Pugilistic Picasso: Jay Connolly interview
Luke G. Williams
Boxing Monthly speaks to Jay Connolly, who has fast carved out a niche as a much admired and in-demand boxing artist, winning praise from Anthony Joshua, Andre Ward and Carl Frampton among others...
BM: Where did your interest in boxing originate from?
JC: From my Dad - he’d always watched it from when he was a child. I can remember him watching Mike Tyson videos and getting up in the early hours to watch his fights. Boxing was always on [the television] in the house so I sort of grew up with it.
BM: I understand you only started painting a few years ago. Give us the story!
JC: I started painting in early 2013 - I hadn’t picked up a paint brush since leaving school. I never took art seriously at school but I have always enjoyed drawing so after spending many nights at home with my 2-year-old daughter I needed something to occupy my time. So I decided to visit my local art/craft store and bought a cheap set of acrylics paints and brushes. I had never painted with acrylics before so this was all new to me and I began to paint black and white portraits on paper. Soon I was painting most nights and each painting I did notably improved. I then moved on to painting on canvas and using colours too. It wasn’t long before I was doing commission work for family members and friends - I couldn’t believe that people wanted my paintings up on their walls. The feedback I was getting locally and all over social media was amazing and gave me so much confidence. I than began to take it more seriously, so I then dedicated my time to painting at night due to me having a full-time day job. I choose to focus on boxing as it is my favourite sport and I was soon doing commission work for some of my boxing idols. I have made quite an impact in a short space of time and my paintings are owned by many of the top boxers in the world including Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins and Canelo Alvarez.
BM: Can you summarise what the boxing world's reaction to your art has been?
JC: The reaction I’ve had in this short space of time has been unreal. To be recognised and approached by fans of my work at boxing events took some getting used to, as well as having some of my boxing idols ring me up for a painting. It was only the other week that Evander Holyfield messaged me asking for my number as he was interested in some work! He, like many other boxers, are people I am massive fans of and it's strange to think now they are fans of me!
BM: Can you talk me through some of your favourite boxing pieces so far?
JC: I don't really have a favourite boxing piece as I soon change my mind or pick faults with it. I’m always learning and aiming to make my next piece better than the one before. If I had to pick one though I'd probably choose a Floyd Mayweather one I did recently which I was lucky enough to get signed by him too. Or perhaps one I did last year for John Murray’s retirement evening.
BM: Your work featured on the Bellew vs Haye programme. How did this come about and how satisfied were you with this piece and project?
JC: Regarding the Haye vs Bellew programme I was contacted before Haye’s comeback fight in January 2016 against Mark de Mori by Hayemaker promotions. They commissioned me to do a painting for the cover of the official fight programme. They loved it that much they asked me to do another for his next fight against Arnold Gjergjaj and then the fight against Bellew too, so I've painted the cover of the programme for Haye’s last three fights. I’m sure I’ll be asked to do his next fight as well, which is always a great honour.
BM: What are your future ambitions / dreams for your work?
JC: I’ve already done way more than I thought I’d ever do already as my ambition was to paint the cover of a boxing programme or poster. I have done three programmes now - all at the O2 arena and some massive shows. The ultimate is probably to paint the cover of a fight programme in Las Vegas which I am in talks about as we speak!
- For more on Jay's work visit http://www.jayconnollyart.net/
- You can find Jay on Twitter @jayconnollyart