nepal. How'd you end up in Chicago? It's so flat.
J: Yeah, I know right?
N: We've got Wisconsin to the north and Michigan, but that's about it.
J: In college, I studied music. I wanted to go into Audio Engineering, and I'm still doing a little bit of it. But that's what brought me to Chicago. I went to school near St. Louis to be a recording engineer.
N: Okay, which school is that?
J: Greenville College. It's 40 miles east of St. Louis. A really small liberal arts school. But I ended up interning at Electrical Audio with Steve Albini. Yeah. That was my in into Chicago. I was here for the summer between my junior and senior year and just fell in love with the city, went back to school, graduated, and still needed more internship credit. I contacted them like, yeah, come on up. Moved back, interned with them for about a year 'cause I didn't wanna leave and through that job, I met somebody that worked with Blue Man Group, which then I got hooked up with that company and then ended up touring with them for about four years. Which allowed me to be able to afford a lot of these trips. That job ended and now, I'm here working at BKB, which has a lot to do with climbing, that's all outdoors. It's the mindset.
N: I guess it gives you the connection to maybe what you don't exactly get living in the city.
J: Yeah, but I don't know, I do wanna be out where nature is a little bit more easy to access.
N: It's more accessible.
J: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
J: Right. Right. Exactly. Exactly.
N: I hear you there. Whenever you're not creating art, it sounds like you like to be out and about, obviously climbing at BKB. Anything else you're into?
J: I like riding my bike, especially now that the summer's coming up. I play music as well. I play bass in a band. I've got a little solo project that I'm working on, instrumental stuff, guitars, synths, drum machines.
N: You play out and about anywhere or is it primarily just multi-track when you're doing stuff at home?
J: I want to try to play out more. With the band, we've got some shows coming up. I don't think we have anything in Chicago. We've got a couple that are just outside down in Champaign, and I think one over in Grand Rapids, maybe. And then in August, I think we've got a show at SubT.
N: Nice. How many people are in the band?
J: Three right now. We're looking for another guitarist. That project is looking to go somewhere. We're getting ready to start tracking our full length in about a month, actually.
N: You do all the recording... You guys have your own little studio space then?
N: Sofar does the little...
J: The pop-up shows.
N: Yeah, pop-up shows. Yeah, yeah, yeah. They've done a couple in the building next to me, actually, a few times. I've always been out of town; I had something going on. But I think there's one in the West Loop coming up. If I've got plans, I'm breaking 'em.
J: Yeah dude. They're good, and I work for them a little bit as well. That's the audio engineering I do on the side. I'll track or mix for them.
N: Yeah, how is that? Do you do it at the actual events at people's houses?
J: Yeah, yeah.
N: Pretty cool? Cool setup?
J: Yeah, it's really cool. There was one in the West Loop, just some large apartment.
N: Yeah, my friends live in the building. They've done two there, it's over... at the Paramount Lofts. It's over by the Ogden and Monroe near the United Center. I think they've had two there now. I've been out of town both times.
J: Yeah, dude. They're a lot of fun. It's really exciting.
N: So cool.
J: We'll start that project with him in about a month, and then my solo stuff I'm just trying to get it honed in a little bit more.
J: It's very improvised as much as it is structured and the process behind it is almost more important than the music itself 'cause it's just building loops and taking out loops and figuring out how to build songs by myself.
J: So that, you know. We'll see how it goes. I would like to be playing out more.
J: If I can book shows then I've got something to work towards.
N: Yeah. Gives you that extra motivation.
J: Exactly. Exactly.
N: Gotta get your shit together.
J: Yeah right. Exactly.
N: I hear you. Between the art, the music, the travel, the climbing, and the audio engineering, you got a busy schedule.
J: I do. I do.
N: That's good. Good to stay busy, right?
J: Yep. Yeah.
N: If someone were wanting to find your work online, see what you do, what's the best places to go to see you online?
N: Is there anywhere to go in the real world, in the physical world and see your art?
J: Yeah. I actually did a big piece at Brooklyn Boulders Chicago. I'm pretty stoked on it. It's about maybe 4 feet x 6 feet or so.
Jordan's work on display at Brooklyn Boulders Chicago at 100 S Morgan St. in Chicago
J: It's a pretty large piece up on the wall. It's the first one I've done, and it turned out excellent so I'm hoping to do more of them.
N: How do you do something like that? You essentially transcribe it, right?
N: You're not doing it from scratch, I don't imagine.
J: No. No. I design it on a sketch pad, draw the full thing out and then project it onto the wall and then essentially trace the outline but all of the minor details, the shading all the millions of dots that I make, I'm not tracing those. I'm doing that on the spot so I've got a reference image I'm looking at. But some of those minor details that aren't gonna maybe translate through a projection, I have to put my skills to the test, I guess.
N: Yeah. Is that nerve-wracking replicating it at that size, 4 x 6 foot, is it?
J: Yeah. It was before I started going and then once I was in the flow, I'm just doing my thing. It's just a larger size so it wasn't too bad. There were a few moments where I really had to have a steady hand correcting a mistake.
N: I think I saw you over there when you were doing it. You were standing on a ladder.
J: Yeah. Yeah.
N: You're wobbling back and forth.
J: Yeah. It was exciting, 10-foot ladder.
N: They need to harness you in.
J: Should have.
N: No, it looks awesome. I'll get a photo of it and include it with this as well to give people an idea of what you're working on, 'cause I think it's really cool and why I wanted to have you stop by.
J: Yeah. Thanks.
N: Anything else you wanna add before we go?
J: Enjoy art. I don't know. You don't have to read too much into something to enjoy it, not like the shapes, and the geometry of my art has anything to do with any sort of conspiracy. It looks cool so I do it.
N: What more could you ask for? Keep it simple.
N: Cool, man. Well, thanks again for your time, and I guess that's a wrap.
How Jordan Created this Ready to Hang Artwork
- We made a high-resolution scan of the artwork from Jordan's notebook
- We then enlarged the digital image in Photoshop to approximately 24" x 36" at 300 PPI resolution and saved it out as a .JPG
- Jordan select our Floatmount product and uploaded his .jpg image file
- He selected 24" x 36" as his print size and checked out.
- We then made a fine art print from his image, covered the print with a UV-protectant film, and mounted the print to 1/8" masonite which is a tempered hardwood. We installed a 3/4" recessed cleat back frame to the artwork so it floats nicely off the wall and is super easy to install.
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