Jason Humphrey is a skilled artist and one of eight featured at this year’s Mission Federal ArtWalk in Little Italy. Jason’s story is of self discovery, evolving from a troubled youth to an accomplished artist. Jason was kind enough to share correspondence and give us a glimpse into his journey.
Brian Baxter, Art Guide San Diego: Congratulations on being a featured artist at this year’s Mission Federal ArtWalk. How did you learn that you were chosen?
Jason Humphrey: Thank you! I was informed through an email from the artwalk staff in January. It is a very big honor! The talent and level of artists in this show is incredible, and I was blown away to find out I would be a featured artist this year.
AGSD: Do you get some special treatment with that honor?
JH: Definitely. There was an unveiling gala held at a hotel in downtown San Diego, introducing the selected artists to sponsors. We also get our images flashed across the official website, as well as social media blasts. I also have the honor of having one of my images on the official ArtWalk t-shirt this year. Being a featured artist definitely is a big deal for this show. We always get featured news spots.
AGSD: Where can people find you at ArtWalk this year?
JH: I will be in booth 335 in Cedar Street.
AGSD: You have a very recognizable style. What was its evolution? When did it start to develop?
JH: I started to do pen and ink “stipple” right after I got out of the Navy in 1994. I was doing mostly black and white pieces. The evolution has come about in the last 6 years, as I have merged mixed media color, and hand painted collage to my pen and ink technique. I really strive to create work that stands on its own, and is known for its true originality. My work has gone from being monotonous to being joyfully spontaneous. Color has really given my work a better creative balance.
AGSD: Have you always had an affinity for animals as a subject?
JH: Since the beginning, somewhat. My mother collected different elephants, so I naturally started with those. I fell in love with lions at an early age, as well as owls. These repeat themselves often in my work. I identify with the spiritual aspects of animals, and how their traits relate to us.
AGSD: What type of art were you doing before your current style?
JH: I just sketched as a kid. In my teens I was heavy into spray paint and graffiti art. This came at a cost as I was all over Los Angeles. I ended up getting into trouble and made the decision, on the advice of my mom, to join the Navy. After the long layoff from making art, pen and ink was introduced to me and I never looked back.
AGSD: I like the geometric and free flowing shapes that give your pieces motion. Do you see some graffiti influence in your art?
JH: Thank you. Yes, graffiti being such an early influence in my life definitely plays a big part in how I create. I really draw more than I sketch, so a lot of my art happens right on the spot. It doesn’t always work, but when it does it really works well. I like to let spontaneity rule.
AGSD: What about your time in the Navy? Do you carry any influences from the experiences in that time of your life?
JH: I was only 17 when I joined, so that was a very influential period in my life. I traveled throughout the Pacific. I was stationed in Japan for a time, and seeing those different cultures really had a lasting impression on me. A lot of my art is influenced by my travels as a sailor. Everything was so bright, and different from the streets of Los Angeles that I grew up in. I appreciate the experiences much more now, looking back.
The experience of being at sea also has an influence on my work. The solitude of looking at an endless horizon in all directions every day was very special, very spiritual. My abstract fish come from time spent in the Indian Ocean. The water was so clear you could see right into it from the top of the aircraft carrier I was on. You could actually see fish and other strange creatures milling about.
AGSD: And what about this time of your life? What influences your work now?
JH: My work is all about peace. I’ve grown from a kid who statistically should not be here, to a person who knows that my art IS my reason for being here. I listen to my favorite songs when I draw, so I essentially am creating from different periods of my life. Music reminds us of certain time periods, even if subconsciously. I am inspired by the human spirit. I’m inspired by the desire to bring joy to other people. Even the animals that I draw, I draw them for what symbolism they represent: strength, wisdom, family, etc.
The art I create will always contain traces of me. The places, life lessons, people, situations; these experiences will show up one way or another in my work. I create my artwork from deep places within. I love to have a general idea at the start, but I let the ink, paint, images and shapes evolve on their own during the process.
The fact that so many people identify with my work is a beautiful thing. Even though the art comes from within, the work is meant to be universal. Art connects us all, and that’s what I strive for more than anything else, for my intuitive process to touch other people. I never create to “keep” or “hold on” to a piece. My job as an artist is to share the experience.
AGSD: I imagine with your process each piece takes some time to finish. Do you feel the calling of the next piece as you are working on the current one?
JH: Some of my work definitely takes a month or two. I usually will work on several pieces at once. That way I’m getting smaller work done, while trekking along with a larger piece.
AGSD: That will also give you some variety. So, what is next for you after ArtWalk?
JH: Next up is a small show in May for a local art store, Art Stash in La Mesa. Then Liberty Station in August, and the Kaaboo Del Mar Art Show in September. I have spaced some time out this summer to create more work. I’ve been selling originals and my inventory is getting stretched thin. I will also start submitting to galleries this summer. I think that is the next logical step for me.
AGSD: Sounds like you are going to be busy! Art Stash is a great store, with super-nice, helpful people.
JH: Yes, Art Stash is a great store and a great bunch of people, and my local shop.
Right now I have art at La Playa Gallery La Jolla, viewable until May 5th. I also just did a benefit for art in Playa Vista, for the Venice Beach Chamber of Commerce.
AGSD: Well, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule! Are there any parting words of wisdom you would like to pass on to other artists, or anyone in general?
JH: No problem! Thank you!
I would say to any aspiring artist who is looking to pursue their passion, come to ArtWalk to see what other artists are doing. I always make a little time between sales to talk to young artists, or those looking to explore the possibilities of their creativity. The world needs us!
AGSD: Thank you so much, Jason. We’ll see you at ArtWalk!
JH: See you there!
Brian Baxter, April 23, 2017