Jeremy Kyle aka CMYKyles is a high-flying New Zealand talent who’s works of art have been commissioned by luminaries such as the NBA, the Chicago Bulls, the United Nations, The History Channel, the New York Times and Under Armour.
We wanted to get the inside scoop on how he’s pulled off such extraordinary success… and by the age of 26 no less! We caught up for a coffee on his return from a monthlong sojourn of discovery in the USA. Read on to discover his story, what makes this very cool artist tick and his top tips for breakthrough success.
You’re on record as saying that having your work in your hero’s hands is “pretty damn cool”. Is the fact that Michael Jordan owns one of your pieces the highlight of your career so far?
Yeah, it’s definitely one of my highlights, in the sense that he’s been a childhood hero and the Chicago Bulls have been my favourite basketball team ever since I was a kid.
So, for them to get in contact with me for their milestone event, their 50th anniversary, that was something that… sort of blew my lid off really.
And yeah, to know that my art hangs in the home of Michael Jordan… and to have a personal letter from him… have him encourage my work and give his personal touch to where I’m going… that for me is… it’s huge.
So how did it come about that you were commissioned by the Chicago Bulls? What happened?
A lot of it really is just marketing yourself, showing your creative abilities. I specialise in visual communication and a lot of my art has a lot of movement in it. So, I appeal to clients who have a lot of movement in their branding; the sports industry – there’s a lot of movement with that. I use bright, vivid colours… I utilise design elements and principles to make a really strong image… and because of this, the [Chicago Bulls] chose me for a really important moment in their history - their 50th anniversary celebration.
We got talking, discussed the project. I also gave input into how we could utilise the best opportunities for this event.
A lot of my creativity also incorporates marketing ideas, like how can we maximise our reach with the art, get good engagement, create something special that will truly resonate with the fans and the basketball community on the whole.
Then, the Bulls requested that I give the art to the players as a gift of appreciation to honour their contribution to the legacy of the Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan was one of those recipients and he got back in contact with me and basically thanked me for the art, described my creativity as unique and further encouraged my abilities moving forward. Pau Gasol, who was an All-Star for the team, showcased my work and publicly thanked me as well. Both were completely unexpected and you know it really put the icing on the cake for me! The Bulls also sent me an official game ball signed by the whole team, a relic I will treasure.
And we understand that you’re now also being commissioned by the NBA itself?
Yeah… so I’ll be an ongoing artist for the league itself now. That’s pretty new. The art that I’ll be creating for them will be going out worldwide. I don’t want to say too much because I prefer to pump out some work for them first… you know, before everything goes completely public. That will include both local and international exhibitions of my original artwork. At this stage, I’m wanting to provide the opportunity for New Zealanders to see the art first and to possibility get their hands on some original NBA art before international collectors.
That’s some of the high-profile, big name stuff but you also have been collaborating closer to home, including for Tearfund’s ‘Live Below the Line’ campaign.
I’m actually a big supporter of Tearfund and I sponsor one of their children. I’ve done the ‘Live Below the Line’ challenge in the past and I was dead keen on doing it again but this time I got sick. So being able to contribute to Tearfund, to give to a cause that really is purposeful and changes people’s lives, is great.
As I’ve said, to be able to do these really amazing projects are a dream come true. But it’s the projects that really matter… supporting those that go the extra mile to actually change someone’s life… there’s a huge amount of privilege in that… even more so than working with these big names.
That’s something that I’d like to keep in the loop of my professional career as I develop.
Clearly, your work in spaces around humanitarian causes is important to you. The ‘Agenda for Humanity’ project for the United Nations (as an example) is conceptually brilliant. What’s that process like for you?
So, before I can start engaging in the artwork itself I have to thoroughly understand how I’m going go about the launch of my art. I’m thinking about the creative concepts behind it… the theoretical ideas… does it work in unison… is there diversity with the rest of the artworks… is it well balanced… is there complimentary colours and symmetry across the concepts… There are numerous factors I have to think about before I even start my painting, sketching and all the rest of that. But yeah to be able to work with the UN, that’s a huge privilege again. You don’t get much bigger than the UN really… doing stuff for a world leadership organisation… that took me, even more, by surprise.
We’ve covered sports and humanitarian commissions but there’s a third arm isn’t there. You’re a household name now. You’re a business.
Yes, I know… and it’s starting to become a bit weird… but it’s kinda cool. My perspective on “fame” is, use it for the good of others… it’s not for you to massage your ego, use it to change the world around you.
So, for others out there who are also dreaming big, how does your kind of success work? What tips can you give them?
It takes time to get it running. There are a few factors that play into really grabbing the audience you want and gaining the attention of the people who can actually pull the strings. You don’t start off at the top… it takes time… patience is key.
I’ve been told you don’t usually see a profit for the first one to two years so you’ve really got to stand up and start appealing to the right markets that you want to be in. You’ve got to have something that stands out from the crowd of course… and sometimes that just requires experimentation until you find your foothold.
Reaching out to your clientele is important as well. Saying you know “I’m over here guys, look at me”. A lot of people think “oh, they’re way to big”, “they won’t notice me”, but the truth is, what have you got to lose? Just keep shouting ‘look at me’, and eventually breakthrough will happen.
If you are in the art industry… utilising the power of the internet. We’re in an age now where, as artists, we’ve got a platform to reach a global audience. Finding your way into the right avenues will launch you into the view of millions of people. You need to find the avenues that will launch you well, appeal to a culture, collaborate with the right people.
Of course, branding and marketing of yourself is important. You really want to have a stand out brand that works really well. A visual identity about who you are. And I’d say to really understand the goals you want to achieve over the next two to maybe five years. Have a vision where you want to go. Say this is what I want to be, set a dream and pursue it.
Make sure you surround yourself with like-minded people who encourage you and also believe in the impossible.
It’s been reported that school was a bit of a struggle for you. What was that like?
I got a great education, no denying that but I struggled in the area of English… particularly in my writing. I struggled with dyslexia as well (I’d read words round the wrong way) so, I had some hurdles that I really needed to overcome. My strengths are visually communicating as well as my verbal skills.
During my time at University, where I started to fine tune my ideas, I recognised that I had to incorporate my written side if I was going to articulate my ideas and my theoretical understandings of my work. I actually had to practice writing these things down. That became a real strength for me in the sense I can now write about my art, my projects. People should not neglect their weaknesses. Focus on them and strive to strengthen those things.
And if people are like “I’m good at creativity or science or whatever but I’m not good here so I’m not going to bother”, then that’s the wrong attitude… because you don’t know if you’re going to need it in the future.
My weakness became my strength eventually and has become an invaluable skill, especially in the work that I do. And if I didn’t persevere through that impairment or difficulty or whatever you want to call it, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now.
What’s next for Jeremy Kyle?
Oh my gosh. Ok… I have so many big plans. But for now, I’m going to be focusing on official art for the NBA.
I’m going to be doing a series of exhibitions both nationally and internationally. I will be going back to America in 2017 so long as my plans stay the way they’re going.
The exhibition I’ve been working on is in collaboration with an organisation called InZone which is an organisation set up by a man called Terrance Wallace… a Chicago native who came to New Zealand.
It’s an educational organisation that help provide for disadvantaged youth to gain access to higher education. Anyway, Terrance has gone back to Chicago now to set up new InZones around the USA, to help minorities and provide educational assistance to the youth there.
I’m collaborating with him on an international art exhibition where my art will be auctioned off to help raise funds for the cause. We’re looking to create as much noise and attention as we can and to get celebrity involvement.
And there’s some other things that are going to happen but I’ll hold onto those for now. Plans can change. I’ll just keep moving forward