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An American artist and sculptor in Nanjing

  • Written by Renee
Jeff Day’s vast experience throughout the art world has stretched across the globe, dazzling some of the toughest critics around while winning him numerous awards and extensive recognition. His presence in Nanjing deserves special attention. Renee Gray reports. {xtypo_dropcap}T{/xtypo_dropcap}he car travelled down the seaboard gradually leaving the metropolis behind and eagerly approaching the beautifully serene coastline. The cleansing nature of the sea offers a nice break from the somewhat melancholy nature of a concrete jungle. But it’s the unusual figures of the Seattle coast rock formations that stimulate the crux of my story.

Recently, I have had the absolute pleasure of getting to know an exceptionally talented sculptor and painter Mr Jeff Day. Day’s vast experience throughout the art world has stretched across the globe, dazzling some of the toughest critics about and winning him numerous awards and extensive recognition; his presence in Nanjing deserves special attention.


At the age of nine, Day’s parents accredited his unrelenting desire to draw everything and everything to a creative six sense.

Thus, they enrolled him into the Washington Frye Art Museum's classes for gifted children – little did they know this was only the beginning of something magnificent.

Later in his life, Day briefly attended the University of Washington. However, he ultimately came to terms with his genuine disliking to the influences of university and therefore decided to drop out.

Day’s incredible skills are mostly self-taught. However, he makes it clear that in his opinion, a major part of his development came from opportunities to study under the guidance of some of Seattle’s finest legends; Mark Tobey, Morris Graves and the acclaimed Clayton James.

During the late 1960’s Day began transpiring into a professional artist, motivated by the contemporary movement sweeping through his home state.

International influences

Day’s lifelong experience as a contemporary artist has proven fruitful and extraordinarily insightful. His bronze head sculptures of Martin Luther King, Bob Marley and Jimmi Hendrix are widely admired respected within the art community in Washington.

Most of Day’s pieces lie in the Seattle Woodside Gallery; most notable is the sculpture of Bob Marley which presently resides in his tomb in Jamaica.

Beyond US borders, Day spent six enthusiastic years scoping the cobbled stoned side allies of Istanbul while churning out three to four paintings a day.

“Turkey’s overpowering bulkiness provided a certain amount of mystery for me to play with. It had layers and layers of history that I just found incredibly inspiring. It was like finding my grandmother’s old jewelry box in the back of a raggedy cupboard and as you open the box you find it’s a mess with bits of jewelry everywhere, but if you look hard enough and dig through the mess you find beautiful gleaming untouched gems.”

Day (with his wife Nadean) returned to Seattle after their stint in Turkey.

This was the period of Day’s life that provided him with the inspiration he needed – via Seattle coast rock formations. These formations are only found in Seattle, all offering their own figure for inspiration. 

Comfortable in Nanjing

Day's interpretation of these formations resulted in bronze abstract figures that he first brought with him to China two years ago. Since then, along with myriad Chinese landscape paintings, he has been busily creating a medley of bronze images. Day draws on the mysticism of nature in order to recreate its ambiguity.

“China inspires me in a totally different way to Istanbul. I find China chaotic, crowded, compressed and deeply traditional,” said Day. “Pieces of my work are combined with pieces of my Chinese friend’s paintings in a gallery in Chongqing at the moment – it’s the only display I have running in China.”

“What I find unique to Nanjing is the homely feel it reveal upon coming back to it from another province, I think this has a lot to do with the way a lot of Nanjing has been kept green. I like the idea of the amount of nature kept intact in Nanjing.” 

When asked to give advice to aspiring artists, Day suggested: “Get a network going – try to find out who the other artists are, get a studio, get busy, get your pad out go out in to the landscape and be inspired. Nanjing offers a wonderful playground for any serious artist to work with.”

Looking to the future

{xtypo_quote_right}This is such an exciting time to be in Nanjing, this is the time for any young creator fresh to the industry to launch their careers.{/xtypo_quote_right} Day is currently working with his colleague David Smith (a local Nanjing entrepreneur) to set up art in cafés around the city. He has also expressed interest in setting up a contemporary city gallery.

In his opinion, “this is such an exciting time to be in Nanjing, this is the time for any young creator fresh to the industry to launch their careers. With the rate the rest of China is moving, now is the time to be setting up a solid contemporary art scene in Nanjing.”

Day has asked any interested readers on HelloNanjing.com to please contact him if that idea arouses them. To learn more about Jeff Day and his abstract figurative creations, please visit his website: www.jeffdayonline.com

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