Hey, You’re Cool! JuWilll
The graphic designer puts his own angular slant on modern and classic hip-hop imagery
No knock to college professors, but sometimes they have no fucking clue. Artist JuWilll (born Julian Wilson) experienced this inconvenient truth first-hand. The Houston native, who creates mesmerizing illustrations based on iconic hip-hop and pop culture imagery, was booted from his graphic design program due to “lack of creativity.” Yet the USC student has amassed a strong following since showcasing his topical and nostalgic work on social media—brilliant, angular recreations of classic photos (Biggie & Puff’s 1996 Vibe cover), album covers (Jay-Z’s 4:44) and sneakers (Air Jordan 11 Concord). MASS APPEAL caught up with JuWilll to discuss his inspirations, creative process and future plans.
What started your love for graphic design?
I’ve been an artist. I use to sketch a lot but I didn’t really get into computer art until senior year of high school. I had a Macbook at the time—I used to practice on the Mac and I started posting things on Instagram and people were really digging it. Graphic design was my major in college but the school kicked me out of the program for “lack of creativity” and failing a typography class. I just started doing my thing on my own.
How did your work begin to get exposure?
When I got kicked out, I had to question whether my work was really that bad. I started putting pieces out on social media as a way to display my portfolio—things I had in the sketchbook. A lot of the pieces I put on Instagram is me just playing around with ideas. People just kept DMing me, asking if they can buy a piece of mine. When I started seeing people not only liking it, but asking to buy it, I knew I had something.
Where do you find inspiration to create?
I get inspiration from everything that looks nice. I’ll go on Google or Twitter and whatever I see people going towards, I’ll just make a piece of it. Or if so-and-so is having a fight next week, I’ll create a pic of it. I say to myself, “How can I make that look just a little bit better?”
You incorporate different facets of pop culture in your art, from sports to music to fashion.
That’s what I like doing on an everyday basis—listen to rap music, check different sneaker sites, fashion sites, and so on. I’m always up on that type of stuff so I felt it would only be right to express myself in that way. To me, it’s not even work. I just look at something and say to myself, “That’ll be cool, let me see if I can put some pieces together and play with it.” But it’s not just limited to sneakers—if you go through my computer, you’ll see tons of different ideas. Sneakers, fashion and music are what I’m really into right now, so that’s what I post the most.
What’s the first piece of yours that really blew up?
A lot of people like the Chris Brown picture I did. I also received a lot of love on the [Air Jordan] 12’s, the Concords, as well as the Biggie and Diddy joint I [remade] from their picture on the cover of VIBE. I’m still trying to figure out what people like and what they don’t.
Have any celebrities acknowledged your work or reached out to you?
Ben Baller actually used one of my pieces as his Twitter and Instagram avi for a few months. That’s just the one I know of.
Technically, how do you create each piece?
I recreate each image by using Adobe Illustrator. Then I use the pen tool and draw a triangle and insert it where I deem fit. To complete a picture of a sneaker it’ll probably take me one to two hours.
Which piece took the longest?
Probably that Chris Brown piece. I also did a piece on Future that took me a minute to finish—it was a pic of him from the XXL cover. They took me like a month because I kept stopping to start on something else. They had so many intricate triangles in it; I think 5,000 triangles, collectively.
What’s next for JuWilll?
I’m thinking about wiping my whole Instagram clean. I just want to start over. I’m kind of a perfectionist—I see my old pieces and see all of my mistakes. I have a few T-shirts I want to start doing. This started out as a hobby but if it gets to that point where people are requesting to buy pieces nonstop, I’ll definitely turn it into a full business.