Black Visual Artist Chat – Jamaul Johnson

 

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Upon first glance of Jamaul’s artwork, I was enticed with his mixture of impressive imagery, superb storytelling, and impeccable details. Jamaul is using his talent to enlighten people of the African diaspora and aide in our empowerment. He boldly illustrates a number of topics such as – black entrepreneurship, gentrification, police brutality, disenfranchisement, and black unity.  Explore this talented brother’s background, artistry, and his unwavering pursuit of black consciousness.

Me: Describe your upbringing, where you’re originally from – when you started creating art, family background, and education.

Jamaul: I was born and raised in South Florida. I’ve lived all over Broward County. Now, I live in Fort Lauderdale. My mom and dad came from Jamaica. Most of my family is from Jamaica; it’s only a few of us that were actually born in the states. My aunt in Jamaica, is the one who named me. My mom, while she was pregnant with me was trying to think of a name and her sister was saying, “Why don’t you call him Jamaul?” Apparently, I found out that my name is actually Arabic from the way it’s spelled. My middle name is Trinidadian. I traveled a lot as a youth so I got to see different places. My parents sent me to Jamaica quite a few times as a kid. A lot of the kids down here in Florida are either Haitian descent or Jamaican descent, from the Islands. A lot of times our parents would send us back to our native country to get the experience that they had and you see how different things are over there. I got into trouble in school but nothing major. I had a strong black family upbringing with black elders around who cared, so I was very lucky to have that, which helped me stay out of major trouble. I majored in Fine Art at Broward College and I’m going to get a certification now in Digital Multimedia. So, my education is still in progress.

“My parents sent me to Jamaica quite a few times as a kid. A lot of the kids down here in Florida are either Haitian descent or Jamaican descent, from the Islands. A lot of times our parents would send us back to our native country to get the experience that they had and you see how different things are over there.”

Me: Oh cool, so you got your Associate’s in Art from Broward College and now you’re going to school for your Bachelor’s?

Jamaul: Yup. If you’re going to take the art seriously, then you have to learn different sides to everything. I started drawing at the age of five. You know, a lot of us in our generation were inspired by cartoons like Dragon Ball Z. My style was kind of anime-ish so that’s how I started drawing. Then, I picked up painting later around age 19 or 20.

19 x 24 #drawing #artofdrawing

A post shared by Jamaul Johnson (@creative_is_an_understatement) on

Me: Just coming from that strong black Jamaican Caribbean background, would you say that played a major role in the type of art that you create now?

Jamaul: Oh, yes, the one thing I noticed about the Islands, is that the people have a strong sense of pride in who they are. Their history is rich of national heroes, people who fought for their freedom. These are who they have on their currency. The one thing my artwork has allowed me to do is interact with my people. Not to be arrogant but I’ve met older people who were observing my art featuring a historical figure, and they would ask me, “who’s that?” I tell them and then they’re like, “WORD?” and I’ll say, ‘you’ve never heard of them?’ It’s because of the school system. Who decides the curriculum? We don’t. So, they’re not teaching you the whole history of black people. I have a strong sense of history within my art. Even when I was younger, I was always interested in who the black heroes were.

Me: That’s another goal of this project, to actually portray our strong culture and the diversity within our culture because it’s so vast. Black culture spreads throughout the whole world. We may be considered the minority in the US but globally, we’re the majority.

Jamaul: Yea exactly. Even going back within our history, a lot of things such as religious practices for example, originated from our ancestors. I had the chance to go to Rome once and visit The Vatican. You know what’s there? A black Madonna and a black Christ. You had people kissing the feet of these figures. That’s why I feel we have a lot of the problems here with blacks in America because our perception about ourselves is being told by others outside of our culture.

“I had the chance to go to Rome once and visit The Vatican. You know what’s there? A black Madonna and a black Christ. You had people kissing the feet of these figures.”

Me: Yea I agree. African history has roots dating back to antiquity.

Jamaul: Yea, even the oldest remains are only found in Africa, meaning that all people originated from there. Yet, we get the most spite. Other cultures know our history, and some of them know it even better than us. If you go to Europe, they have big statues of Shaka Zulu and pharaohs. When it comes to us and our history it’s so many things to talk about, that’s why I think my art is so diverse.

Me: I absolutely agree on that one. Our history is deeply rooted within society. Civilization wouldn’t exist without black people.

Jamaul: Exactly. That’s why I focus on the Egyptians a lot too because I think it enrages some people when I draw them with black skin. I like that it enrages them because it exposes the lies. Don’t get me wrong, there were some white Egyptians after a while because Egypt was taken over by the Greeks and Romans. But that was much later when the empire was pretty much falling apart. Before that period at its start, Egyptians referred to themselves as people from the black land, Kemet. Then you had a neighboring country called the Kush Kingdom who were undeniably black. They actually built 100 more pyramids than the Egyptians. Some of Egypt’s pharaohs were Kushites and vise-versa.

Me: You dropping that knowledge man! Can you speak on the significance of using art as a form of activism?

Jamaul: I got serious about art in 2011. My mom passed away then and I was actually there when it happened. It was very traumatic. Art was a way to ease everything that I was going through. A lot of my art was just dark at the time because that’s how I was feeling. Even some of my friends were saying that my work was dope but it’s ‘scary.’ So, I started thinking, ‘ok, what do I want my art to depict?’ So, I started looking into myself, my history, and what’s going on in the world. That’s how I just started doing the art that I do now. I feel as artists especially black artists, we’re one of the last mediums left to get certain messages across. The news isn’t putting it out right, they’re constantly depicting us as criminals, or that we’re just rioting, and destroying property. Some of my work depicts that nothing’s really changed. I have a drawing called Changes? and it’s two drawings in one depicting how back then we were getting beaten and killed as slaves and now we’re just getting shot down for nothing.

Jamaul: I really didn’t feel how real police brutality was until it actually happened to me. I got harassed by two police. I have friends down here who have died because of the police. Someone I went to high school with was going through something traumatic and he was losing his composure psychologically. He was cutting himself. So, his family tried to call the police to help him but instead of helping him they shot him. He didn’t do anything to them but they shot him anyway. One day after a long day of work, I went to get something to eat from the IHop right around the corner from where I live. After I got my food and went outside, I stopped to sit down and eat my food, and there were two cops coming at me. They were saying, “you’re sitting in front of a business.” Mind you, the building didn’t have any signs in front of it or people going in and out of it so I didn’t know. I honestly wasn’t trying to cause any problems. They started cursing at me and yelling at me, they’re in my face. They had their guns and tasers on me at one point. I gave my ID to the male cop while the female cop was calling me, “ghetto” and telling me that “You’re speaking slang so you’re ghetto.” So in response, I told her, ‘listen, slang is nothing but the cultural aspect of someone’s dialect of a specific region.’ She didn’t like the fact that I was educated and I could go tit for tat with her. She was also tripping on the fact that I had gloves on but they were my gym gloves and my fingers were exposed. I was trying to tell her that this was a misunderstanding. They eventually let me go but I’ve seen my best friend get shot in the face. Until this day, he hasn’t gotten justice for it. So, yea I’ve witnessed police brutality first-hand so that’s why it’s embedded in the art that I do. That’s why my style evolved into a pro-black style. I even have white artists tell me my work is dope and they get the message as well. How can they know who we are if we’re not saying who we are?

“I’ve witnessed police brutality first-hand so that’s why it’s embedded in the art that I do.”

Me: That’s excellent man that you do touch upon these topics that others stray away from or those that don’t matter to people who aren’t directly affected by them.

Jamaul: Yea, and you do have a lot of black males and females who are not aware of certain issues. For example, gentrification, there’s a lot of it going on in this country in black communities. Some of them are not seeing how they’re getting taken advantage of, how they’re trying to move them out of their own neighborhood. My art kind of sheds a light and makes people think about these things. At least that’s a start.

Me:  That’s awesome man! The fact that you’re going above and beyond with your artistry to send out these various messages to alert our communities just speaks volumes to the type of person you are. Much respect to you for that. When I’m viewing your work in my mind I’m saying, ‘this brother’s telling the truth!’ You’re just putting it out there in the work.

Jamaul: Thank you. I think us using the art to tell the truth about ourselves and our environment also encourages others who may have a different talent to push the message of black pride.

“I think us using art to tell the truth about ourselves and our environment also encourages others who may have a different talent to push the message of black pride.”

Me: By any medium necessary!

Jamaul: Right, and what I’m seeing now is a lot of young black people coming up with their own forms of media. I have one friend who has a non profit organization called Konscious Kamp and he has his own radio show where he discusses black issues and black topics. I met a lot of the members in college. You also have a lot of groups down here that are also doing their own black art exhibitions.

Me: Wow, that’s really cool! Describe how you approach your creative process, what’s your ideal environment to bring out your full range of creativity?

Jamaul: Honestly, I can create in any type of environment as long as I have music. I listen to a lot of hip-hop and Dancehall as well. You know, coming from a Jamaican background that’s the music we listen to. I listen to Vybz Kartel because he’s very detailed with his lyrics and he’s very educated as well. He’s so lyrical in the way he can get his message across. I also listen to a lot of the Rastafarian artists because of the messaging in their music. It’s about the fight against corruption and they have a very strong sense of black pride. I listen to people like Sizzla Kalonji, Buju, and Capleton.

“I also listen to a lot of the Rastafarian artists because of the messaging in their music. It’s about the fight against corruption and they have a very strong sense of black pride.”

Me: That’s cool man. Do you speak Patois as well?

Jamaul: Yea, I can speak it fairly well, but a lot of people don’t realize that there are different levels to Patois. For example, Jamaica has a big educational disparity down there, so a lot of them speak a raw version of Patois which features a lot of slang and they talk fast with it. However, certain educated Jamaicans may speak a more proper form of Patois where you can understand them and then some don’t. Then there’s kind of a level in between.

Me: That’s interesting. It’s kind of like being a black person in America where you speak one way with your people and then you also have the ability to hold a conversation a certain way in the corporate environment or another type of professional atmosphere.

Jamaul: Exactly. My Mom used to speak it to me when I was younger and my Dad spoke a raw version of it. So, that’s how I caught on to it. It’s a lot of different accents down here in South Florida.

Me: That’s really cool, man just to grow up around those different types of people of the African diaspora where they’re speaking various languages and dialects.

Jamaul: Most definitely! I had a lot of different types of black friends – Haitians, Jamaicans, Trinidadians. That’s how you kind of learn to understand different types of people because you have a diverse set of friends.

“I had a lot of different types of black friends – Haitians, Jamaicans, Trinidadians. That’s how you kind of learn to understand different types of people because you have a diverse set of friends.”

Me: Would you like to touch upon some of the details you put within your art like the cultural significance of some of the symbols?

Jamaul: I throw a lot of African symbols in that have certain meanings to them but sometimes people don’t catch them because they’re not privy to what that symbol even means. The ankh for example, that’s a symbol that technically belongs to us. However, ancient Egyptians are commonly portrayed as white in the media and they try to say Egypt isn’t in Africa. But, then they’ll ask me what it means and that’s how the dialogue starts. That’s how you get them to learn about their own history and about other cultures within the African diaspora. So, I throw in those symbols to peak the interest.

Me: Yea, that’s really dope man, much respect! Would you also like to explain any other types of symbols or get a deeper perspective on those symbols within the African diaspora?

Jamaul: I rather have people just look up the other ancient African symbols and see what you can get from them. Learn about the tribes that use these symbols. I think one aspect of us from an African-American perspective is that African history is a mystery to us. African-Americans tend to demonize Africa and ancient African religious practices. It’s crazy because now you have white people who are starting to actually practice these things like the Orishas. I actually drew a picture of someone named ‘Ogun.’ He originates from an African religion where they worship Orishas. This religion actually spread through the Caribbean. The Jamaicans refer to it as Obeah, and Haitians refer to it as Voodoo. There are Cubans who practice it and Puerto Ricans as well. They just have different names. People were being beaten in the islands for practicing these religions during slavery.

Me: I know when I was in college, I took a class called Black Power and it was started by one of the college’s black professors. That pretty much stimulated my quest to try to find out more info about my people and my culture.

Jamaul: That’s good that you do that. I think more black people are starting to do that, especially with the result of the election.

Me: What types of mediums do you use and what do you prefer to use?

Jamaul: I prefer drawing and I use pencils, Micron Pens, Prismacolors, and Copic markers. When I paint, I prefer to use acrylics. My favorite is drawing though because that’s what I started out doing.

Me: The fact that you can use a variety of mediums to express your artistry is really cool.

Jamaul: Yea, I think you have to be multi-talented if you’re going to pursue art professionally. A lot of artists can draw and paint. An artist that I follow her name is Sheeeves (@talentedmannequin on IG). She actually based down here, I’ve met her and she actually put me on one of her exhibitions that she threw. She’s very good – she can draw, she can paint, she can do a variety of things. She also does body paint. I’ve seen it firsthand, it’s so dope. It looks like it’s tattooed on a person’s skin when she does it. Being able to do multiple things provides more opportunities. You kind of have to be a polymath in a sense. I met an ol’head (sorry for the slang) in Dayton. As I was telling you before about my friend with the non-profit, he’s actually doing a documentary about gentrification. The guy suggested that I do a mural for it. We’re still negotiating it but that opportunity came because I can paint.

“Being able to do multiple things provides more opportunities. You kind of have to be a polymath in a sense.”

Me: Yea, that makes sense, well said. I’m more of a one-dimensional type of artist to tell you the truth; I just use graphite pencils and colored pencils. I tried to paint before in school but didn’t really stick with it.

Jamaul: It’s really just practicing with different types of mediums. If you try to use another medium, that fear of not succeeding is going to come because you’ve never done it before.  It’s really just about doing and trying. For an example, I have one friend who manages artists who has a lot of connections. He connected me with this one company and the guy I met with said, “I can’t manage you because you’re predictable.” When he said that to me I was just like, ‘okay, I’m going to show you predictable.’ I never did color before, so I drew something called Identity Theft. In the piece is a pharaoh with white skin peeling off of him. That drawing would’ve actually only worked with color so that was my first one in color. When he saw it he said, “Wow, you take criticism very well.” So, you never know what you could do with a new medium until you actually just try it.

Me: Wow, that’s a dope story! I’m going to let that linger for a little bit! (laughing)

Jamaul: Laughing

Me: Do you actually pursue art full-time or do you also have a 9 to 5pm?

Jamaul: Nah, I have a full-time job but I make time for my art too. Next year I’m going to Harlem at an institute dedicated to Langston Hughes. His ashes are actually buried there.

Me: Wow, so what are you going to do out there in Harlem?

Jamaul: The creative director does a performance show and he wants my art to be in the background so people can come up and look at it. He said it’s going to be a part of his performance.

Me: That’s phenomenal man, congrats!

Jamaul: Thanks, I appreciate it!

Me: No prob, much deserved. I know how hard you work. You put up something everyday. You’re constantly creating.

Jamaul: I have stuff that I haven’t even shown people yet. What got me that type of fast-paced work ethic is the fact that I spoke to one artist I came across on IG, he’s from Chicago. He did like 400 images in a year. I asked him, ‘how do you manage to do all of this’, and he said, “I have control of my time and over my schedule.” After hearing him say that I realized I could do it too.

Me: Yea. That’s something that I’m working on too, managing my schedule around my 9 to 5 to put in time with my passion projects.

Jamaul: Yea I understand. For me, I also have a little brother that I have to check up on all the time to make sure he’s doing his homework and staying out of trouble.

Me: That’s great that you’re actually getting these opportunities, mad props! I’m happy for you because it’s especially rough for black creatives to get them.

Jamaul: Thank you. I think pretty soon it’s going to be a big wave of it. Now, there are a lot of black exhibitions that are popping up down here. It’s amazing that I’m seeing them pop up one by one. They have one in West Palm called Exhibit Treal. Two artists over there – Jason (@Jaeflu) and The Visualist @visualist412 (his name is actually Jamaal as well) founded it. They invited me to one of their exhibitions too. You also have Art Central Miami, Kulture Miami, and Muce 305. Yea, they’re pretty much coming out of the woodwork now. The majority of them are not even elders who are running them, they’re actually younger people. Like Art Central Miami, they’re actually expanding. They went out to LA and they’re going to New York sometime next year. They have a big venue for black artists who don’t get that exposure. The person who runs that exhibit is Mulatta. She’s the one who kind of made it and her boyfriend’s the creative director. They’re like in their early 20’s. They’re college kids and they’re doing this. I sold my work at one of their events to a black professor. He told his students about the piece and the meaning behind it.

jamaul-johnson-the-black-professor

King by Blood

Me: Wow, that’s so cool man! That’s a great thing, the fact that we’re having more of these black-owned galleries, popups; different venues that cater to us and the work that we create.

Jamaul: Another great thing about it is that everything we start, starts out genuine. I hope that we keep that as it grows because you know it tends to get lost when money gets involved.

Me: Hopefully, the money goes in the right places too.

Jamaul: Exactly, make sure it goes toward the artists so that they can keep showing their work.

Me: If you could collaborate with any artist on an upcoming piece who would it be and why?

Jamaul: It would have to be Sheeeves, the artist I mentioned earlier. I think that her work is dope. She has a very vibrant and colorful style. I really like how she paints. So, shout out to Sheeeves. That’s definitely someone I would work with because I like her style. Whenever you get a chance to check out her work on IG, I know you’re probably busy today but trust me you’re going to like it.

Me: Cool, yea I’ll check her out. Today’s a laidback kind of day so I’m not really busy, it’s cold as a mug up here though! (laughing)

Jamaul: I don’t see how y’all do it up there. When I went to New York for the first time, I don’t think it was even winter at that time, but the sun went down and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m cold.’ I got sick too.

Me: Yea, and that’s further up North so that’s even colder. Yea it’s hard to deal with man, really hard! I hate the cold! (laughing)

Jamaul: I feel you.

Me: What’s your favorite piece you created?

Jamaul: My favorite piece is the Changes? drawing that I mentioned earlier. It’s a drawing within a drawing. Depicted is a cop but it also falls back to slavery times, so it shows you the contrast between then and now. Now, we’re still getting abused but it’s somewhat legal in a way. Instead of it being a slave master or slave watcher beating someone, it’s a cop. Like he’s paid to brutalize you and not get in trouble for it. If you check out that drawing, you’ll see why it’s my favorite. It’s very detailed and the message hits home for people. I’ve shown it at exhibitions and people look at it first and they’ll say, “Oh wow, that’s dope.” But, then they really look at it and say, “Oh my God, wait a minute.” Then, it kind of clicks with them, and they realize I’m talking about the similarities between now and back then. I also really like The Identity Theft drawing I mentioned earlier as well because that was my first foray into using colors.

Me: That’s dope man, and the way you’re using these concepts in your pieces to show the parallels between now and back then is incredible!

Jamaul: Yea, and I also think it’s a good way to get that message across. What gets me is people’s reactions to my work. They start to see the connection between back then and now. That’s why I call it Changes? with a question mark because even though things have changed, but I ask, ‘have they really changed?’ In school they try to teach you that after the Civil Rights Movement everything was ok. We got a black president, and now everything’s all right but it’s not. Once you try to bring up slavery then teachers try to sweep it under the rug. That’s why racism remains a problem because we’re not talking about things like disparities and poverty, wealth, and police brutality on a massive scale.

“That’s why racism remains a problem because we’re not talking about things like disparities and poverty, wealth, and police brutality on a massive scale.”

Me: Exactly!

Jamual: Even with the gentrification topic I mentioned earlier, our people worked hard to move into the cities. Then, a lot of white people moved out of the cities into the suburbs because they didn’t want to be around a whole bunch of black people. Now, they’re trying to move back into the cities because there’s money and more opportunities there again. So, they’re raising property value and building a lot of things in certain neighborhoods to push certain people out. That’s why the messages are important within my work because it helps people connect to the fact that the problems we thought we got rid of are still here.

That’s why the messages are important within my work because it helps people connect to the fact that the problems we thought we got rid of are still here.”

Me:  Awww man, that’s deep! I got chills up my spine man! (laughing) Could you imagine how powerful this would be if we actually talked about these things more often within our communities?

Jamaul: Yes, it’s great that we’re actually starting to see the dialogue happening more though especially among black youth. They’re forming their own media outlets to talk about issues and topics in their own way. I think that’s dope because that’s what we need.

Me: Absolutely! Are there any artists in your family?

Jamaul: Nah, I’m the only one.

Me: Really?

Jamaul: Yea, most of the people in my family were more interested in sports. My brother is also mostly into sports but he expressed some interest in me teaching him how to draw. I tell him, ‘if you’re going to really do this then you have to practice as much as you practice playing basketball.’

Me: Wow, that’s crazy though that you’re the only one and you’re killing it! (laughing)

Jamaul:  Thank you!

Me: No prob, what does your family think about your work?

Jamaul: Most of my family is either in Jamaica or up North, but they reach out to me and let me know that they see me working. I send them pictures and they tell me to keep going.

#artcentralmiami #drawing #blackartist #youngblackartists #artofdrawing …….

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Me: That’s good man, that they’re supportive. Also, how has your art degree shaped you into the artist that you are now? Has it made you a better artist?

Jamaul: Yea, it actually did because in the beginning I was just going off of raw talent. But, after taking the classes, I saw that a lot of the stuff I thought wasn’t important were actually helpful. In classes, I also learned that there is a level of competitiveness as an artist. Even though we all dig each other’s work, there is a level of competitiveness in the aspect of when you see someone else’s work, you want to take your work to another level. Their work inspires you to go above and beyond and try new things. I learned about art history as well and the importance of taking critiques.

“Even though we all dig each other’s work, there is a level of competitiveness in the aspect of when you see someone else’s work, you want to take your work to another level. Their work inspires you to go above and beyond and try new things.”

Me: That’s cool though. I don’t actually have an art degree myself and I haven’t taken any formal classes so I was just wondering. You know how some people tend to look down on getting an art degree.

Jamaul: A lot of people who told me that there’s no money in it were older people who, in their generation it was hard for them because they didn’t have access to a lot of information like you do now. A lot of these young black artists have websites. You can just go on social media, see and buy artwork. There’s many ways for people to get their artwork out there now. You see people making t-shirts, hats, shoes, jackets, and hoodies. They have that mindset where they’re thinking, “I’m going to try to monetize my craft as much as I can with my work.” I’ve done t-shirt designs for people and gotten paid for them. I’ve done like three mixtape covers for rappers too. There’s so many more ways to capitalize your work because information is just running rampant now.

“There’s so many more ways to capitalize your work because information is just running rampant now.”

Me: That’s phenomenal man, much respect.

Jamaul: One of my favorite battle rappers even messaged me once and bought a few prints from me. And this was crazy to me because I watched him on YouTube battle people and mess up people’s careers and he actually wanted work from me.

#blacklove #artcentralmiami #blackartist

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Me: Wow, that’s really cool.

Jamaul: Yea, and my dad had a little concern about me being an artist but he’s starting to come around now. He sees that I’m good and I’ve been showing him how I can get money off of this. So, he’s actually proud of me now.

Me: That’s good man. The fact that you are monetizing and figuring out a variety of ways to get more opportunities for yourself with your art is great. Big ups for that!

Jamaul: Thanks, appreciate it!

Me: No prob, I’m still working on my craft to get it to another level.

Jamaul: You’ll get there man, you just have to keep practicing. Utilize YouTube to learn how to make certain effects. You can always go to certain tutorials to learn how to do certain things. Some of these top black artists actually do tutorials on YouTube to show you how they do their work. People like Markus Prime or actionhankbeard actually show you how they draw certain things. Sometimes they do it on their IG profiles with descriptions on how to do it.

“Some of these top black artists actually do tutorials on YouTube to show you how they do their work.”

Me: That’s a good tip. I’ve been on YouTube before to learn how to make certain effects and things like that but I haven’t actually looked up how top black artists like Markus Prime and actionhankbeard do their different styles.

Jamaul: Markus Prime is another artist I really like. I picked Sheeeves earlier because she’s from Florida as well so you know I’m going to ride with my Florida artists. But, he’s one of the only other artists outside of Florida whose work inspires me. Another guy that inspires me is Tarajosu. He’s from California. His work is insane. I actually spoke to him a few times. He’s doing big things in California as well. He has a lot of insane detail in his work.

Me: Wow, I’ve never heard of Tarajosu, I got to look him up too. Your work definitely inspires me too bro. The fact that each picture tells its own individual story, it’s deep.

Jamaul: Thank you. Yea a lot of people tell me that especially the elders. Sometimes they catch them quicker than the younger ones.

Me: What was the most challenging piece you’ve done?

Jamaul: The Changes? drawing was the most challenging because it was the first time I ever did a drawing within a drawing. It forced me to think in two different dimensions. If you do something for the first time though it’s going to be challenging but after you do it a few more times then it doesn’t seem as hard as it was the first time.

Me: Yea it’s that repetition in general, once you keep doing something you get acclimated to it. That’s the one thing I’m trying to do too is be more consistent with my art to improve. I’ll have times when I put it down for a bit then I’ll pick it back up.

Jamaul: That’s perfectly fine though because all of that adds up. The more you do something the more you just become better at it. All of us have that ability. You might be naturally more talented in something, but you can teach yourself other things by constantly doing it. You can just do it little by little, but it adds up. I don’t always have the time to draw, but what I’ll do is sketch out a whole bunch of pieces before I even put them out. Then, I’ll ink all of them and color them in. The next thing you know, I’ll have like 4 drawings lined up within a week. People might not know that I have a bunch of drawings ready because I just haven’t put them out yet.

“You can just do it little by little, but it adds up. I don’t always have a lot of time to draw, but what I’ll do is sketch out a whole bunch of pieces before I even put them out.”

Me: Yea, that’s the one thing I noticed about you too. You’ll put specific pieces out at a time on different platforms. For example, I know some of your pieces I saw on Facebook but I haven’t seen them on IG.

Jamaul: That’s because I don’t want to overload these platforms. I want to give people a chance to find me based on what I post on a particular platform. I have a lot of people that found me on Facebook,that will check me out on IG because of something that they saw me post in a Facebook group.

Me: I also saw that you have two Instagram pages. Did you create two just for more exposure?

Jamaul: Basically. One of my pages is geared towards people who are strictly about art. The other one is more of my personal one but I’m also displaying my art at the same time.

Me: Gotcha. You got that entrepreneurial mentality! Kudos to you!

Jamaul: Thank you! A lot of people out here have great ideas, they just don’t try them. I’ve met a lot of talented people in my life, they just prefer to keep it to themselves and not do anything with it.

Me: I know I’ll come up with some really good ideas but like I just wouldn’t do it because I wasn’t confident enough or fear of failure.

Jamaul: Yea, that’s a lot of people’s concern. But, once you just try you realize there’s nothing really to be afraid of. You’ll get critiqued, that’s a given. It just depends on how you respond to it. If you take it negatively then you’re not going to get better. If you respond to it in a positive way, then you’ll get better. An artist may be better at what they’re doing because they’ve gone through a lot of mastery training. Eventually you’ll get there, you may even surpass them.

“You’ll get critiqued, that’s a given. It just depends on how you respond to it. If you take it negatively then you’re not going to get better. If you respond to it in a positive way, then you’ll get better.”

Me: Yea, that definitely makes sense, I’m making a note of that! Describe a time when you experienced a creative block, and how did you overcome it?

Jamaul: Because there’s so much going on in the world, I can’t run out of things to show within my artwork. I get inspired by damn near everything. I get inspiration from everything in the media to our history. I may touch on African spirituality or something cosmic. The things I’ve been doing lately are more spiritual type of art. Sometimes I’ll do artwork on biblical references and I’ll just throw my own type of style into it. My inspiration primarily is our people, with all of our many customs and traditions. We just have so much to discuss, so much we can talk about in art. There are just so many things we can illustrate. So, I feel like I can never run out of things to do.

“My inspiration primarily is our people, with all of our many customs and traditions. We just have so much to discuss, so much we can talk about in art.”

Me: Wow, that was a powerful answer, man!

Jamaul: I saw a black comic based on the Tuskegee Airman. Who would have thought someone would of done something like that? That was actually an important part of our history. If you ever feel like you’ve run out of things to illustrate, just look up some history. Also, just look at what’s going on around you and illustrate that in your own terms and show what you feel about certain things that you’re seeing.

Me: How has your artwork shaped you as a person?

Jamaul:  It helped me understand my people and our history better because when I was trying to figure out what type of artwork I wanted to focus on, I looked into our history. It made me aware of certain things as a people. Learning these things about us made me want to put it out there for everybody else to see.

Me: Nice! I definitely feel you on that. What is your most proud achievement so far as an artist?

Jamaul: It hasn’t happened yet. Me going to Harlem next year, I’m proud of that because Harlem is the mecca of black art. It was really the first place where you saw black art on so many different levels from poetry to books to music during the Harlem Renaissance. I can’t wait for that.

Me: Wow, that’s such a great opportunity to meet so many other brilliant black artists too! Definitely take pictures!

Jamaul: Yea, I’m excited about meeting all of the other artists too.

Me: In your opinion, what do you think young black visual artists can do to create more opportunities for themselves?

Jamaul: I think they can create more opportunities by entering into art exhibitions and art shows. Posting your work on the Internet or having a website is good but you also have to go out there and make connections with different artists. You may have one exhibition that you go to and some of the people that you meet there might have their own gallery. They might want to show your work in their gallery as well. Also invest into the tools that you use to create your art. Reach out to bloggers and others who may be willing to sharing your work. Some artists are introverts but you have to kind of break out of that and go out and network with people. You never know what someone might be able to do for you or who’s a fan of your work and has been dying to meet you. Talk to more established artists. Some of them might talk to you. If someone doesn’t respond to you it may not be because they’re stuck up, they just have a lot of traffic going to their page and they don’t even see when you messaged them. Many of the people that are establishing these black pop ups are doing it through networking. Great people normally know and hang around great people. That’s why networking is so important. If you’re trying to get to where you need to get to, you have to network with the type of people that are within the sphere of what you’re working with. That is one of the major strengths of the younger generation.

“Posting your work on the Internet or having a website is good but you also have to go out there and make connections with different artists. You may have one exhibition that you go to and some of the people that you meet there might have their own gallery.”

Me: Great advice man! That’s what I’m trying to do with this project too, be more interactive. A year ago, I would have never pictured myself doing something like this.

Jamaul: Yea, but it just began with an idea and you actually did it. That’s what it’s about. If you keep doing it, you’re going to grow. The interviews are going to start coming by the bunches.

Me: I appreciate you for speaking that into existence!

Jamaul: Yea, definitely keep reaching out to these black artists because you never know who will blow up and bring more attention to your blog. Just stay consistent. No one can fight something that’s consistent.

“No one can fight something that’s consistent.”

Me: Thanks, this advice means a lot man, it keeps me motivated!

Jamaul: No prob!

Me: You’ve mentioned the event you have next year in Harlem, but are there anymore upcoming projects/exhibitions you would like to share?

Jamaul: Yea. I’m going to be doing some t-shirts featuring my artwork in collaboration with Konscious Kamp, the non-profit I mentioned earlier. The proceeds will go to the less fortunate. I’m also going to be putting together an illustration book, and try to push it out by next year. There will be explanations of certain pieces within the book as well. Look out for my website, which is probably going to be out early summer. You’ll be able to buy my prints and other things directly.

#Gritty #temetnosce #NubianQueen #afrocentric

A post shared by Jamaul Johnson (@creative_is_an_understatement) on

Me: Man, that’s going to be extraordinary man, I’m looking forward to that!

Jamaul: I’m looking forward to it too. Even though it’s going to be a lot of work, it doesn’t bother me because I’m doing what I love. It’s my passion.

Me: That’s awesome man! What’s your vision for the future in terms of your artistry?

Jamaul: I have a lot of plans for my art that all ties into something even bigger. I’m not going to speak too much on them though. There’s a lot of black artistic talent out there and I have plans to utilize this talent in a way that will make an impact that’s greater than money. I’m going to leave it at that.

jamaul-johnson-newest-piece

Age of The Aquarius

Me: Sounds exciting man! Well, Jamaul I really enjoyed this conversation! Thanks for sharing man!

Jamaul: It was good for me as well, thank you for reaching out!

To connect with Jamaul and inquire about his work, contact him via email: creativeis1989@gmail.com or his Instagrams @creative_is1989 and @creative_is_an_understatement.

2 thoughts on “Black Visual Artist Chat – Jamaul Johnson

  1. Much respect and admiration for brother Jamaul and his work. He is committed to the reeducation and preservation of our cultural through his art. I am looking forward to continuing our artistic collaboration a multimedia performance art presentation “Wounded Souls Cry For Healing” A Tribute To African Civilizations Of Ancient America.” Jamaul is young gifted and black. I have found him to be a young man with good character and integrity. I refer to brother Jamaul as the “People’s Artist.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Adeagbo, thank you for reading and commenting! Jamaul is definitely a “people’s artist” indeed! His work is extraordinary and impactful in pushing our culture forward! Stay tuned for more posts! Please follow the blog for more upcoming posts!

      Like

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