Interview with Jason John
The paintings of Jason John focuses on subjects who appear to be captured in an "Ah-ha moment" when the path to life suddenly becomes clearer and more defined. His technique is a modern slant on the great painting masters. Utilizing a composition style that is both theatrical and symbolic, one sees a potential next generation Dali. Where do you find the models you paint? Most of my models are close friends. Sometimes I use students for models. Students always enjoy being a part of my work. If I have to do a nude figure, I usually hire my models.
Do you ever have a subject sit for you while you paint? The photo shooting process usually takes a while. I shoot about 200 images to get the most of a light situation. Even when I take this much time and effort in a shoot I could end up with a bad light situation. In a situation where I cannot read the light and form I will bring a model back to sit and reevaluate the situation. Usually I will use myself for anatomy, flesh etc.
What is the meaning behind the headpieces many of your subjects where? The veils are appropriated from helmets from art history (such as Roman, Viking headgear etc). The idea came when I was doing some research on vikings. The viking warriors would pillage civilizations, but at the same time appropriate the visual customs of their victims on their helmets/ armor. If the vikings pillaged in the far east, the vikings would also start to pick up visual characteristics into their armor. I felt the idea of destroying and creating was really interesting. The veil also conceals the identity of the depicted person. The veil the characters in my paintings wear are made from trash or consumer products, such as Amazon boxes. I think the material brings a kind of absurdity to the characters intentions, motives, and stature.
What classical artists inspire you? I am a huge Rubens fan. I really feel that his painting (although very different than mine) is truly remarkable. I would also have to include Titian, Rembrandt, Tiepolo, Velazquez. Kind of interesting, but I don't seem to paint like any of the mentioned artists.
Do you paint while listening to music? I would say it is a combination of music and NPR. I am a big news buff, but when it makes me really depressed, I will switch to music for a month or so.
How long does it typically take to complete a work? It all would depend on the piece and complexity of what I am painting, but typically a 40"x40" with one figure would probably take two months. I do work on a few paintings at once.
How would you describe the world your subjects live in? The world my subjects live in both promotes and denies dimensionally. I see the medium or 'picture' of painting as a great membrane for figure interaction to take place. My figures shift and grow, protrude and flatten within the picture window. I have also been really fascinated by how the depicted space in Baroque Art (Painting and Sculpture) and Architecture can give a great sensation of movement and space where no movement and space. To me the Baroque always was so much shifting in a place it didn't seem to belong. Such Baroque space never seems to slow down, even if you want order. I want my figures to feel uneasy in the space they inhabit/ Churn, squirm, move.
What is your belief system and how does that inform your work? Very difficult question. As an artist/ teacher I feel my belief system is always changing. I tend to challenge my students and they come back and challenge me. I really like it this way. I am quite liberal, but I don't know if I would consider myself a liberal minded artist. I really believe in the visual language and communication. I guess I am not too keen on art based on feelings. I really feel that an artist must focus their language to communicate such a language to viewers. I am not say art should be figured out, but I believe it should be communicated with intentions. I do really enjoy following politics, but I couldn't tell you how much it gets into my work. I am really fascinated and enjoy history. I try to bring my interest in history into my work.
When is your most productive time to paint? I usually try and paint most days of the week. I do teach, so it takes some of my time. I really feel that my most productive time to paint would be the night (as most artists would say), but to be honest, I treat my studio time like a job, so I usually paint from 9 to 7 or something.
How does an artist go about perfecting painting hands? I teach a lot of figure classes, so I have to teach anatomy as well. Knowing anatomy really helps. I think you got to get the structure and movement/ arc down and then deal with the flesh folds later based on the original form or hand's anatomy. I think the colors and cleaning are quite easy and fun. The hard part is getting the large form correct. I guess the hands can be confusing due to the amount of bones and diverse coloration.
To see more of Jason John's work go to www.jasonjohnart.com.