Meet Joonbug, the artist behind our most recent collaboration with Outdoor Afro. The Parks Project x Outdoor Afro collection is inspired by our relationship with nature—in the words of Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp, in nature “we all are, as humans, equally empowered and equally vulnerable.”



Tell us about where you grew up—what was your home in Jamaica like, what did your day-to-daynlook like, how did you feel connected to the outdoors? 


I was born and lived in the St. Ann Parish, first in St. Ann’s Bay then Harmony Vale with my grandfather and surrounding family before rejoining my mother in America. Life was simple; whether I was home or at school, I spent my days outside—you would too if you had Jamaica as a backdrop. Sometimes I tagged along with my Grandfather on his farm trips, planting my own section of yams gave me purpose. Summers were great but my favorite was the rainy season, where you could wear a t-shirt but the rain was cool and sweet. On weekends my friends would come over to watch Saturday morning cartoons then again we’d go outside and play them out in the lush landscape. 


When did you move to the US? Were you still involved in the outdoors? How did that relationship change (if it did)? 


Transitioning to America brought challenges like less outside time and a larger world of strangers; in Jamaica, I knew everyone and almost everyone looked like me. I still found ways to be outside though, making friends in the apartment complex where I lived or making the most of recess—schools in Jamaica had breezeways, so it felt weird being boxed in a building. I’m much older now and learned to love my homespace, but I must have good ventilation and light. So yes, my relationship with the outdoors has changed but the love hasn’t.  



When and how did you get into art? Why? 


My grand-uncle Ainsley inspired and encouraged me to stick with art; he was the only artist I knew back then and his work was all over my house. His black, Rastafarian Jesus drawings became my first catalyst, since colonialism had me learning about the blonde, blue eyed alternative who looked nothing like me.


What was your trajectory like as an artist? What was your first medium, did that change over time? Tell us more about how you’ve grown as an artist.


My trajectory as an artist was mental, and still is; a deep sense of thought and curiosity fuel me. My first medium was illustration with pencil and paper—since then, I’ve picked up a paint brush, a camera, and digital tools. I’ve come to understand the truth to my artistry is the prowess of my eye, mediums are just tools to explain how I see the world.


What inspired the art for this collection? How does nature inspire your work?


I was inspired by childhood memories and the tranquil slowness nature brought me. I used to sit under our almond tree for hours seeing, build forts, and adventure with my friends. I’m inspired by how nature evolves, consistently. I’ve also been inspired by nature’s ability to produce amazing color relationships, specifically the subtle ones. When I’m alone in a blanket of vegetation, it reminds me most of my childhood in Jamaica.



Do you have a routine when it comes to making art? Any time of day you prefer to work, music you like to listen to, etc.?


Haha, a routine. I’ve tried so many times to secure a routine, and I'm just not cut out for them. I’m much too curious to do the same thing over and over—if anything, I'd say my routine is pivoting when I feel like it. I do enjoy solitude when I'm creating and it’s usually late at night with music. Here’s me sitting down at my desk, shuffle my music, boom. I have a habit of adding music to my phone then letting the algorithm arrange the play, that usually works for me—I love music, from the traditional sounds of my diaspora to the new and alternative fusions that keep happening. Listen to our curated playlist inspired by this collection here.


Who are your biggest artistic influences? 


There’s so many to name. Pablo Picasso and Kanye West as a concept, both of their creative periods have been mad inspirational to me for so long. Lupe Fiasco’s lyrical influence because, too; I’m still dissecting his work, the connectivity and foresight of Mz. Erykah Badu, Milton Glaser’s illustrations and mind and the incredible underappreciated creativity of the ghetto. 


What do you hope to convey through your work? 


My work focuses on the 80/20 subconscious/conscious of my observations in my ever expanding understanding of the world in and around me. Through the indirect method, I introduce narratives, as real as I see them, and allow the viewer to understand through the sum of their own experiences.


What does "leave it better than you found it" mean to you?


Preservation and allowing nature to organically progress. Shop the new Outdoor Afro x Parks Project Empowered by Nature Collection—featuring artwork by Joonbug.


Outdoor Afro x Parks Project | Shop New Arrivals
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