Jaleel Campbell / by Nahomie Prophete

Inspired by Blaxploitation films and vintage Afrocentric magazines from the 70's, Jaleel Campbell's extraordinary and eccentric vision manifests in his "Feel That Funk" series. This series embodies the boldness of African American style, power, and culture while capturing the beauty of our features. Every piece illustrates a story of strength and resilience. Explore Jaleel's series with us as we get a peek into his creativity and background.

Jaleel Campbell

Instagram: itsjalethal
Email: jaleelcampbell95@gmail.com
Website: Jaleelcampbell.com
Syracuse, NY


Tell us about yourself
My style is composed of many intricate shapes, along with sleek lines and an assortment of color. Although busy, my work reflects not only my personality, it also reflects the brand that I am constantly refining.

What kind of art do you do?
I am a Digital Illustrator.

How did you get started & how long have you been doing it?
I began drawing in a sketchbook in high school, but after attending a college graphic design course during my senior year of high school, I fell in love with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

What or who inspired you?
I am inspired by Black folks. Us. We truly are the movers and the shakers, with many people looking to us for the latest trends. I love Hype Williams music videos, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Grace Jones. Some artists who have inspired me include Jacob Lawrence, Ernie Barnes, and Faith Ringgold to name a few.

How do you work?
I literally stay up all hours of the night creating while binge-watching Shameless on Netflix. 

How has your practice changed over time?
My work has become extremely detailed and is truly my own style. I have been able to carve out my own lane because my work is so fresh and new.

Mutha Luv, 2017

What has been a seminal experience in your career?
I was commissioned by a publishing company here in Syracuse to create an illustration of Langston Hughes. I'm proud to say that they have not only turned that illustration into postcards, posters, and buttons, those products can also be found in the gift shop of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

What’s your favorite piece from your collection?
My favorite piece at the moment is Mutha Luv, it is a picture dedicated to my mother. It's the crowd favorite also.

How do you know when an artwork is finished?
I honestly have to just let it be after a while because I will always find something in each piece that I'm not happy with when it is all said and done. 

Do you pursue themes?
Yes. I love executing different illustrations under the same theme. That’s been what I’ve enjoyed most.

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to and why.
Three of my top artists are Jacob Lawrence, Leroy Campbell, and Barkley Hendricks. I would like to leave an impact on black art as these men have and inspire the generations after me the same way they've inspired me.

Where does your inspiration come from when you are working?
I like to begin my process by researching whatever theme I have my series set on being. So, for this series, I looked through a bunch of vintage magazines including Ebony and Essence, along with old advertisements aimed at black audiences from the 70s. During my research, I also found myself watching and re-watching Blaxploitation Films to get a feel for the time. The films were over the top and stylish, two things that I knew I'd want to incorporate into my artwork. The amount of time it takes to create a piece varies depending on if I'm feeling inspired. There have been times where I have been able to bust three pictures out in a week’s time. I normally take around 4 or 5 days to complete one piece. Creating these illustrations takes a lot of time and patience, however, the ending result is always rewarding.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
To keep going. Even when I feel like nothing is going to happen. Trust my intuition.

Professionally, what’s your goal?
To live large and in charge.

What is your dream project?
I would like to have my illustrations turned into large-scale murals across the world.

What message would you like to convey through your art?
I want people to see Black folk in all of our glory. I believe that no matter what, our beauty and strength shines through when all is said and done. I love how no matter what pain and hardships have been thrown our way throughout history, we still find the courage to fight and end up on top. It's that resiliency that motivates me to keep going.