J FREAK — MTN Australia Achromatic

J FREAK — MTN Australia Achromatic

This page is Q&A section of the Achromatic Competition Blog with artist J FREAK. To view the full blog article, including links to other artists Q&A or to view all submission, click this link:> MTN Challanges Australia Graffiti Community

Sydney based J FREAK submitted a stencil on one of our MTN 94 boxes, read below to hear how he responded to our 5 rapid fire questions.


  • Briefly introduce yourself and your art

J Freak here (@J_Freak_art), I’ve been doing stenciling since 2010 self-taught and since 2013 have been learning freehand being taught under Mistery. I got into stenciling through seeing Banksy’s art, I enjoyed his humour and the style of how his characters could look, so I used stenciling in my year 12 art major work. Since then I continued to practice and evolve, and came to meet the Krosswerdz Crew with whom I’ve now helped teach or paint at multiple events including 4 international ones.

My happiest achievements besides that would be winning the Street Uni ‘2015 Most Popular Artwork’, painting in Bulldog’s Canterbury Stadium gym, and winning the 2017 ‘Battle Ready’ KW graffiti battle.

  • How did you come up with your Achromatic concept?

With stenciling I’ve enjoyed that I can paint on not only walls and canvases but can go small enough to paint on clothes, shoes and skateboards. That’s what gave me the idea to go A2 size on their own 6-can MTN box. Besides that I enjoyed that we had free range as long as it was black and white, and I wanted to rep a few groups who I really appreciated. So I ended up doing myself (where I could take 50 photos till I’d gotten the right one) wearing our Krosswerdz hat, a bandanna designed by my favourite BBoy Dyzee, and an MTN 94 can in my hand.

  • What challenges did you face and overcome with the limitations of only Black and White?

Since I paint legally I’m use to enjoying having the time of not rushing before the fuzz turn up and so I’m use to doing stencils of 3–7 tones to pack in a lot more detail into the artwork. So to me, a 2 tone stencil would feel very limited to potential.

That’s where I came to the idea of making a grey by misting the black on white to make it 3 tone, but that in itself presented problems of that since I couldn’t replicate the exact tone twice without it being noticeably lighter or darker and I needed to make the grey a layer before black since if I did it after, the overlap would show. And since I was big on not wanting this to mean I’d have to put in obvious bridges in the stencil, it meant I had to do 7 layers all up just to get in 3 colours, which for an A3 stencil with a lot of detain meant many hours of cutting.

  • What techniques can you share about your process, did you find certain techniques helpful?

As mentioned above I did the mist layer technique which presented a lot of limitations I had to work around. In designing the picture to use on computer, Dealing with a black bandanna and hat on a white face also meant that if I set the picture too light before posterizing it on Photoshop, you wouldn’t see much detail in the face and can and if too dark then vice-versa on the bandanna and hat. So I made 7 images of different lightness values and took many pieces (27 all up) from each image to group it all into one that had a lot of detail in all areas. Then I did little changes to better hold the stencil together on MS Paint.

All up this took 5 hours which lead to the stencil requiring a lot in it to be cut out, the time from start to finish (including the computer time) was probably at least 20 hours.

  • What is one thing/lesson you learned while doing the Achromatic challenge?

Being limited to so few tones while wanting to pump out a burner with high detail did push me to invent a few new tricks for myself while designing it on my computer, and I was surprised by how much extra effort working around a tone only being used once (I ended up having to use it again in the eyes, but that was small enough that the difference in tone wouldn’t be noticeable) and how avoiding bridging wherever possible created so many extra layers.

But being pushed to my limits I’d say definitely has helped improve my skill level. And I appreciate that as I’ve told students before that if you’re feeling uncomfortable with how hard something is, that’s a sign that you have something to conquer.

  • If you were to do it again, what would you do differently?

Some things I avoided doing due to the competition giving no definition to what their definition of Graffiti or Street Art. Personally I assumed that realistic murals would come under graffiti because it was done freehand, and I didn’t know that we weren’t restricted to one canvas/wall. So if I was to do this all again, I would have incorporated some freehand into my stencil (something I thought about doing but chose not to in fear it may no longer count under the Street Art category) since I don’t see many stencil artists doing that, as well as either making it bigger (due to the top 6 all being a much bigger size than mine) or doing multiple people (as the guy who came first did) on multiple boxes.

That sadly would mean the artworks would have to have less detail in them since I didn’t have a spare 120hrs laying around to do 6 of these, but I suppose it still might have been a better move as having 6 artworks connected with a theme would probably have more of a wow factor than detail that from a distance you probably won’t even notice. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not salty towards those who won, some tested boundaries I thought were in place and for that gamble they were able to go as unlimited as the can in their hand let them, and for that I take my hat off to them.


J Freak is a Sydney based artist focusing primarily on stencil art and has recently been experimenting more with freehand spray painting.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/j_freak_art/

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