Wearing the Hat w/ Artist Kaki Jacobs

by Bella Taylor March 26, 2024 10 min read

“Wearing the Hat” is a series where staff writer Bella Taylor showcases the incredible people in the Isla Vista community and all the “hats” they choose to wear as they bring their passions to life.

3rd year college student Kaki Jacobs (@by_kaks on Instagram), from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a double major in Art and Environmental Studies here at UCSB. She has a keen gift for creating awe-inspiring pieces of art through various forms and techniques. Across her videos, sculptures, collages, and more, Kaki displays an impressive fusion of both her exceptional talent and true-to-life emotions embedded within her work.

Jacobs wearing the UCSB Classic Dad Cap 

I was fortunate enough to get the inside scoop on the inspiration behind Kaki’s creations and learn more about her aspirations as a growing artist. Her responses to our classic starter questions that always break the ice are stated down below: 

What is one item on your bucket list? 

KJ: This is really random but I want to see penguins in their natural habitat so my dream would be to go to Patagonia and see penguins and take photos of them and hang out with penguins out in the open. 

What do you truly value about yourself? 

KJ: I would say my creativity. I think I have to utilize it in everyday activities whether it be art projects for class or just random things I come up with. I’ve always utilized my creativity so I think that’s something I value about myself. 

What is a day or moment in your life that you’d like to relive?

KJ: It was my 21st birthday in January this past year and my roommates surprised me with a sunrise “Sip and Paint.” All of my friends piled into my room on my bed at 6:30 am and I looked outside and they set up a whole table of mimosas and painting activities. That was a great way to start the first day of Winter quarter and it was just a really magical moment. 

Go-to freebird’s order? 

KJ: Post-dayge, I get the large order of veggies nachos because I’m vegetarian and I get extra guac of course and then literally every topping except meat. 

Next, we dove into our conversation regarding her art: 

How did you first get into making art? When did you discover that you’re good at this and that you like creating? 

KJ: I’ve always been making art. My mom is an artist and so I grew up in a household where we always did arts and crafts. For Valentine’s Day, we would make the most extravagant Valentine’s Day boxes. One year, I made a 4 ft. tall penguin box and another year I made an alligator and you’d put the Valentine inside its mouth, so it all started with that. I started taking high school art classes and I think that’s when I realized that I could do this. I first took a black and white film photography class where you could develop your own film. I learned that you could do an overlay on the film as it develops to have it reflect on the photo and that was something the teacher didn’t know about so then the teacher taught a whole lesson about it. So that was a moment where I was like,

“Oh, I can actually come up with stuff that the teachers don’t even know about.”

I took all the art classes I could and then for college, I didn’t know if I wanted to pursue an Art college or not. I ended up choosing UCSB on a whim, never visited here or any of that jazz. Originally, I wasn’t going to be an art major, I thought I would just leave this behind me. But, I missed it so much so I chose to double-major. Through my projects here, I’ve further cultivated my artistic side and creativity and I think that I really want to pursue a career where I can do something with this in the future. 

What typically inspires the art you make? 

KJ: I love Pinterest, I’m always on there 24/7. Even before this, I had an hour and a half long class and I was on Pinterest the whole time, looking for ideas. I have probably, like, 72 boards if I had to guess. I’m also really inspired by everything in Isla Vista. I love to go on runs and there’s a garden area back by Dev’s that I run through and I’m always inspired by that kind of nature. I’m using the Birds of Paradise flower for my next art project because I’ve never seen this plant until I came to California. So I’d say nature, my friends, and Pinterest are my biggest inspirations. 

What’s your go-to style of art? 

KJ: Technique-wise, scaling and photo and video, I usually gravitate towards that. I really love mixed mediums where I can collage a bunch of different stuff and then paint and do an edit digitally. A big theme in all of my artwork, no matter the medium, is that I always like to include words or text somehow. I don’t know why, but, I think it’s kind of fun to pair text that wouldn’t necessarily go with the photo or the painting or the video and that’s kind of what I always find myself doing. 

Can you take us through the different resources you use to make you art?

KJ: In high school, I was taught how to make videos on Adobe Premiere so I invested in the whole Adobe portfolio app so I use that for videos. I also use Capcut on my phone because I can do that while I’m walking from place to place which is easy. Or, sometimes I’ll make the video in Adobe Premiere and then do after effects in Capcut. PicsArt is the best for overlay edits where I include texts. I usually will handwrite something and then do a blend type of mode. I also have Procreate and use TikTok and PicCollage, too.

So far, Kaki's favorite art piece of her’s is the acrylic self-portrait she did in her very first painting class on campus. She tells of her struggles with doubting her ability to paint but still committed to finishing out the class strong after a little encouragement from her professor. While Jacobs has battled uncertainty within her work, she is undeniably a remarkable artist whose art has emotionally reached hundreds of people through her posts on her public Instagram page. She speaks more on what aspects of her art she thinks it is that is truly touching for her followers: 

“I definitely want to become, I don’t know if famous is the right word, but, more popular with my art. I know the way to do that is to stay consistent with the same things that I post. I’ll have similar themes throughout my posts, which is coming-of-age, teenage life, time, stuff about drugs, controversial things here and there. I think that’s the appeal, though, because no one knows what I’m going to post next.” 

In addition to her cherished paintings, Kaki also posts her own class projects on her account from time to time. One project in particular that sticks out is her work about picking scabs and her parents’ divorce. Her courage to be vocal about her trials in life through her art is honorable and much appreciated by more than just her classmates and professors. When asked if vulnerability came natural to her, Jacobs replied with this: 

“I think it’s definitely easier to be vulnerable in art classes because everyone has to be vulnerable.

It’s a very accepting space, and everyone puts themselves out on the table, so it’s kind of its own community.

I think it’s hard deciding if I want to share that publicly on Instagram, outside of that safe space. I’m not sure if I want my parents or grandparents to see these things, so I think that’s a hard struggle sometimes, too. I think it’s definitely hard to be vulnerable on Instagram because there’s people I might have a crush on that follow me on my art page and then I’ll be overthinking it, and I shouldn’t be doing that; that’s not the point of my page or my art. I think that is what makes my art more appealing, though, is when I am vulnerable.” 

Kaki also comments that she finds it to be very rewarding when people come up to her and discuss her artwork. Much like her final project mentioned above, she can find great pride in sharing art that may hold a more profound meaning because of her journey with overcoming those certain times of difficulty in her life. For stages that she’s currently in, she “doesn’t know if [she] can post those yet” to the public. 

What do you think your art says about you? 

KJ: I think that it says I’m an angsty teenager, even though I’m 21 years old. Maybe it shows that I might have some attention deficit issues. I hope it says that I’m somewhat “woke.” I try to be woke and political without getting too deep, is what I try to aim for. I would like for someone to look at my page and be like,“This is someone that I would want to hang out with,” based on my work and I think it says that I’m a fun, funky person, hopefully. 

You had the chance to create some cover art and a video for the band Dawn Patrol, who we’ve recently interviewed with as well. Have you had any other opportunities come from your artwork and if so, do you find that you enjoy it more when you create art for yourself, or more so for other people?

KJ: I’ve definitely had other opportunities to create art for somebody else. It started in high school when I was the sports photographer for all of the sports teams. And then, this past year, I was the Lead Social Media for the women’s volleyball team. So, it was always cool when the NCAA would share my content. I think that motivates me to make art for other people, for sure. But then, there’s always the pressure of hoping they’ll like it. For Dawn Patrol, I made probably, like, 30 cover album ideas each with a different tweak. I just felt bad if they didn’t like it. There’s certainly a pressure that comes along with that. I think art for myself, there’s no pressure. But art for other people, it’s more rewarding to see your art featured and reach a bigger audience. 

Do you see yourself making a career from your art? If not, what else would you like to do career-wise? 

KJ: I would definitely like to have a career related to art in some aspect. I don’t know if I’m “good enough” in terms of technique-wise to pursue a career just yet. If I wanted to, I’d probably have to go to grad school. I came to the conclusion that I have to have a career where I can create something everyday whether it be marketing campaigns, or ads, or clothing lines, or something like that. I also need to work in a space that doesn’t have a dress code.

I really just dress however I want and I really am not the whole corporate, pantsuit type of person.

I think in order to have that, I need a creative job as well because I think creatives are more likely to dress however they want. So yes, I’d love to continue this. Let me know if you have any recommendations for internships for me. 

How do you think Isla Vista has shaped you into who you are today and does that contribute to you art in any way? 

KJ: The community of Isla Vista is so inspiring. I’m really good friends with Dawn Patrol and the fact that I'm able to collaborate with my friends that also have their own thing going is really cool and that’s such a unique thing to Isla Vista because there are so many creators here. I think, also, the welcoming arts community they have here. I just went to Rocky Horror Picture Show last weekend, and I loved it. Everyone there was so cool and so happy to be there. I think that’s what makes IV so different. Everyone is happy to be here and I think the constant happiness and how people lift you up, further inspires me to keep making art. 

Favorite spot in IV? 

KJ: I always run past some type of community garden by Dev’s and I walked around there recently, and there’s this little playhouse that I found and sat in for a while. That’s my new favorite spot by far because not many people know about it and it’s so cute and quaint. 

Do you have any other hobbies, interests, or ways you spend your time aside from your artwork? 

KJ: Outside of art class, I definitely am always doing my own art stuff but outside of that, I like to try and go on runs or walks. Anytime there’s a band show I can catch, Dawn Patrol or Ray and Paul, I love them. I always try to go because I think it’s so fun and I love supporting other artists too. Any time there’s a thrift pop-up, I always spend too much money on that. Any little art thing, I always try to catch or go to. I’m also involved in a sorority here and I’m involved in Gauchos Go Green, gotta save the planet. 

What is something you can’t wait to do in the future? 

KJ: My dream, post-college, is to move to New York City. I guess I’m excited for the sense of freedom that I’d have in a city like that. I went to a boarding school for high school, and I also don’t have a car here, so it’s easy to feel trapped sometimes. So, I can’t wait to be in New York and be able to walk to a fortune teller and then a pizza parlor right next door and then go adopt a dog all on the same block. I also really want to adopt a pet tortoise once I have my own apartment so I can’t wait to do all of that. 

Kaki leaves a few last words for all readers to digest: 

“Just keep doing what you’re doing. Even if you think you’re bad at something, you’re probably not. You’re probably just in your head so don’t listen to other people, don’t let your parents influence your decisions about where you go or what you do, do what you want to do, and don’t compare yourself to others. That’s my advice.” 

Jacobs thinks back to her times of hardship and reminds her past self that “it gets better.” With her willingness to share parts of herself on the internet, through both her Instagram posts and this interview, Kaki’s free-spirit beams right through her “tender heart,” and we couldn’t feel grateful enough as to be moved by all of her relatable, raw, and risky artwork. Her blend of vulnerability and spunkiness exhibited in her masterpieces prompts myself and others to keep creating, for you never know what’s to come of it. Thank you, Kaki.

Bella Taylor
Bella Taylor

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