One to Watch

Jess Black

Jess Black is an emerging artist currently living and working in Los Angeles. Born near Chicago, he moved to New York when he was 17, and later moved to Los Angeles in 2010. Formerly a model, he has found great success with his abstract expressionist-inspired paintings. His work has been featured in numerous publications, including Juxtapoz Magazine, Paper Magazine, Avenue Insider, and Art World News. Some of his notable collectors include The Point Foundation CEO Jorge Valencia, Kris Jenner, and Chicago Bears Quarterback Jay Cutler. He has exhibited extensively in Los Angeles.

In 2015, Jess Black was named the official artist of the Special Olympics World Games – Los Angeles 2015 for which he created his interpretation of the “Circle of Inclusion.” The Circle represents the acceptance and inclusion of all people with intellectual disabilities. The original painting and open edition prints are available for purchase through Saatchi Art, where 100% of the artist’s proceeds will benefit the Special Olympics organization.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

I’m not sure that I actually pursue themes. I’m inspired by things happening in the world that affect me in the moment. I may watch the local news, or a documentary on North Korea that affects the way I view a situation.  I find that I am better at putting my reactions to these situations into my art, rather than talking about it with my friends or family.  My subject matter and color choices are greatly impacted by my current mind-set.  So in a way, I guess my theme is how the world affects me.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

To keep painting no matter what–no matter what anyone else thinks about your work, just keep creating.  By pushing your boundaries, you can become a better artist.  Eventually all the timing that needs to align to be a working artist will happen. You just need to keep painting so you’re prepared for it.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

When I paint I sort of go into a zone. I barely notice my surroundings because I am so focused on what I am doing.  Because of this I choose to paint in silence. I am so focused, in fact, that even dampening my brush is a break in my concentration, so I frequently run it across my tongue to thin out the paint.  I’m totally unaware that I am doing this at the time.  It’s not until I see myself in the mirror with my multi-colored tongue that I realize what I have been doing.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

This is difficult because there are two pieces of art that are important to me for similar reasons.  The first is the cover artwork on the novel “The Little Prince.”  I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness and we didn’t celebrate birthdays.  When I escaped that religion and moved to New York, a new friend bought for me a first edition of “The Little Prince.”  It was my first birthday gift at age 18, and I treasure it to this day.
Secondly, another important work to me is my own painting, “Running From Grace.”  This painting symbolizes all that I went through as I struggled to break free from being a Jehovah’s Witness and the freedom (and fear) I felt when I arrived in New York City.  It was probably my greatest moment.  While that original painting has sold, the prints are available on Saatchi Art.

Who are your favorite writers?

My favorite authors are Bret Easton Ellis, Kurt Vonnegut, and Dr. Seuss.  I’m a sucker for satirical darkness in all forms; there’s an intelligence I appreciate in this form of writing.