New York artist Jdel mixes cartoons and cannabis to take refuge from his childhood

A New York-based artist reclaims his childhood and infuses cannabis culture into his art.

Jdel grew up in a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the height of the crack epidemic in New York. As a child, there were so many things he was allowed to do or places he wasn’t allowed to go, but he found solace in cartoons and drawing.

“I think a lot of the gravitation to art came from just being bored,” Jdel said. “I grew up in a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Back then, the 80s and 90s, crack was rife around us and there was a lot of excitement when we left the house.

As a child, Jdel found himself drawing in textbooks at school and on handouts that Jehovah’s Witnesses distributed. He would often redraw the faces that appeared in these books and turn them into cartoons that he watched on television.

As he got older, Jdel began to hone his craft to the point where he could go to art school, which he felt was not really attainable as a Jehovah’s Witness.

“When I started doing art, it became quite fun to disfigure and destroy things. Then I was able to make things for people like pop-up cards, tissues and portraits for people and I got a little better, then I ended up going to school for it,” Jdel said.For me, it was very embarrassing, it’s something I would hide because you weren’t really allowed to associate with people who weren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses. So being able to draw has always been something that has brought me closer to people. But if you grew up drawing a house of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the only thing they would tell you you could do is be an artist for Vessel – they were drawing realistic versions of Jesus Christ, drawings really lively. I didn’t want to do that because I couldn’t really do that. It just seemed unrealistic to do art as a Jehovah’s Witness growing up.

As his art began to evolve, Jdel drew inspiration from graffiti artists such as Jersey Joe, Rhyme and MSK. He was attracted by the bright colors they put on the walls of the city.

For his own work, Jdel drew cartoon characters and began infusing cannabis culture into his art. He particularly enjoys drawing Ren and Stimpy and Itchy and Scratchy, as well as stuff from MTV’s Liquid Television, citing that the blood in these cartoons really sets them apart from other stuff he’s seen in the past.

“'[The Itchy & Scratchy Show] was the first cartoon where I saw blood in it, they cut off their heads, the mouse always kills the cat and blows its head off or something. that was around the time that I think video games started introducing blood too, that was the ‘Mortal Kombat’ era,” Jdel said. “It was the blood inside the cartoons that was the craziest thing. You grow up with Disney and everything, so the allure of the blood does something to somebody. You see it, but there’s a reality and you try to make it something more and make it as beautiful and universal at the same time.

“1991” Jdel’s Ren & Stimpy ShowPhoto credit: Chris Carr

Today, Jdel describes his art as “a better version of an NFT” that incorporates the three things he could do as a teenager: smoking, watching cartoons, and drawing.”

“It’s something you can put on your wall, like a physical NFT, and it involves a cartoon culture that raised 80s-90s kids with the cannabis culture involved in it,” said Jdel said. “I I think weed was really good for me because just like the art I was doing, it helped me escape, it helped me feel like I was doing something cool. A lot of my friends, they were allowed to be on the streets, they were allowed to go places where I wasn’t allowed. But I was allowed to smoke, I was allowed to draw, I was allowed to watch cartoons. Cartoons and smoking became a big part of my life even after my teenage years, it became like therapy with weed and drawing together.

Fast forward to now, Jdel has started his own business that aims to give people the same sanctuary he wanted for himself as a kid. Called “MindBodyPockets”, the company celebrates music, art, cartoons and cannabis.

Jdel says the name comes from a name his friends coined for their band years ago.

“Some of my friends from Manhattan and Brook were trying to get us to understand. I would be the artist of the band, one of them was the manager, the other was the musician. We always tried to make a name for it,” recalls Jdel. “We went through a few names, but MindBodyPockets was all you would put into the business. your mind, your body, you try to use your funds to drive the project and it would be an investment. All of them ended up doing business on a different level, but it really stuck with me. I wanted to make it the name of the company.

Jdel organizes his first solo exhibition on January 15. Titled “Grown Children Smoke”, the show is meant to portray people like Jdel who feel like there is no place for them and need a place to take refuge or want to see what what marijuana can do to help.

“Adult children kind of represent people who grew up in a time when there was nothing for them. It was just kind of a situation where you were still traumatized as an adult, even though you’re a adult child, male child, you still cling to those images,” Jdel said. “These images are attached to certain memories and certain years, like certain paintings, they are a direct memory and they are named after the years when they came out and what happened to me during those years. It’s mainly for people like that and people who are interested in the positive aspects of what marijuana can do for them and art as well.

In the future, Jdel would like to organize more collaborative exhibitions as well as solo exhibitions, but ideally he would like to do more smoke-friendly art exhibitions.

“I would love to have more solo shows and ones that incorporate smoking as well,” Jdel said. “I wish I had smoking shows where you can comfortably smoke and enjoy it because that’s how it should be.”

For more information about Jdel and his work, visit jdelmbp.com or follow him on Instagram @jdelcastles.

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