Five Minutes With... Nick Jeffrey
Where’s your favourite place in the world to be?
The Ocean. I love the Ocean and anything that’s connected with it. I feel incredible after being in it and so calm when I’m in it. It’s my safe haven, which weirdly speaks to me. When I can’t be with it or in it, my wife offers me a better special place.
Nick bunjee jumping over Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
How do you start your day?
Other than with my beautiful wife, earlier the better! That doesn’t always work for her! I like to be up with the sun and catch the early dawn breaking. That’s a little tricky in London too. It’s a kind of religion stealing the quietest parts of the day and regular dawn river walks, park and river runs, or swims in outdoor baths or indoor pools are good medicine to combat the sudden rush of the metropolis: heaving tubes, burgeoning traffic jammed roads of London.
Nick and Tania at Ses Roques, Ibiza, where they first met
The world is at its most beautiful before man awakens into it. The days that start with this dawn routine always seem to be the best. We have good views by the river in Wandsworth Park, or along the river in Bishops Park, or between Putney and Hammersmith Bridge. It is peaceful and full of the promise of a new day. If I’m East, the Grand Union Canal is great for walking, running and the Haggerston Lido is the best pool in London. The perfect start would be an early morning snorkel over and under an Indian Ocean reef and watch a symphony of colour unravel as all of our splendid marine creatures awoke with the warmth of the sun. It’s great to feel amongst natures might and to feel this great connection; there is no better motivation to then set out to DO in a day!
Tell us something people couldn’t possibly guess about you…
I was born under an African sun in Luanshya, Zambia and growing up barefoot I broke the School high jump record at the age of 10 when I was only 4'1” at school in Yorkshire, UK!
Nick with his Nkwazi School classmates in 1980
If we were to press ‘play’ on your stereo right now, what song would we hear?
It would be totally random, and might be extremely embarrassing! Such as Sixteen Going On Seventeen from The Sound of Music (my niece’s favourite!). I often have spoken word choices, Ted Talks, or even Radio 4 or the BBC World Service on, and sometimes even children’s songs. God bless the transparency of iTunes or Spotify – there’s no getting away from the real truths!! However, I am partial to a bit of trance, house or rap now and then too, and sometimes Blues, and I love Rock'n Roll.
So I’ve just pressed play on my spotify account to see what was last playing and... the playlist line up was as follows:
Chris Malinchak, So Good to Me
The Cure, Boyz Don’t Cry
Jackie Mittoo, Totally Together
Diplo, Set It Off (feat. Lazerdisk)
Led Zeppelin, Gallows Pole
Johnny Cash, Walk the Line
Bob Dylan, Don’t Think Twice
KT Tunstall, (Still A) Weirdo
Mozart, Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute)
Jackie Wilson, (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher)
Daft Punk, Loose Yourself to Dance
Porter Robinson, Language
Four Borthers, Makorokoto
London Grammar, Hey Now (Remix by Tensake)
Four Brothers, Remastered
Four Brothers, Rumbidzai
I do love African music! It is somehow burnt into my soul from my childhood and it always brings a smile to my face and makes my pulse beat with a vif of energy. I mean you can really dance to this stuff and should!
Do you have any quirky habits when you‘re working in your studio?
I have to get release from intense concentration and often-repetitive processes in my work, sitting in uncomfortable stress positions. So lest I turn into petrified corpse doubled over from the strain, I like to get the heart racing and the blood pumping. This helps me keep my focus, and regain my agility. So, I play Table Tennis every now and then with anyone who might be on hand for a game or anyone I have in helping me at the time (Table Tennis comes with fun house rules though). Practice my climbing with pull-ups in the studio. Play basketball with rubbish when shooting litter into the bin. Listening to random music/spoken words/talks and lectures on my Jawbone. Singing and dancing like no-one’s watching! I like to cook too so I often rustle up things from local produce found in the area – and there’s some great stuff my way in the eastend. Well, I’m also English so there’s a lot of tea most of the time.
At the studio
What’s your favourite artistic medium and why?
Nature. I love to collect random natural elements: seed pods, seeds, rusks of once living things, butterflies, beetles, etc., etc. I like to bring them back to life in a creative way using a myriad of different mediums to juxtapose the man made with the real to emblazon the brilliance and beauty of nature. I take hundreds of photos too to capture accidental things I discover in nature. Nature has already done far more than we can imagine or create, and looking closely at it leads to an exciting discovery of fascinating things. I hope to help people notice these things that the majority either have no idea about, or don’t have time to stop and appreciate because they move too fast! I wouldn’t want anyone to miss it or to feel that it was not the most incredible thing we have to be a part of.
If you weren’t a successful artist, where do you think life would have taken you?
Back to Africa; to the bush and the Indian Ocean. I’d probably have gone out to help save the Rhino, the reefs on the east Coast or the Gorilla in Rwanda or the Congo. I love Africa and all God’s beautiful creatures in it. I may even have headed up an anti-poaching unit as I’d love the chance to take on the terrorists of nature. Or if I was perhaps allowed to travel back in time I’d either be a Bushmen living in tune with all the great survival secrets of nature or a pirate of the Caribbean or the South Seas, exploring the planet afresh and being the first to discover the many splendours of our natural world.
What inspires your work as an artist?
Nature as it is the ultimate creation, by the most talented creator. It has been a lifelong inspiration and when I am amongst it I am at my best and my happiest. The vivid memories of my childhood, immersed in rare wild places, are the only things that keep me wired correctly. Time re-spent in it brings a surge of fresh inspiration.
When was the moment you created your first piece of art?
I must have been about 4, 5 or 6 playing around with paints and eggshells, and papier mache with my Ma. We used to make little human sculptures or decorate drawings/paintings of tropical birds with eggshell and hand paint each mosaic a different colour.
Finally, what is your life philosophy?
Live life as immersed in nature as you can. Celebrate it! It is our most precious resource, our beginnings and our end, and if we lose a connection with it we lose ourselves forever. My dream is that we can all one day learn to live close to the land again and more intelligently harvest Mother nature’s resources so that it lasts until the Sun can no longer bring it its waking warmth each day.
At the London Butterfly House before his first artwork