"The unfortunate part of painting again is that I'm wracked up in credit card debt, but it's a debt I am willing to take to do the thing I love most."
Josh Jenkins' mixed media technique provides his paintings with depth and curiosity. The rough, sketch-like quality and exposed layers of his work allow his viewers to closely consider his decisions throughout the painting's development. Influenced by progressive painters such as Picasso and Basquiat, Josh works in an abstract and self-expressionist style in order to visually translate personal experiences. Within the artist's latest collection, the interweaving of scenes involving interacting figures, with paintings that feature a lone figure reflect the cycle of inclusion and exclusion that is part of human nature and societal life. In this way, the breadth of Josh's work seems like it represents the individual's constant search for where he feels he belongs.
GE: Last year you were working primarily with digital art. What prompted your shift back to acrylic paint and mixed mediums? How has your work with digital art influenced the art that you're creating now?
JJ: Last year I was working with digital art primarily because it was convenient for me and it didn't cost any money. After graduating college I spent a year moving around a few places looking for a job. Once I finally landed a job in my career, it took me a while to settle in and get back into a place of painting again. This past summer I made a choice to invest in myself in order to start painting with acrylic paints and mixed mediums. The unfortunate part of painting again is that I'm wracked up in credit card debt, but it's a debt I am willing to take to do the thing I love most. One good thing about working with digital art, prior to getting back into painting, was that working with vector based art helped me mentally to visualize my paintings in layers. Also when I was working with digital art it didn't cost me anything so I felt more free to create things that I normally wouldn't be comfortable doing with paints that cost money. The shift from digital art to back to painting again definitely made me more comfortable to create impulsively and less cautiously.
GE: Can you talk about the process of creating one of your pieces in terms of material? You're using mixed media in most of your work; do you have an order in which you use each material?
JJ: I usually start a painting based off of a sketch which I usually re-draw onto the canvas as a guideline. In my creation process I normally grab whatever material I can in my hands. I try to do a first layer of just paint, then I'll use mixed media as second or third layers. I feel like creating art with just paint is very constricting, so I like to throw in materials such as charcoal, pen, pencil, pastels, and in some cases, even glue paper onto the canvas to add texture to a piece. There are some lines and textures mixed media can create that paint alone can't. I feel like mixing my media makes the overall piece unique and it allows me to express myself in more ways than paint can by itself.
GE: You employ the male figure in your work much more than you do the female figure. Is there a reason for this?
JJ: Most of my recent work is about my personal experiences as a gay man living in the 21st century, in which case evolves around other men. I feel like the male form is understudied by most artists. It's very common for artists to paint female figures and female subject matters. I figure since I am gay and my work is about self-expression then why not primarily focus my figures around men? In short, its all a personal preference.
GE: Can you say that you are always happy with your finished product?
JJ: I can't say that I'm always happy with my "finished product," but the funny thing is my not so favorite pieces end up being other's favorites. They are also usually the ones that sell. It's vice versa with my favorite works - others usually look over these and they never end up selling! It's kind of funny how that works out, so I try to make sure to never throw something out.
I have yet to be a fan of any commissions I have done. The buyer always seems happy, but it's definitely a struggle for me while creating the commission - it goes from being something I love to do with no restrictions to another job. I hate jobs. So I try to keep commissions extremely limited unless I'm desperate for money of course then sometimes you have to suck it up and deal.
GE: What particular business skills does one need to have in order to gain success as an artist?
JJ: The most important business skill is definitely knowing how to network. It's all about selling yourself, which is something I have tried to avoid most of my life. Naturally, I am not the most sociable person, but over time I realized I'm not going to become a successful artist if I don't change that. I have learned very recently that networking is the key to become successful, next to drive, and then talent. It is also good to be consciously aware of you spend on materials when thinking about how to price your paintings. Never sell your work short, but at the same time be realistic.
GE: In what ways, if any, has your perception of art changed in the last year?
JJ: I don't think my perception of art has changed as much in the past year. However, in becoming more expressive with my own art, I have definitely learned to appreciate the importance of the work and meanings behind other's art.
GE: If you could describe a 'stage' you are in as a developing artist, how would you do so?
JJ: As my work is becoming more established in style, I definitely feel like I'm in an "expressionist" stage. My work is always evolving and, as much as I am loving experimenting with expressionism, I definitely don't think I will necessarily always create in this way. I think it's good to experiment with different styles and push one's comfort zone, but I never want to become a stagnant or predictable as an artist. Nor do I ever want to labeled as even just a expressionistic painter. A part of developing as an artist is developing new ways to express yourself in not only style, but also in medium.
GE: What advice can you share as far as setting up a studio in your home?
JJ: Before setting up a studio in your home, make sure you know yourself well. If you are messy in the studio, like myself, make sure you give yourself plenty of space and cover your floors with plastic. Personally, I love the idea of having a studio in my home. I have fortunately moved into a home that I'm renting that has a full sized basement. I remember back in college when my studio was at my school - it seemed like a chore to visit the studio to work. Now that my studio is in my home, it doesn't take much energy to go to the studio to work. I think every artist should have their studio in their home or, if not, nearby that's easily accessible.