“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.”
“One day Va Mag will be to the art community what Def Jam [was] to hip-hop. Back in the day all the greats came through Def Jam Records, they couldn’t miss. Now, Va Mag will introduce all of the great underground and mainstream artists to the world.”
All in the Imagination
J.Q. Franklin, a visual artist, Va Mag’s founder/creative director and a marketing mastermind, made this bold statement one afternoon without a slight stutter or tremble in his voice. I balanced my iPhone to my ear with my shoulder and pushed my pencil along the lines of my notebook with my opposite hand—listening intently, as he spoke with excitement. Being with my brother all of my life, I knew he was serious, you can bet money on it. He always thinks outside of the box and when others say that it isn’t possible, he continues to push forward.
To get a better understanding of Va Mag’s founder and creative director, let me take you back to 1987. J. Q., aka Jay Franklin, was a little nine-year-old boy sitting in front of a small black and white TV watching a Michael Jordan commercial. He recalled MJ moving in slow motion and soaring into the air to make a slam dunk. Looking at MJ’s feet as he dunked the ball, was the first time that Jay’s eyes met a pair of Air Jordan sneakers. They sold for $125 a pair back then, this amount seemed expensive for the oldest of three children growing up in the hood on the east side of Indianapolis, Indiana. But he
had to have them, that was his goal. He wanted to replace the generic white tennis shoes that sold for $9.99, purchased by our mother that he currently owned and his peers joked about.
“I found a picture of the Jordans in a magazine, I tore the page out and put it on my wall. I used to stare at it,” Jay said. He imagined himself wearing a pair of the new sought after sneakers, that is until he came up with a plan of action. One day while visiting the neighborhood barber shop, he negotiated with the barber to pay him $18 per week to sweep up the
hair in the shop everyday. It took him 2-3 months of stashing his money in the floor vents of our little three bedroom home, but he did it. He bought the Air Jordans, and at night he would lay out his clothes for the next day and place his sneakers on top of the shoe box, right under his night light. He was able to rest easy that night with a gleaming smile, proud of what he had accomplished.
Now 27 years later, that same work ethic, drive and determination lives inside of a grown man. Ironically, the 1987 commercial titled “All In the Imagination,” motivated a little kid from the ghetto who had every odd against him.
“The Creative Adult is the Child who has Survived.”
-Ursula K. Le Guin
During an art class at Indianapolis Public School #56 was the first time that Jay began to discover his love for art. His art teacher Mrs. Whittaker recognized his talent and pushed him to continue to develop his art skills. While teaching her art class she played jazz music from her old record player, then she would place a piece of paper and a pencil in front of Jay, prompting him to draw what he felt at the time. This experience stuck with Jay; art class was the only place that he felt like he could be himself and create freely. This simple routine still plays a part in the artist’s creative process. While painting even today, he listens to music at his home, which serves as his art studio. In his eyes, art, music and fashion are indispensable. The three things produce a lifestyle that many are familiar with and Jay’s entire life has revolved around. Jay told me that some of the same habits that we develop as children we carry on into adulthood, both good and bad. Take art for example, it was always something that he thrived in at an early age, then fashion and music sparked his interest because they both stem from the same source, and collectively they produced the visionary’s lifestyle.
Today, Jay’s imagination plays a vital role because he uses his vision to see his aspirations before they even take place. The difference between now and then is wisdom and experience. Jay knows when to make a move and who to make that move with, he still plots but he knows his limits. There are none. He dreams perpetually with open eyes.
“I just see something. I have a knack for seeing talent in a person and bringing it out of them to achieve a common goal…visually I’m sick,” Jay explained.
The Vision Becomes Reality
After years of contemplation, painting, sketching, studying the lives of great artists and entrepreneurs and even launching the careers of some underground artists, Jay finally stepped out on faith and decided to invest in his own dream. He put his work on display and gave it a universal appeal through a method of alchemy. Alchemy is defined as a science from the Middle Ages that was used to turn ordinary metals into gold.
Jay’s ordinary metals are art, music and fashion. He transformed the three very common things into an art based publication called Visionary Artistry Magazine. Va Mag represents his gold, the mag was born in June 2010, it educates and promotes both underground and mainstream artists worldwide who aren’t necessarily searching for fame. It also serves as a reference material for those who study the arts. Va Mag highlights artists who create their own paths and those who are willing to give anything just to have the freedom to create.
One portion of Jay’s vision has been revealed with Va Mag, but the dream doesn’t stop there. He still experiences an agonizing hunger from that little kid who fell in love with art years ago, that still needs to be fed. The Dreamer, who is known for being humble and always playing the background, the person who has the power to touch and improve the lives of others, will finally step into the spotlight by hosting his first solo art show this fall, rightfully titled: The Dreamer. In anticipation of this historical event, he created a power circle by bringing several artists together to make his vision a reality.
He reached out to LA based, Austrian-born, Celebrity Photographer Rainer Hosch to create a monumental photo shoot. Hosch has photographed big names like Derek Lam, Dr. Cornel West, Taylor Swift, Robin Thicke and Jimmy Kimmel. Now J.Q. Franklin is also among this lineup. Of course this couldn’t be done without music. The Dreamer participated in a studio session with DJ Hustleman of Atlanta, as Jay painted one afternoon in his art studio, the DJ mixed several tracks from old school hip-hop classics to legendary club bangers. For hours the two worked together, and the end result is “The Dreamer” mixtape. Art enthusiasts will get a chance to experience the music that drives the artist during his creative process at the art show. As if that wasn’t enough, he connected with Art Dealer and Gallery Owner Fay Gold she contributed to the project by giving Va Mag her nod of approval. She drafted an open letter to art lovers for the magazine’s 2014 special edition. Fay is behind great artists like Radcliffe Bailey, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Jay took it a step further and dug into the Va Mag archives and pulled some of our best feature stories and vibrant photos to include in this special edition. He also partnered with Angel Harris of Imknotshy Photography to layout and design the art magazine.
The Dreamer developed 15 to 20 paintings using acrylic on wood that all play into the theme of his art show. People in attendance will get a chance to own a piece of the dream. This goes to show you that J.Q Franklin is truly a powerhouse who can relate to the hustle of an underground artist but his dreams scrape the sky as if he were already an international icon.
You Can’t Change What is Written
Even as the editor/production director of Va Mag, I must say that it is a surreal feeling to write this story and live the dream all at once. Everything is happening in real time. This story is pure dope; with no second hand suppliers, it’s coming straight from the source, and being apart of the process only strengthens the potency of my words. Right now, you are living vicariously through me. Everyday I am experiencing the ups and downs of building the Va Mag brand. I am a part of this journey; I witness Jay come up with ideas to take things to the next level, and still pursue his passion for art at the same time. I watch him make connections and project what this company will become years from now, create new paintings on his easel, download the latest music and blow dust from old albums to play on his record player. He is also known for putting raw fashion pieces together and rocking them effortlessly.
Still, through my whole writing career nothing prepared me for developing the story of The Dreamer. At times I had to stop writing this piece because the feeling of controlling our destiny through my words is a great task to accomplish. About half way into this story, I realized that my words will live on forever. If I write an abrupt bland ending to this piece, the dream could possibly die here with my last word, and this story would be the source of an untimely demise. People say that a dream is kin to your last breath, and I believe that this statement holds some truth. But you will never experience that last breath if you stay focused and keep on dreaming even through hard times.
That’s why the story of The Dreamer and his gold (Va Mag) will not “end,” with a period, instead it will contain a set of ellipses, representing a continuation or an incomplete thought just like the complex mind of Va Mag’s Founder and Creative Director, J.Q. Franklin. Va Mag is not a simple, run-of-the-mill, story with a beginning, a body and a conclusion. Va Mag is a brand, it is a way of life, it plays a role in the past, present and the future.
We are what dreams are made of…