The human body is his canvas, but he's no tattoo artist -- anymore. His work is more temporary, elusive. He is CJay, one of the most prominent body painters in Miami, if not the top airbrusher around. Born and raised in the Bronx, CJay moved to Miami 12 years ago but his art still retains the distinctive old-school New York feel. In case there was any doubt to his origins, the graffiti styled tattoo of his name crawling up his arm is a constant reminder of where he came from.
CJay invited Cultist to his studio where all the magic happens for a little chat. Like many artists, CJay has a slight attention deficit disorder. He spent much of the interview sitting by his computer, aimlessly sketching on his Coral Painter, and chain smoking his Marlboro Lights. Read on to see what he said in between exhales.
New Times: Your job seems to be very exciting. We know you worked
on America's Next Top Model Cycle 1 and also do a lot of work locally,
including helping to design Bella Rose. What other cool projects are you
working on right now?
CJay: Yeah, I was a big part of that, but I was more of a helper. Marcus
Suarez actually designed a lot of the stuff for Bella Rose. It was cool
to be a part of that. The biggest project on my plate (lately) has been Halloween. Halloween is a big holiday when you're in demand. This
season Avatar was quite popular.
Sounds like an amazing job, but what's the downside to being a body painter?
(Laughs). Don't buy into the illusion that everybody you painted likes ya.
What was the most outrageous gig you ever worked?
Oh God, I've been asked that a lot. I don't know. I think I've seen it
all, until something else comes along. Every gig I usually work has its
different crazy twist to it. Every job is unique in its own way.
Looking at your work, we get that late 80s early 90s New York feel to it. Tell us more about that.
Well that's how I pretty much started. I really got into graffiti when I
was really young, 11 or 12. Breakdancing and graffiti were a big part
of my life when I was growing up. I wasn't very coordinated so I
couldn't breakdance, so I got hooked on the art scene. I had a lot of
key players around me in the Bronx scene who were a huge influence
on the graffiti world and me. Then there was also "Elf MPC," but
he's dead now.
Why'd you quit working as a tattoo artist?
It's a very demanding job, and it takes a lot of out of you. I much
prefer airbrushing. It's smoother and much simpler. Less intimidating.
And what I didn't like about it is that you always felt like you were
never off-duty. Everywhere you go people would ask you about tattoos and
work. "Bro take a look at this. Bro take a look at that." It was never
ending, and it got really frustrating, so I just stopped.
Do you think you'll ever get back to it?
Now with this economic situation, I've been kind of toying around with
the idea of getting back to it, but I'm not rushing. I've been sort of
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holding out and doing what I always do best - body painting.