Jason John

Posted by on Aug 1, 2013 in 2013, Interviews
Best Kept Secret, Oil and Wax on Board
American, Oil and Wax on Board
Fierce, Oil on Canvas
Goldenheart, oil and Wax on Linen
Lovegun, Oil and Wax on Linen
Sniffer, Oil on Canvas
The Lookout, Oil on Board
Bliss Point, Oil on Canvas
Birdboy, Oil on Canvas
Souled Out, Oil and Wax on Linen
Fissure, Oil and Wax on Linen,
Kiss of Judas, Oil and Wax on Linen

View JasonJohnArt.com >>

You seem to be working with very old subject matter, the figure, fabric and fruit and mixing it all together in a contemporary or new fashion. Why do we see those blended together in your work? When did this begin?

I have always been interested in making representational art. I think my subject matter has shifted quite a bit over the years. I have even went through a post apocalyptic landscape period in grad school. I think the subject has more to do with the way that I am trying to depict a certain kind of space. I think the figure, drapery and fruit best suit my needs at the moment. I am interested in personal identity. I guess in some way the figure is important.

There is also a use of masks or covering of half of the face in your work.  What are you referencing with that?

To me the mask represent a ‘new’ identity. The figure or characters in my paintings are replacing their identity with a new and sometimes more powerful face. I think the replacement of one’s identity can be very playful and innocent, but sometimes it could be very sinister and represent a shift in someone’s reality or sense of reality. An example might be Roman Emperors believing they are no longer humans, but gods.

Why do you use fabric in your work in some places where fabric seems to just flow from somewhere it should not be?

I think I have been really trying to achieve a certain kind of space (a space that is almost believable, but is not quite right). A lot of the elements in my paintings are sketched out and then painted over again and again to the way I like it. Sometimes I like to use elements such as drapery that can be very dimensional and shallow at the same time. You see this a lot in Rogier Van Der Weyden at Botticelli.

What does the cardboard reference in your work come from?

I like to use cardboard because it a malleable and firm enough to get a lot of geometric shapes. I can make a quick mask or veil for every shoot. I can craft the veils to resemble other crowns and such with much ease. I really like the material because there is a kind of absurdity of using a material that is such a throw away commodity.

In the horizons that you set your figures in there is a landscape of rolling hills. Are these specific places on the map that you are referring to or are they settings for the figures to live.

Usually the landscapes just used as compositional or spacial elements. Many times I steal them out of old master’s work. I have been really interested in ‘the sense of place’ and how painting through it’s plasticity of elements of space (both shallow and deep) can conger up ‘a specific place’. Such artificial psychological space, although generic, can really heighten our relationship to self and memory.

I noticed on your Facebook that you are spending the Summer in Italy teaching art. How do you see your work evolving from the input you received from the trip?

I really feel I change every time I spend time in Italy with such great work. It is hard to imaging, living in this country, what it would be like to live with your history all the time. I wonder what it would be like if Modernism never made it to NY. Would art be the same as it is today. I don’t know. Being and teaching in Italy is teaching with all of the non-linear inconsistencies of the past. Art is not linear as it seems.

What are your goals for your painting? Lifelong?

My painting goals have changed so much over the years. I was really concerned to get a gallery and make money after school, but I really felt my work was getting pretty stiff and predicable after a few years of that. Eventually I would like to jump back into showing regularly with a gallery, but I would like to use the next few years pushing my work as much as I can. I guess I have something in my head/ and idea that I am trying to reach, but the trick is getting the paint to do what I want.

If you had one painting to do and that was it, what would it be and what would it say? I try to write each poem I write like it’s my last. Wondering if there is something pressing in your work like that as well?

I guess each painting I make I try to make it better than the last, or at least push myself a little more. I think I always fail to reach what is in my head, but I still try. I guess I would just keep working on a piece for 7 years or something. Just to see how a piece would change when I don’t have a deadline to get it done.

Do you paint from life or from photos?

I paint from photos. I have large format images printed from a place that works with professors on research. They do a great job. I usually print the images larger than life size, so I need some good people to work with.

Do you use an opaque projector to paint from?

No, I do not use a projector. I have thought about it for getting my drawing down, but never went for it.

Do you use a different medium for your underpainting? Graphite?

I start with a graphite drawing, then I move to pink indian ink markers. Sometimes I use acrylics before oil paint, but not on all paintings.

You paint with oil on canvas, linen and board. Which do you prefer?

I think when it comes down to it I prefer a fine canvas. I like board, but it can be a little slick and too consistent. Linen can be a little stiff and I’m not really into the weave that much. I thought about trying Belgian weave though.

You often use a dripping technique in your work. Do you feel that is something that works for you to add character and or action to the work? As you know historically dripping and slinging paint has been reserved for action painters such as the Abstract Expressionist painters.

I don’t think one technique belongs to any one painter or groups of painters. I do mess around a lot trying to figure out what would work the best for what I am trying to achieve. I guess another thing about going to Europe to see work of the past, is that you realize that painters have been doing things for hundreds of years before it was done in our day.

In your studio, do you have several paintings going on at once?

Typically I work on 3 at once. I think I might have about 5 going right now.

Do you ever use photoshop to collage your images together to use for reference?

No, but I would really like to use more Photoshop in the future. I just cut and tape. Pretty primitive. One reason I do not use photoshop is because my paintings change a lot during the process. Some aspects of my references are altered in photoshop prior to printing, but not too much.

What is your relationship to your models, friends, family, students, etc?

Usually I know my models. I usually will get an idea for a piece and try to find a model that fits what is in my head.

When you are building up layers in your paintings, do you use glazes as you go along?

Yeah I do use glazing, but my method is much more chaotic than I would like to admit. I am not a very consistent painter.

Is there a specific lighting technique that you use for your models?

I am very specific about my lighting, but it would depend on the situation. Usually I will try to balance my warms and cools and push in more light than I need. If you lack information, you cannot get it back. Your better to get more than you need. You also have to be careful not to loose your mid tones by flooding your subject with too much light. Your mid tones are where your texture and color reside.

Do you teach your technique with figure drawing now that you are a painting teacher?

Never. Actually I rarely ever talk about my work. I really don’t want my students to focus on my work. I want them to focus on their work and their own ideas. The only time I bring something up is if it pertains to a problem they are having.

Most of my painting teachers could not come close to your mastery of the human figure. Do you aim to develop a new breed of realistic figurative painters throughout your teaching career?

I really don’t want to be known as a figure painting person. I do paint the figure, but I am more concerned with teaching students the possibilities of paint- be it abstract, conceptual, process, representational etc.

What are some of your goals as a teacher?

I don’t know if I have any hard goals. I am pretty new to teaching, so I learn much as I go. I think I can be as honest to my students about what they are getting into. This field can be pretty tough if your not ready for that. If anything I do owe them honesty.

Do you weave any life lessons into your teaching about the life of an artist and how hard it can be out there once graduated? I didn’t get much of that myself.

Yeah I feel like a broken record on this matter. I think there is so much myth built into art education. Half of the kinds in art school think they are misunderstood geniuses. All students have to remember that they are running a business. If you want to make steady money, you have to make steady art. This means that growing and challenging yourself as an artist is kind of bad for business. I think this is why school is important. School provides students with numerous years to grow in their work without having to damage their market.


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