Artist Jay Michael talks about his posters, Chet Helms, Family Dog artists, Tommy Lee, Blues & Rock

"Blues and Rock are foundations of primal groove. They are creative outlets that allow for a wide range of expression. They allow a person to feel many different emotions and connect with other souls."

Jay Michael: The Art of Joy

The Freehand Art of Jay Michael is boundless, exploring the possibilities in every subject. With an original interpretation that always stimulates and holds the viewer, from the black and white renderings and portraits, to the full out explosion of rock and roll color and imagery, Jay Michael delivers a style that is conscious of the past, with a flare for the future. His technique and skill give him a professional edge that never lets down and gives style to every subject.

Born in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Michael moved at an early age to Baton Rouge with his mother to live with his grandmother. The two women, along with his aunt, were Michael’s first introduction to art. As painters they taught him technique and color use, though they never forced any type of practice on him. Michael was drawn to art and pursued it as a hobby, but never had any formal training beyond a few high school art classes.

Jay pulls inspiration from – Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Hendrix, Bob Marley – there isn’t much disconnect from the psychedelic-style art Michael creates through Fly Right Studios in 1992, but things didn’t start taking off until 1998 when he got his first real gigs.

Since then, Michael has created poster art for venues like House of Blues, Tipitina’s, Howlin’ Wolf, Chelsea’s; worked with members of The Allman Brothers Band, Black Crowes and Steppenwolf; and also produced the chalk art for the Varsity and Chimes since 2001. He has also become friends with Jimi Hendrix’s brother and niece, and is now in talks to create art for Hendrix’s birthday celebration.

Specializing in concert, festival and band posters, Michael’s artwork is a call back to the colorful, swirling psychedelic concert posters of the ‘60s and ‘70s. With powerful, bright colors and bold shapes, Michael tries to elicit an emotion with his art, much like the connection one feels to music.

Interview by Michael Limnios

When was your first desire to become involved in ART and what does “ART” mean to you?

I have always been an artist.  Creating brings peace to my soul.  Art is an extension of what a person is feeling and it is a way to capture emotions and present thoughts to others.

"I am inspired by music, love, freedom, intelligence, and cooperation.  My trip is about the flow and joy of life and the search for understanding."

What do you learn about yourself from the ARTS (visual, music etc.) and what has offered you?

The arts are always presenting new ways of looking at things.  What you can gain is infinite if your open to understanding.  What art has brought into my life is truth and understanding of what is truly “REAL”.  Art is a study of understanding.

What characterize Jay Michael’s work & progress, how do you describe your philosophy?

My progress and work has been a flow of many emotions, techniques, ideas and thoughts.  I feel a natural drive to create.  Every day is a creative act for me and I strive to do my best at whatever I do.  For me there is no purpose without passion and energy.

What experiences in your life have triggered your ideas most frequently?

I am inspired by music, love, freedom, intelligence, and cooperation.  My trip is about the flow and joy of life and the search for understanding.

What are some of the most memorable posters and prints you’ve had?

I really enjoy the colorful poster artists from 1960’s San Francisco who promoted “Dance Concerts”,  that featured bands like Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Janis Joplin, etc.  The style is so unique and the colors so vibrant.  The art is electric and fun.

What is the relation between music and image?  How important was the music in your life?

Hearing and seeing are primary ways of relating information between living souls.  It’s a reception trip of the mind and it can make you “feel”.  The feeling part of the trip is where I’m at.

"I hope that passion is “valued” in music and art and I fear that there may be times where this will not be the case."

How does the music affect your mood and inspiration?  What kind of music you hear when you are on progress?

A lot of the time I am looking for a groove while working and listening to music and when you find it, you can let your mind go, and just flow and ride the groove.  When I get to that point, it’s time to let the spirit flow and take me to places I would never imagined finding.

What are your hopes and fears for the Art and Music?

I hope that passion is “valued” in music and art and I fear that there may be times where this will not be the case.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you about the art and music?

I get a kick out of working outside of the box and trying things in maybe a different way.  Freedom makes me smile.  Music can take you to another place from where you can then create and flow and feel.

From whom have you have learned the most tips about the art and music?  What is the best advice ever given you?

I found my way by learning from many.  I believe in balance and so with that you have to be well rounded.  There are so many beautiful artists and people on this earth and all you have to do is open up your mind to them.  It’s how you look at life & how you see things, right?

Which meetings and acquaintances of musicians and artists have been the biggest experiences for you?

It’s been a lot of fun getting to know musicians and other artists and sharing energies.  I love being around other creative people & in these relationships there has always been the element of possibility and magic.

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from Chet Helms?

On Saturday June 22, 2002, at the first Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tennessee I spent the whole day hanging out with Chet.  We shared ideas and he told many wonderful stories.  I felt very comfortable with him and he was very kind to me.  When I saw him, I ran back to my camp site about a mile away to grab my portfolio of posters and artwork to bring back and show him.  He took a lot of time looking over each piece and commenting.  It was a really beautiful day and we could hear the bands from the nearest stage in the background. 

Widespread Panic was the headliner that day.  For a while it was just Chet and I hanging, talking and people watching.  As day turned to evening a few people joined us and it became a party.  This was the first time I met Chet and it was truly a magical meeting.

What from your memorabilia and things (books, records, photos etc) you would put in a “capsule on time”?

I would put a few tickets from shows and festivals, maybe a Ben Harper CD, also Electric Ladyland – Jimi Hendrix Experience LP, also might add my Family Dog poster designed by Wes Wilson and signed by Chet Helms.  I have some of my original artworks that are signed by the bands such as the Doobie Brothers, Steve Miller, Carlos Santana, the Allman Brothers, etc. that I would add also.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Family Dog artists with your projects?

It’s a spiritual vibration of energy, passion and creativity.  I am another extension of these qualities and the message is “peace and love” also “thoughtfulness” and “integrity”.  These attributes turn me on.

What are the reasons to become 60s artists a legendary generation that left it mark through the years until now?

The world needs more “peace and love” and if I can use my strengths to spread this message I will do my best.  It is a spiritual calling for me.  I enjoy making people feel and I express this through my art.

What do you miss most nowadays from 60s Psychedelic era and Acid Culture of art?

Passion is so important…Passion is the purpose.

"Art is an extension of what a person is feeling and it is a way to capture emotions and present thoughts to others."

Are there funny memories from any concert and show where you watched which you’d like to share with us?

Wrestling with Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee is one experience that was pretty crazy.

Some music styles can be fads but the Blues and Rock are always with us.  Why do you think that is?

Blues and Rock are foundations of primal groove.  They are creative outlets that allow for a wide range of expression.  They allow a person to feel many different emotions and connect with other souls.

Let’s take a trip (!) with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

Well I would have liked to ride with the Beatles on the Magical Mystery Tour…seems like it would be a good time.

Fly Right Studios: The art of Jay Michael

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