Q & A with Jay Alders, artist, writer, and podcaster

photo: Wavelight Studio

Jay Alders is a world renown fine artist, aspiring author, creative coach, public speaker, and podcaster. His signature style is recognized for it’s his elongated figures, bold colors, and surreal perspectives. Jay Alders was named “Best Surf Artist of the Decade” by Brazil’s Alma Surf Magazine and ESPN called Jay “The Artist that is everywhere.” His work has been seen on live TV, international magazine covers, album art, and published in books. Jay is a proud father to Summer, Greyson, and Judah and happily married to his co-host, Chelsea. Connect with him online: Twitter: @jayalders / Instagram: @jayalders / Facebook: JayAlders — and definitely be sure to check out their podcast Shifting Perceptions.


GB: Jay, thanks for taking time to chat. Can you share a bit about yourself? Any background info that’s NOT in the bio?

JA: Well I was always an anxious kid growing up, always had a lot of insecurities. Art was one of my protective cloaks and coping mechanisms in the world. One of my means of feeling special and worthy. I grew up surfing, skateboarding, break-dancing — these individual type of things. Art was one of them that I just stuck with. I committed to it at a young age and never questioned it. I’ve always wanted to be an artist. In the 2nd grade, I wrote a report about it, about doing what I’m pretty much doing right now. It’s always been my pursuit — helping people and working for myself. I’ve only had a real job for about 2 months of my life. The rest has been self-employed.

GB: Shifting Perceptions is easily one of the best podcasts I’ve come across this year. If you could use one word or phrase to describe its message, what would it be and why?

JA: The first one that comes to mind is transformation. Either that or epiphany. Because I feel like so many of the things we do in this life come down to shifting one small perception. That’s where the name came from. I mean, it all comes down to meeting one person that has one bearing opinion, or hearing one song or reading one book that makes the slightest change in your algorithm of thinking. That ‘Ah-ha!’ moment. You get it and all of a sudden you can fall down a rabbit hole of books or new ways of thinking. You can completely change your life just by having one new way of looking at something. And that’s been our goal. Much of Chelsea and I’s collective lives have come down to meeting new ideas and people that are different from how we saw things before, and I want to share that with people so that they can have similar epiphanies and transformations. We always ask ourselves, How can this benefit others? We want to help, you know? And I’ve seen a lot of suffering, even from within my own family, that really made me want to help heal other people. The idea of helping people break old patterns and create new ones. I think the more we can do that with others, the more it’s healing for us, as well.

The podcast is from both of us. Trying to feature both our personalities. She’s a birth doula and entrepreneur, so we have complementary but diverse skill sets. Being a birth doula she helps to bring babies into the world and I’m an artist and I bring ideas into the world. We like that overlap — being creators and assisters to bringing things into the world that weren’t there before. We work really well together. we both have a deep love of music and the arts, so it’s been a lot of fun — a great project for us. We have some amazing guests coming up.

GB: On top of being a prolific artist, you also work with some truly amazing musicians and organizations. How does that inspire or affect your own work?

JA: The collaboration has many benefits. It’s great to jive out with like-minded people. To feel like you’re not alone and other people think like you. In some cases, those people have been a lot more influential than me and that’s had its benefits in shifting my own mind. You grow up and you think that these celebrities and rock stars are different than you. You think they know more about life than you do — you think they’re on a different plateau. Then you meet them and you realize they’re people just like you or me… it just so happens that they worked harder or they had more talent or they had better opportunities. Being able to understand that we all put on our pants one leg at a time — it’s nice to realize that we all have the same ability and opportunity if we just keep our commitment.

There are also networking benefits because you can tap into each other’s audience. It’s a beautiful, friendly exchange of platforms so you can share on a bigger level. I mean, I grew up always having these rock star dreams, like many people have. Being able to paint on stage with rock stars is my version of doing a blazing guitar solo in front of a bunch of people. It’s a cool bucket-list item.

It all comes down to doing something nice for people. That’s how I got my career launched. I’d create art or do something kind for people — tweak some artwork, do a show poster, or even give a new painting for the living room — I’d go out of my way to help or make for free. I wanted to show them that I’m looking out for their best interest. And I’d never ask for anything. I did it out of admiration and the desire to build relationships. In most cases, it came back around. Many of these people then helped me out and offered an opportunity my way. Sure, there’s money in that equation sometimes. But befriending people in a way that’s organic and genuine is where really big payoffs come from. It’s a great way to get yourself out there.

GB: You’ve been writing a book, too. Are you finding any similarities between the crafts? Any recent challenges or roadblocks you’ve had to overcome?

JA: I’ve been writing the book for about three years now, which was not my original intention. I’d intended on taking about three to six months to write it and share some of my knowledge and experience as an artist to help other artists. What eventually happened was that I realized the book’s purpose was more than that. It became a lot deeper. I had to get a lot more vulnerable and personal than I had thought. I mean, I didn’t HAVE to — I could’ve banged out a quick business and art book and made some money, but I didn’t want to do that. What I found was that getting my story out there was difficult and painful at times, it dug deeper but it was necessary to get the story across. I feel like when people read the final product it’ll hopefully connect deeper for them. I learned that while trying to explain and teach my process, my experience in my visual arts, I actually re-lived many of the struggles and lessons and pain and journey through learning a completely different craft — that of writing. I was on this parallel journey — here I am trying to explain the lessons and struggles of being a visual artist and how to stick with it and make it happen even when it feels impossible through a NEW medium. As I was doing that, the new medium itself became the obstacle. I went through the same roller coaster ride of ups and downs. This “I’m great, I’m terrible, I’m great, I’m terrible, this sucks, I’m never going to finish it.” It’s been a 3-year journey, which I never imagined I’d ever take. But I’m on the 2nd/3rd round of editing and I’m really proud of it.

I’ve never written to that capacity before. I wasn’t a big reader until my early 20’s. Then I got into it and became an avid reader. For me to write a book at all was a crazy bucket-list item. It’s a lot. You have no idea which way you’re going and then you realize you don’t have a voice — I found myself emulating other authors and it took time to break free of that. Now I feel like my book is me. But at the beginning felt like I was trying to reorchestrate other books I’ve read. Those other books were perceptual shifts on their own and they change the way you think. then all of a sudden you have your own way of thinking, and you realize you have to find a way to explain it. It’s the same with visual artists — we always start out copying a Van Gogh or DaVinci, but then we realize that it’s only a starting point and we have to figure out what to do with it. And I learned that deeper from writing this book.

GB: What’s your creative process like? Do you have any takeaway routines or strategies? Any connections between writing and painting?

JA: The routines overlap between mediums. A big part of it is commitment. Can’t really teach that. You have to have purpose and vision and then commit to it. Almost like a level of unhealthy obsession. Once you get passed the motivation and habit of doing your thing, the process comes differently each time. Sometimes it comes from a loose idea and then feels done. Other times mental and emotional obstacles are more important to nurture and it takes time. You have to stick through it and just get through it to put it out there. Once your craft and mechanics are down, the rest of it is up to those mental and emotional obstacles. Learning how not to emulate other people and being unique can be difficult, but getting through that is a huge process.

GB: Who and what is on your MUST-READ list?

JA: This list hasn’t changed much. I go through about one book a week on average. Usually, it’s audiobooks, which is easier for me to digest with three kids and a busy schedule. But I do have quite a few books that come back into rotation to help drill it into me.

Eckhart Tolle’s books — The Power of Now & A New Earth

Stephen King — On Writing

Julia Cameron — Artist’s Way

Elizabeth Gilbert — Big Magic

Tony Robbins’ books — Get The Edge & Personal Power

Napoleon Hill — Think And Grow Rich

Dale Carnegie — How To Win Friends and Influence People

GB: What does “success” mean to you?

JA: How do you word this? Tough one. Getting as many as your desires manifested as possible. Knowing how to appreciate and be grateful for each of them as they happen. Just being present for all of those moments.

GB: As a fellow New Jerseyian, do you find it inspiring your work at all? Care to share any stories that some of our local squad might eNJoy?

JA: I think growing up in Jersey you just have this innate hustle in your blood. Living between New York and Philly just gives you this urban drive that most people in other parts of the country don’t seem to have as much. I feel like where I live particularly — at the beach — is great because you have that balance of being able to go to the beach to watch the sunrise or sunset and go surfing, and have that relaxed life while living in the suburbs. But then you can go an hour North or Southwest and be in two of the greatest cities of the entire world. Being in Jersey, you literally have everything: diversity, culture, opportunities, and the high cost of living that makes you want to work harder.

GB: What’s next for Jay Alders? Got any upcoming projects we can keep an eye out for?

JA: November 10th I have an art show in New York City, in Yonkers, at the Warburton Gallery. I’m pretty excited because I’ll be releasing a new painting — a big one, a 4 by 5 foot one. One of the other artists is Shepard Fairy, who many people probably know of, so that’s exciting. Other than that I’m incredibly anxious and excited to release my book. I’m aiming for January or February release date. Also, the podcast Shifting Perceptions and to keep having fun with it is a big one. Now that my kids are getting older and going to school, I’m getting back into my routine of painting, which I’ve had to put some of them on the backburner.


Interview originally published in November 2018 at ONLY HUMAN. If you enjoyed this conversation, please recommend, comment, 👏👏👏 and share. Sign up for the Bing Bang Co. newsletter to see more!