Navigating Artistry Through Time and Place: A Studio Visit with Jay Sota

A conversation on his art career, from experiences of living in a studio on the Venice canal to launching his own streetwear clothing line



In the heart of Battlesbridge, UK, resides artist Jay Sota, whose work transcends the boundaries of time, showcasing an art collection that connects the echoes of history with the contemporary art scene. The visit to Jay Sota’s studio was more than an exploration of art. It was an immersion into the philosophy of creation. In a world often fixated on new creations, Jay invites us to embrace the past as a wellspring of inspiration. Before setting up his studio in Battlesbridge, Jay embarked on a transformative chapter of his artistic journey by living and working in Venice. As we delve deeper into our conversation, Jay reflects on life as a full-time artist and how artworks can become extensions of an artists lifestyle and character. 

A delightful reception awaited me. Milo, Jay’s loyal companion, greeted me at the studio with his tail-wagging enthusiasm.



Jay Sota: I have always followed art. And if I am creating something now, I always feel like there should be a reference to the artists I like or the artists I want to bring forward into society.

At the moment I have done a few Rothko pieces and they’re imitation ones. You have to imitate to learn how to create contemporary art. Although at the moment, I may have not created my moment of independent thought, you have to go through these different thoughts to suss out how to bring your own ideas into fruition.


From art critics’ perspectives, they would say imitation is wrong. What would be your response to these people?

That’s an art critic, it’s not come from an artist’s point of view! Pablo Picasso would say, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal”.

I don’t think you can live life in a vacuum. You’re not in your own world, you are a receiver of loads of images. So you’re just reflecting back those images. It is like a language, you can’t create a language from nothing. All kinds of European languages come from Latin. So you have a descendant. We have gone through the stages of art, we’re not going to create something completely new, because there’s always a reference in history.


As an artist would you say imitation is a good way to enhance your practice?

I wouldn’t just take an image and try to imitate it. One of my pieces is a mix between a Renaissance painter like Tintoretto in terms of its figure and colour scheme, but then its brushstrokes are in reference to Basquiat. There’s so many artists in history so you naturally take in their influence. And in the Renaissance everyone was copying everyone. Because you want to create the ultimate image and so you look to your peers to create your own image because it needs to voice something in society. 

I think originality comes from your independent thinking rather than the actual brushstroke. It’s your politics, your view and how you portray them. You have a choice to bring forward whatever you want to see in society. If your subject is love you portray love in whatever way you find love.


What is your artist signature and what makes you stand out in the contemporary field?

I am still at the stage of trying and testing. I think you’re always at that stage.

Art is an exploration of my life and how it reflects. I don’t try to force a subject, the subject comes up in life. So if you’re dealing with that emotion, how would you portray that in a painting? It’s not necessarily conscious, it is just a process of therapy for myself.

An artistic journal?


How did Venice influence your art? Did you witness a transition in your style?

To be honest it came very quickly because I have only been painting for around four years now.

And it all just floodgated from there, it came into my life where I started painting in the evenings as a pastime. And then I got to a stage where I was just surrounded by paintings and got my first commission and sold a couple pieces. And so I decided to give up my full time job and give it a go. 

Life’s too short, I want to do something I enjoy! So I entered a load of competitions around Europe and decided to go wherever they wanted to show my work. I went to Greece for a bit, and then stayed in Athens. I was looking for a studio and this place randomly came up in Venice, so I travelled from Athens to Venice during lockdown, which the only way I could do is through a ferry.

That’s a proper artist’s journey!

I felt quite right arriving in Venice on a boat!

Venice was a very interesting place during lockdown, because it felt like it should be experienced 50 to 100 years ago, because there were no tourists. There were only local Venetians. I had the studio doors open to meet people and during lockdown, no one had anywhere to go so everyone would come to the studio. 

Art came into my life naturally just through myself. And I didn’t realize how much appreciation it has in societies that appreciate art because everyone that would come in from Venice has been to art school or has done live drawings. So it was just normal for them to walk in and start drawing with you.

You had your own social community!

Yeah, it’s just their social dynamic. You go around to people’s houses and everyone’s an architect student. There’s a musician, a filmmaker, a photographer, a painter. So you sit around and draw. Everyone sketches and it’s not weird. Whereas in other places in society it seems a bit strange. I was constantly painting and drawing. It was a residency kind of art school for me.


What would you say to inspiring artists who want to go full time?

Inspired by Charles Bukowski’s poem ‘Go all the way’, I’m a full believer if you’re going to do something, you have to do it 100% or 120% 

I mean from giving up that job I’ve not been comfortable since when you’re starting an art career, it’s very difficult to make consistent money over a year if you’re used to a paycheck every month. However, it does always provide.

You’ve to try so many different things. If I could I would just do abstract paintings all day. However, I do murals and clothing. If you can draw, and you can paint, then you need to find ways to make money. 

Your work enhances because you appreciate the concentrated time and you treat it like a job. I’m here from like, eight or nine in the morning till six at night. You treat it like a business and it creates a nicer dynamic to the work because it’s not as chaotic.

I imagine it can get quite isolating!

I think you can get lost in that very self involved life. Imaginary world almost. You are living in your own imagination and trying to depict that. I think it depends on what philosophy you want to bring forward as an artist.

Does having your own studio space allow that creative focus?

Yeah, I always felt like you need a space to create.

For the last few years, I’ve been living amongst my studio in warehouses and stuff like that. Which is interesting and great fun because you can work on it 24/7. However, your life becomes very blurred because you have no structure to your day and live amongst the chaos.

You become inserted into the artwork?

In Venice I had that dynamic. I was front facing to the public because the streets of Venice are all conjoined. So I had a door open to the public. However, there had become this blurred line of what was my private space? 

I had a sofa bed, which I bought into the gallery and lived amongst my paintings, which sometimes I didn’t clear up, because it was summer in Venice, and we’d had a few crazy nights and you had these German tourists with their family coming in with bottles all over the place. And you become this character that you’re fulfilling like a Disney scene of this artist in Venice. Felt like a performance art piece – an idea I have toyed with in the future, on how the viewer is participatory in the art itself. 

It was an interesting dynamic in terms of what the artist is in society and trying to understand that perspective. It’s almost like people want to see that type of life. 


Photograph of Jay Sota’s studio in Venice. 


Talk me through one of your favourite pieces in the studio.

There’s moments I find in your art career, where you know you’ve created something that’s not better than your other pieces because you love or hate them the same way. But you feel like there’s a significant development. That was an important time in terms of it being my last painting in my last studio in Southend and before I moved back to Venice. 

It was influenced by the Tintoretto crucifixion of Christ in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice. There was this line drawing, I’d always walk past in this bookstore of the crucifixion. I always used to sit there and look at it, or I remember sitting on the floor in front of it sketching parts of it at different times,  because I loved it. And Tinoretto is my favorite renaissance artist. I always wanted to do a remake or reimagination of that piece and it’s not that piece quite yet but it’s a build up to that. I was going between Southend and Venice every month. It was such a contrast and a very different culture. I had this beauty of paintings and then there was a rawness in southend life, so that comes through in that piece.

‘Sacrifice’, 2.1m x 1m.


And I imagine your target audience is changing?

To be honest I never think about the audience.

When I do big pieces I don’t imagine the audience but I imagine the setting.

I also think great art transcends an audience. 


How is the clothing line changing your practice?

In Venice I could just sell my paintings and drawings because you had people walk in, it’s a different type of market. People going to Venice naturally want to buy something from Venice and a painting is something you can buy because it’s an art city. In Southend the mentality towards art is very different and you haven’t got expendable cash. However, clothes are something people will buy regularly without thought. 

I would like to get to a stage where my art comes through more on the clothes. 


Did you take Milo to Venice with you?

Yeah. He visited some nice places abroad along the way.

He speaks Italian as well. 

He is your little personal assistant in the studios!

He is probably more famous than me!


Jay Sota’s artistic journey serves as an inspiring beacon for art enthusiasts and aspiring creators alike. His imprint on Venice remains undeniable, echoing a profound artistic philosophy that transcends time and place. At present, Jay Sota is working with Ironworks in Southend, a newly found arts and culture centre in the city. With ongoing efforts to secure funding for the Ironworks’ transformation into a genuine art school. In the hands of Jay Sota, art becomes not only a personal journey but a gift shared with communities across the globe, shaping the landscape of creativity for generations to come. 


Deepest gratitude to Jay Sota for welcoming us to his studio in Battlesbridge. This interview was conducted on 8, January 2024.


Video of Jay Sota’s studio in Venice: