Deep breath. Headfirst into wet exhilaration. Greg Jeffs spent his younger days catching and gliding the hungry waves of Newquay, capital of the Cornish surf scene. Sand by day, brush by night, spraying and drawing original works on his trusted boards steered his handiwork to high demand. "I would lifeguard during the day, surf, spray and paint boards on a evening; this led to me doing some logo and T-shirt designs local surf companies," he fondly recalls as we drift back to his coastal past to establish the artist he is today.
American Quantum artist Drew Brophy fueled Greg's curiosity as a whippersnapper. Brophy's study of laws of nature- and where best than oceans- ancient cultures and physics are backed by a self-professed mission of 'making things look cool' and a representation that each and everything in the universe is vibrational energy, connected. Brophy's revered board work tied in with Greg's vision: an awesomely designed vessel was a must round his way; this turned out lucrative.
"The first time art became a job was spraying surfboards, adored getting paid to do something you love and would be doing anyway. I then became obsessed with tattoo culture and art; this would lead to the obvious step to becoming a tattoo artist, starting on friends so became a job rather than a hobby."
Born in Devon, Greg was schooled in Harrogate but spent most of his life in Newquay. And although he resides in the agreeable North now, the trace of salty, matted hair and pebbled toes of his upbringing is never far from his touch. He travels, "I have been based in Harrogate now for about three years. It's such a different way of life; it's a lot colder, a beautiful place. With Leeds, York and the Moors on your doorstep, it's got a lot to see. I love the east coast as well; my girlfriend and I spend a fair bit of time there, and the kids love to go over and swim and surf as much as we can."
Inking skin and producing art have equal billing of worth in his eyes, "I have always drawn as long as I can remember. I started with art and then went to tattooing; now, I would say it's about 50/50. Most of my art is drawn from a tattooing style. I love black and dot work. Skeletons are kinda a thing of mine as well." Both mediums manifest positives that he favours.
"Tattooing can be quite full-on at times, but it's so brilliant to see a customer stoked with the result, especially when it's something very personal. It's different to sitting down on your own and working on an art piece at your leisure," he considers each point, as he rules that a reaction to his art is absorbed intensely from his tattooing work. "You are there with them and seeing them loving it as it all comes together. Hearing stories of what they have chosen and why they are getting it and then seeing their reaction at the end."
With Lockdown proving puzzling and new territory for existence, he also suffered the loss of his father in that time, increasing its complexity. The familiar buzz of tattooing was a no go, so stuck inside, painting and drawing became a creative outlet to occupy and soothe the mind. Yet, Greg has a better memory of the pandemic to behold. York's Art of Protest is a contemporary gallery championing its love for all things urban and street- finding new ways to document culture- nestled in between the history and traditions of the city. He details further,
"I started talking to the curator Craig Humble after I created a drawing for the NHS during the first lockdown. Craig kept in touch and asked if I fancied doing something on paper for the gallery; obviously, I jumped at the chance to be in there with the other amazing artists, so I worked on a few pieces. Support from my mum and brother kept me going, and the results are on the walls in Art of Protest," he declares, equipped with a smile.
Ever the enthused professional, he lapped up the return and a stroll through physical galleries, wondering how his peers interpreted their time indoors through their new collections. "I love the works of Schoph, Prefab77, Mojoko, Danny Larsen. Then there are all the amazing tattoo artists, so great to stroll around a tattoo convention and get loads of inspiration from the unbelievable talent on show."
Keeping dad in mind and heart, Greg ends by considering his numerous encounters with art that affected him to the core but placing one to mention that holds monumental meaning; it's the little things that count in this world. "It's strange, the piece of art that means the most is a simple drawing of some palm trees. Totally not my thing, but it was for my dad just before he died." A treasured thing.
Article by Beverley Knight