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Off the Wall with Jesse Hora

A BKB Interview with Illustrator + Muralist Jesse Hora

Despite the thousands of miles between them, many common threads run through New York City, Boston, and Chicago: Museums, epic skylines, great food, diehard sports fans, and urban adventurers. But the biggest one on the list for us? Art. From classic, well-known pieces like the Statue of Liberty or “The Bean” to more funky, new-age graphic and gallery artists, art brings each city to life. And given our appreciation for living a creative life, Brooklyn Boulders has been lucky enough to provide many urban artists with a blank canvas for their visions.

Our most recent artistic inspiration comes in the form of a dynamic, custom mural from illustrator Jesse Hora at our Chicago West Loop location. His unique, texture-filled style inspired the designs for our new retail collaboration (which just recently launched on our BKB retail shop, check it out)!

If you’re curious to learn more about the creative brain behind these beautiful designs, check out our Q+A with the man, the myth, the legend: Jesse Hora.

Jesse, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! First up: How did you get started with your art, and how long have you been at it?

Like many creative types, I grew up in an artsy family. My mom was a supremely talented oil painter and my dad did custom body work for high-end show cars (his trademark was translucent, gradient flame paint jobs—the 90’s were awesome). All of my siblings are artistic in one way or another, too. Art and design has always been one of the few things that interested me in my adolescence—and that interest only continued to grow.

I started doing commercial art and design at the beginning of college and have been at it ever since – going on 13 years! Wow, I feel old…

It seems that family was a big factor in getting creative. What (or who) else influences your illustrations and inspires you?

Hmmm… this is always a funny question to answer, there are a few ways to approach it. The honest answer, often times, is the client/company that is paying me to do the design and illustration inspires me to ‘get creative’ cause I want to do right by them. (Also, got to pay the mortgage ya know.)

However, when I am doing a project that is self-motivated, or something that isn’t commissioned by a specific client, often what inspires me is to create images that are simultaneously intriguing and beautiful. Making things that ‘look cool’ is always fun, but if I can create something that at first glance looks beautiful and also intrigues the viewer enough to investigate and discover that there is a deeper layer of meaning—that gets and keeps me going!

Yes! We definitely count ourselves among the viewers who think that your work is intriguing and beautiful, which is why we wanted to feature your artwork on BKB retail. We’re so stoked for it! Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your approach and/or process for this collaboration?

I am super stoked on this collaboration as well! For this project the BKB design team actually reached out just to see if it was cool for them to reference the Hard/Work mural I did a few years ago at BKB in West Loop, in a design they were working on. I was like, I’d be happy to do the line-work drawing for you to use—and I threw out another idea for the design and referenced one of the mural designs I recently did for Shake Shack. They loved it and we started to workout how best to approach what they wanted to do. Originally it was just for the BKB West Loop location, but then the team saw that this design approach could extend to be a series of apparel designs for all of the BKB locations. I loved this idea of location-specific series, so we worked out the logistics and I got to work!

First I did the lettering for the name of each location: West Loop, Gowanus, Queensbridge, Somerville. And then did a large line-work doodle drawing of the Brooklyn Boulders logo. I typically prefer to do these drawings with good ol’ fashion ink on paper (here was a little in-progress peek). To finish, it was just a matter of combining everything in Adobe Illustrator, working out a few colorways so each location was uniqued and doing a few mock-ups to see how everything would look when worn. Sent it off to the BKB team and they loved it and that was that. I am excited to see everything printed and released out in the wild.

We are too! The final product looks awesome. Looking ahead, do you have any upcoming goals or plans for your work?

Lots and lots of fun stuff on the horizon, always have a few big mural projects in the works. Also, we are doing some fun branding and creative direction work at the creative studio—MAKE & Co.— that I own and operate here in Chicago with Abigail, my awesome wife.

Making things that ‘look cool’ is always fun, but if I can create something that at first glance looks beautiful and also intrigues the viewer enough to investigate and discover that there is a deeper layer of meaning—that gets and keeps me going!

Do you have any advice for artists in the community working on honing their craft?

Creative advice can be a tricky thing when it is super general, as it often feels watered down or generic and doesn’t account for everyone dealing with unique situations and challenges. But, that being said, being a creative in this world is ultimately a lot of fun—so make sure you HAVE FUN WITH IT!

We can stand by that. On the topic of having fun, we have to ask a BKB favorite: What’s one weird fact about you?

Hard to choose just one! How about this: I put peanut butter in a bowl of chili—does anyone else do that?

If you’d like to find out more about Jesse and his work, visit his website ( or connect with him on Instagram (@jessehora).

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