Making The Transition From Rockford To Chicago, Jacob Polhill Is Now Feeling The Most Inspired

Introduce yourself

What’s up? I’m Jacob Polhill. I’m a fine artist/designer. I was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois and I’m currently living in Chicago. I paint, design, take pictures, and DJ.

When did you first start getting involved with art?

Arts have always been apart of my life really. It’s always something I’ve gravitated towards. In terms of really taking it seriously, it was probably the second half of my senior year of high school when I began to realize art was my passion. But I still wasn’t convinced that I should really pursue it as a career until I had my first exhibit when I was 19 in Rockford at Gallery 2213. Shoutout Balta, Ricky, Efrain, and René for that. That show changed my life. I don’t think I’d be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for that show. Really inspired me to go hard with my craft.

You’re from Rockford, but now living in Chicago. This is like the fourth interview I’ve done with somebody from Rockford over the past year. How’s the creative scene in Rockford?

If I had to choose one word, it would be blossoming. It has a lot of potential to become so much better. I think there is a lot of people doing a lot of great things creatively in Rockford with the little resources we have there. In Rockford, we don’t have a ton of venues that would be willing to put on art shows or concerts. It’s very frustrating at times because unfortunately a lot of us feel like a lot of people in the city are afraid of hip-hop/street culture when we have never, in the 20 plus events we’ve had, had an issue with violence. But we make it work with what we got. We’re persistent and we still do all we can to put on events for the youth. It really comes down to creating a culture. Yeah making money on art is cool and stuff but you can make money so many other ways, for me, I want to create experiences people remember through product and events.

Now living in Chicago, how much has it helped you grow as an artist?

Maaaaaaan. I get inspired just walking out my apartment. There’s an energy here that you don’t get anywhere else. Also just being around so many creative people all the time. It’s crazy how many talented people there are in the city and how willing they are to give out advice and help you grow. It’s great sense of community here. I’ve only been here 3 months but I feel like it’s been the biggest 3 months of growth not just as an artist but as a person.


Your big endeavor right now is the drawing and painting on shoes. When did this journey begin for you?

Dude, it’s kind of weird because I just tweeted one day “hey guys, I think I’m going to start putting my art on shoes” and the tweet got a lot of love and then I put out the Keith Harring customs and it was over from there. All of a sudden I was getting over 5 orders a week. It’s crazy. I honestly didn’t think that’d gain that kind of hype but it’s super dope and I’m grateful for all the love and support.


Have you ever thought about getting in contact with Vans while designing all of these shoes?

It’s funny you say that because I actually just started working in the Vans storefront. I literally asked the manager “dude I’m here like 3 times a week, you hiring?” And he got me an interview in about a week. It’s something I’m working towards though. That would be really cool. I would love to start working with corporations like Vans but I’m patient. I know that if I keep working and putting out great product that the opportunities will present themselves. It’s just about being ready when your time comes.


Recently you put out a new series of paintings called ‘Till Death Do Us Apart’. Talk about the inspiration behind these pieces?

Yeah so like I got my heart broken this past summer. Everyone’s been through it. It builds character. But I used the skeleton figures to represent the dead relationship and the process of falling in and out of love. That series was the most personal I’ve ever gotten with my work and I’m really looking forward to continuing that in the future. Even though I’m not still hurting over the heartbreak, it still felt therapeutic to put those emotions on a canvas. And people liked it so I guess it’s a win-win.


While drawing on shoes seem to be your main focus right now, can we ever be expecting you break into more merchandise?

Absolutely. My biggest worry with the shoes is that I get boxed in as “Jacob the shoe guy”. I’m always working on so many things. Some of my inspirations include Warhol, Murakami, and KAWS and I think what draws me to them is how they’ve created art outside of just traditional canvases and prints. Whether it be action figures, pillows, I’m pretty sure Warhol even did kitchenware at one point, that’s what I want to do. I want to get to a point where I can wake up one day and design your favorite t-shirt and your favorite rug for your living room in the same day. I want to do a show in Chicago showcasing all that I can do within the next year. Hopefully by next summer. I don’t like to plan super far ahead because so much can happen between now and then but as of now, that’s kind of the goal.