Digital Artist Yung Jake Explores Emojis As A New Medium

Digital Artist Yung Jake Explores Emojis As A New Medium

The infamous emoji painter talks his influences, artistic proccess and more.

The infamous emoji painter talks his influences, artistic proccess and more.

Photography: Jeremy Dennis

Text: Emma Blanchard

Jake Patterson, more popularly known as Yung Jake, has pioneered his own unique form of art through the use of ideograms and touch screen technology. Devising intricate images comprised purely of emojis, Yung Jake has taken a completely unparalleled approach in the process of conjuring portraits. On display at the Tripoli Gallery in Southampton, N.Y., emojis are meticulously positioned to depict stars from the likes of Selena Gomez and Willow Smith to David Bowie and Kodak Black on massive, glossy canvases. The multidimensional portraits entail more than initially meets the eye: every stroke is made up of an assortment of emojis, bursting with color, substance, and variety that is also appropriate for each subject (take his LeBron James portrait, whose forehead is contoured with basketball emojis.)

Jake's artwork is an exemplary product of the digital age. He started a series of self-portrait oil paintings while attending Bridgehampton High School and later began incorporating technology into his work. Jake is living, breathing proof that the internet intersects and affects more avenues of life than exclusively how we communicate with one another. Transforming the way artists create, and the way spectators interpret art, Jake speaks to V about his influences, process, and more.

I understand you focused on oil painting before you delved into emoji painting; what inspired your decision to use emojis when crafting these portraits?

Emoji.ink, a web app [was] created by my business partner Vince McKelvie. I just happened to be good at it so I did a bunch of celebrities. Now I only do commissions and occasionally I will be inclined to make one for the heck of it.

Who are your artistic influences?

It's impossible to name all my influences because everything I’ve ever interacted with has influenced me in some degree. Here are some well-known influences that I find important when I think on it in this moment: Louis C.K., Kanye West, Avatar: The Last Air Bender, CG Jung, Baldessari, [Cy] Twombly, Richard Long, Chris Burden, Chief Keef, Lil B, Pendleton Ward, Rocket Power, Hey Arnold, South Park, Doug, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, 2 Chains, Paul Thomas Anderson, Cuarón, Iñárritu. I am especially inspired by people who create a variety of ways and share their gifts however they feel like.

How long does creating each portrait typically take? 

30 minutes to a week.

How much has social media and the digital revolution impacted you as an artist?

It's my platform. In the beginning, it was sort of a way to bypass the gallery. It's impacted the work because I like to make stuff that is site specific.

How do you select your subjects? Does something draw you specifically to celebrities?

Impressions.

Credits: IMAGES COURTESY OF JEREMY DENNIS.

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