HHCF Interviews John Smalls

Jiu Jitsu is a sport. The word jiu jitsu is Japanese for "the gentle art". Others argue that chess a sport and  art. Hip-Hop for many is seen as an art and sport. But what about just...art? Its so beautiful and important. One of my favorite Japanese woodblock print legend Hiroshige. He has a piece of a woman doing jiu jitsu on three men who attacked her. One is thrown into a river, one is running off and one I think is on the ground. I have it in a book on Aikido. I've never been moved as much as seeing martial art in art until I saw the work of John Smalls.

John Smalls is a NY based artist who has recently gained a lot of traction in the jiu jitsu world with his art. He is a talented, thoughtful man and he was gracious enough to let me speak with him. Here is our conversation. 

HHCF:  When did you begin your pursuit of art?

John Smalls:  I began this journey back in 1996-97, I started my professional career in 1999. I always had a passion for art but not until a teacher mentioned that I should pursue it as a career I never thought of it as a possible career. I only heard of comic book artist and deceased painters, but graphic arts was something new to me so I started to focus on that. From there I began to really study art and learn technique and the history.

HHCF: What were your biggest obstacles you had in discovering your favorite, medium, personal style etc? 

JS: My biggest obstacle is being colorblind. Being colorblind has advantages but can also throw a wrench in things. For example, I think I'm using gray but it's pink, things like that. I'll work with any medium, so far I haven't found a favorite.

HHCF:  Who motivated you to do art (in terms of other artists, and who inspired you within your family or extended family)? 

JS: My family has always encouraged me to create art, my mom especially. Growing up she would come home with these children sketchbooks(I was a teenager) but I would still rock them because I knew she paid for them. I have one friend who pushed me to the limits I'm at right now. Jesus Sifuentes, He was the main person who guided me along my path. Introducing me to books on artist not mentioned in the lime light but still where able to leave an impact on generations. I was fortunate to be able to learn from other artist along the way. 

HHCF: When did you first learn of jiu jitsu?

JS:  I started jiu jitsu almost four years ago. I learned of it from a documentary I saw on martial arts.

HHCF: When did you being to train in the gentle art? 

JS: I began training March 2009. I was studying kung fu for a few years but wasn't please with it do to the fact it was unpractical. I enjoy martial arts for many reason but in the end it has to be practical for life.

HHCF: What inspired you to choose jiu jitsu as a theme? How easy was that?

JS: It's not that I choose jiu jitsu as a theme I was just messing around and decided to do some artwork for some friends. I saw how people reacted to it, it was nothing like how people react to my normal everyday art. It just grew from that point. I generally paint or draw whatever interest me at the moment and jiu jitsu has become a main part of my life.

HHCF:  What piece of jiu jitsu art are you most happy with? 

JS: That's hard to say, but I started a book a few years ago. Every now and then I do a piece in it. Some are single page, some are double pages. It's all done with ink brush. It's a personal project I'm pleased with. When I flip thorough it, it tells a story about my journey with jiu jitsu and art.

HHCF: What jiu jitsu artists inspire you to paint?

JS: None. I know of a few artist that motivate me through there work. Like photographers, graphic artist and illustrators.

HHCF: Do you have any upcoming exhibits and where can people find you online to view and purchase your works?

JS I have no schedule exhibitions at the moment. People can find my and latest editions at http://www.johnsmalls.com and for purchasing artwork visit http://artbysmalls.bigcartel.com

HHCF: Any last words? 

JS: Keep moving forward.

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