Artist Interviews 2023
By Johnny Otto
Jason, I’d like to begin by finding out about your background. Can you tell us where you grew up, if you one to art school and how you got into art to begin with?
"First off" Thank you so much Johnny for allowing me to be a part of your magazine and the opportunity to use your platform to bring more eyes to what I do and have done as an artist.
So, I grew up in a very small town in southern Wisconsin. Spent most of my adult life in Louisville, Kentucky and now I currently reside in St Louis, Missouri.
From as early as I can remember Art, Music, and Fashion were all super influential in my day to day life. I remember drawing album covers free hand and the reaction others would give when I would show my work. I remember doing runway fashion shows during the holidays with Christmas gifts. And music... always music. A day without music always seemed like a bad day.
Early on in my art style/creative career I would mimic other artists or just create what family and friends wanted to see... It was normally the basic landscape piece with little to no actual creative content. I painted for everyone... on everything... just to create... to express... I took what was going on in my personal life whether it was good, bad or indifferent and poured it into those works. Yet something still felt off. Still something felt missing from my art. I was the creator... but I wasn't the creator if that makes sense. Being a "Self-taught Artist I had not truly fallen into what my art was to myself. I was always trying to make others happy with the result rather than my fulfillment. For over 20 years I have been a paid artist. Doing murals in my early 20's that are still up to this day. Yet I feel like my art has truly become my own in the past 10 years. I now feel that someone can look at one of my pieces and say that is definitely mine.
How would you describe your style?
"Street" "Edgy" "Modern" "Contemporary" "Pop" "Expressionism"
These are all descriptives that I feel categorically are expressed in my art. Yet I don't feel like I fit in one certain box. Technically most would describe my work as Neo-Expressionism. However I have stated to many that along with my raw and gritty style I would call my work "Emotive" as I want someone to deeply feel something. I can't control what you feel as everyone has had their own life experience, but I want something to touch a part of your being that resonates deep inside of your being.
"I create on canvas, walls, sneakers, hats, furniture.... basically anything that stands still long enough for me to paint... If you stand still long enough I'll paint on you too" :) (Cheeky Quote that i say to clients and prospective clients often)
If the “purpose of art is to tell a story”, what is the story you are telling?
"Life Experiences" Everyone will experience basic forms of Pleasure, Pain, Success, Failure, Happiness and Sadness... Everything in between... some more some less... better or worse... We are all experiencing "Life"
So my story would be to say this... "Its OK to not be OK"
Artistic freedom is obviously very important to have, How do you balance the need for freedom and the need to match your audience’s expectations?
Early on I created for others... Solely for others... and it was not fulfilling. I was thrilled upon the delivery but afterwards it just wasn't me or how I wanted to be known as a creator.
Today I create... Yes I take commision work and yes I take a vision from my client. However the best feeling is being told to take this vision of mine and do it in your style and make it your vision. That to me is the most fulfilling... throughout the entire journey.
Are there any living artists who you’d love to collaborate with?
The thought of collaborations as a whole excites me...! So to answer that I would invite any artist to come and create. It's a whole ass vibe to have multiple creatives in a room. So I say bring that energy and let's make something special.
However, if I must narrow that down to one single artist I would choose Banksy. The vision I have in my head of the two of us running through the streets of Paris, France in the middle of the night creating "Emotive Storytelling Images" in the most ridiculous of places for onlookers to gaze upon that next morning would just be a dream. Being highly visual I can actually see the streets... smell the aerosol... feel my heart racing as we evade police patrols. The following morning news showcases the crowd's reactions to the night's adventures. Can you see it?
You feature text in your art as a sort of lyrical statement, a call to action. Do you write longer format poetry? What is your background in the written word?
I wish I could say that I'm a poet... I wish I could say that I went to some fancy school and have some highly educated degree... But all that would be false. The words come to me in time of need in the piece... Things I have seen or experienced. Sometimes even a cheeky quote that I have heard makes the creative all that more enticing. It is a big portion of what I do... Some are blatantly obvious... Some hidden. Just know that it came from my passion to create.
I also like to find out what sort of music artists listen to or are inspired by. Can you share your musical inspirations and how you feel music shapes your art?
Music is all around my art... It's a vibe. The studio is thumping with the echoes of 90's Hip Hop to modern Rap. But it doesn't mean that on some days when life is beating me down that those echoes don't come from multiple other genres. It truly is a feel for me... almost a spiritual essence. Music is a large part of me and how I create.
Some artists that are in my current playlist: Heavy Kanye, Travis Scott, Biggie, Drake, Mobb Deep and I can't forget Louisville's finest Jack Harlow.
What is coming up for you in the future? Goals? Shows?
"In The Works"
Shoe Collabs with two brands.
"Louder than Life" music festival
Mural projects in both Louisville & St Louis
commissioned works always
I want to be the next collaborative artist with Louis Vuitton. Hugely inspired by my recent trip to Paris and seeing the museum of past artists collaborations.
TO BE CONTINUED...