Jamaal Eversley is the architect and initiator behind “Real F.R.I.E.N.D.S,” an ongoing series that features his bright and eccentric collaborations with fellow artists. Since its conception over two years ago, the series has been remarkably fruitful, transferring Eversley’s signature brand of vibrant cubist pop art into shoes, ceramics, and fabric design, while serving up delightful stylistic mashups with other creatives.
Raised in Randolph, MA, Eversley grew up taking on every available opportunity that pertained to art. When it came time to consider colleges and potential careers, though, he looked towards something more reliable, leaning into his aptitude for math and business to major in accounting at Babson College. However, it soon became clear that art was simply inextricable from his life.
Eversley pivoted to a concentration in literary and visual arts, turning down prestigious job offers to pursue his aspirations. Since then, Eversley has worked full time as an artist and community organizer, building up his brand and network through fun and thoughtful projects that strive to engage and uplift the greater community around him.
“Real F.R.I.E.N.D.S” is his latest communal venture, culminating in a show at Beacon Gallery that will run from September 4th to November 1st and features his collaborations with 10 other artists. Ahead of the upcoming exhibition, we got to chat with Jamaal about his art, this series, and the value of creative collaboration.
How did you develop your artistic style/brand, and what inspires your aim to make art that is accessible to everyone? What draws you back to the same motifs and characters again and again?
When I was first finding myself as an artist, I used to paint a lot of portraits and landscapes. Soon after, I found myself deep in Wellesley College’s art library reading the biographies of my art heroes such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein to Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. I was also rereading marketing and branding books from my time in business school. I soon began to realize that one thing all these artists had in common was that they had a distinct style. A brand as an artist that they used as their calling card. That’s when I set out to develop my own style and brand. I started using aspects of my life (being called Steve Urkel and a nerd, Caribbean Heritage, being a romantic, my love of comic books and my love for diversity and inclusion amongst other things) and started putting it in my art. Building one aspect onto another until it started to mesh into my brand: The Bold & Beautiful.
In my opinion, I’ve seen and experienced that there’s groups, doors, circles, whatever you may want to call them that are meant to keep people out and alienate others. I want to keep an open door policy. This is me. You be you, come in and let’s understand one another. For me, I want that common ground of understanding to come from art. This is why I want my art to be accessible to everyone. You see my art, I want you to feel invited by it, not intimidated. True conversation can stem from this.
I am using visual grammar to communicate with my audience, my friends. When you see the nerd, one of the many questions I’d like for you to ask yourself is, “what subject(s) are you so passionate about that you obsessively research about it? Are you a nerd of arts, music, math, basketball, recipes…?” The heart is for the lover and romantic in us all. What are your loves in life? Clouds for the dreamer in us. I am always dreaming about the future. What it might look like especially after a dark period such as now. I dream for a better tomorrow. How about you? What goals are you shooting for in life? Can we agree that’s the “Target” you are aiming at?
What makes a good collaborator? How do you decide who you want to collaborate with?
While at Babson College, I took a class on negotiation and one principle I took away was to always look for the win-win deal! When both sides feel great about the deal and walk away happy, this is the ultimate goal. To create a win-win, both sides have to think outside the box which essentially creates more value than what was on the bargaining table before. This part touched the creative side in me deeply and has stuck with me ever since. This mindset makes for a good collaborator, partner, friend, lover…I’ve lived my life through this model and seek out those who live their life like this as well. I collaborate with whoever is willing to put everything on the table and make it work!
What inspires your collaborative work, and how do you and your collaborators decide on the nature of your projects? How do you successfully incorporate two different voices?
The making it work part of collaboration entails actively listening to each other. “What means the most to you and to me?” “What are your strengths and weaknesses? Here’s mine.” With more communication and openness plus a lot of patience, the two voices organically become one.
Every artist with whom I collaborated for this show, I have genuinely loved their style and their art for years. Through our friendship over the years, they’ve shown a win-win mindset which is the most important aspect. We have been supportive and there for one another each step of the way.
What does friendship mean to you in your art? How has friendship influenced how and what you create?
The underlying storyline of my running art series “Nerd Meets World” is about how the eccentric nerd, Spencer Q. Ward, is in love with his best friend, Elvina Adams. What greater love can there be than the love between two friends? The word “friends” is broad and can be used in many different relationships. This calls back to my art being for everyone because everyone can think of one person in their life that they are open and honest with and want to see happy as they want to see themselves. Sometimes the road we walk on in life can get lonely, so why walk it alone? I’d rather walk it arm in arm with my friends.
What other projects are you working on right now, and what would you like to accomplish in the near (or distant) future?
I will have an annex show at Fountain Street Gallery titled “Orange is The New Black” slated for December 2020. In that show, you will see the continued collaborations of Celebr8! Clothing with Stephanie Ayotte aka The Sassy Princepessa and Beautifully Bold hand-painted slip-ons with Joan Ganon of paintedbyjdg.
I’m also in idea mode for my new series of work titled “The Love Below”.
Any art, book, movie, recipe, media, etc. recommendations, or just anything you’ve been particularly enjoying recently?
Since it is the summertime, I’ve been enjoying a lot of J.P. Licks ice-cream. In particular a swirl combo of Cookies ’n’ Cake Batter and Cookie ’n’ Cream with hot fudge poured on top! I’ve enjoyed this most at their Boylston Street location (1106 Boylston Street Boston, MA 02115) where more of my art can be seen on their walls 😊.