GETTING TO KNOW PITTSBURGH
JK: Who are you inspired by?
JW: I guess I should start from the very beginning. When I was a kid I loved drawing, like every illustrator or artist. I was really drawn to cartoons and comics and video games. I loved drawing Sonic the Hedgehog, and Kirby. I was the kid who was always drawing Dragon Ball Z characters, things like that. So I definitely like that cartoony look with thick bold line, and very dynamic features on a character. Starting in high school, my art teacher was Jason Woolslayer. A Pittsburgh Artist who was in this past show that I participated in, which was the 12x12 show.
JK: The 12x12 show at Modern Formations?
JW: Yes, Modern Formations, curated by Ron Copeland and Craig Freeman, both of them put it on. So Jason Woolslayer was in that. He has a style that is very in tune to what I loved as a kid. I think he has similar inspirations. He does a lot of layering, that comic book look, thick lines and what not. He was a huge inspiration when I was younger. It’s kind of cool now, skipping forward, to have been able to show with him. It’s almost a milestone. And getting into college, a bunch of professors were great and inspirational, and that’s actually where I met Joe Mruk. He was a huge inspiration to me. I don’t know if you’ve seen his work but he’s incredible. Every artist that I've met here in Pittsburgh, there are so many that I could list. And I feel bad that I can’t mention them all. Pretty much anyone who is an artist, who has talked to me in some way, shape, or form has inspired me. I’m like a sponge!
JW: I love using humor in my artwork. I like making pieces that are bold, dynamic, and narrative, that have some type of storytelling component to them. Also works of art that play with wittiness or sometimes irony, definitely done through a sort of comical lens.
JW: It’s my aspiration to paint bigger and bigger. The biggest I’ve ever painted was 9 feet tall loose canvas paintings, which was the Power of Smallnessseries shown at Image Box. That’s the biggest I’ve ever painted. And just looking at some of these artists throughout time, 9 feet is nothing to brag about, but for me it was quite a task because I had never painted anything that big.
JK: Is there a reason you want to get bigger and bigger? Have you thought about why?
JW: I’ve just always thought it would be cool to make a visual that is not only engaging in subject matter and how it’s done, but also the scale of it. If you look at a print of a Rothko, it’s not the same as being in front of an actual Rothko…. We’ve both worked at the Warhol, just going into that one room with the skull paintings, those things are huge. They would not be as impactful if they were smaller, like 2 feet by 2 feet…
I think if I ever get to paint that big, it’ll be another milestone for me because in order to paint the big you have to have the space. And if you have the space to work on something of that scale that shows that you’re doing pretty good as an artist. I mean if you look at successful artists, some of their works are really big. And there’s probably a reason for that, like their studio is a giant warehouse.
JK: So it’s a mark of success?
JW: It’s definitely not the mark of success. It may be one… or something I would like to get to. If I can be successful enough to be like “Oh yeah, I can just whip out this 16x16 foot painting and it’s no big deal, something i’m doing regularly and I’m selling this work”.
JK: As of right now, you’re saying you can’t do that?
JW: I’m definitely not to that point. I was painting in my living room for those 9 foot tall paintings. I don’t have a warehouse or anything like that.
JK: How do you go about showing your work in Pittsburgh? Is it purely word of mouth? Friends? Do you seek out shows or do they seek you out?
JW: This is kind of a strange question, because for me it’s a combination of word of mouth and being invited, as well as applying for shows. For example, the way I got my first show at Image Box was that I went to the opening for Joe (Mruk)’s show, and ended up bonding with John over this one piece that was, at the time, over at Garfield Artworks. It was this painting of a bear fighting a shark. I went up to John and said, “Did you see the bear fighting the shark piece?” and he said, “What, where is it?”. I said, “Oh it’s over at Garfield Artworks. You gotta check it out”. He took a picture of it, and we were laughing about it later. I got his business card, and I sent him an email saying it was great meeting him, and could we get lunch sometime? So I met up with him, got lunch. I was kinda nervous asking him, “How does one get an art show”
JK: He probably gets that a lot.
JW: Yeah, and this is my first time ever talking to a gallery owner, or owner of a space that shows artwork. So I asked him that, probably nervously, I definitely asked him very slowly and cautiously. And he just looked at me and said, “All you have to do is ask me.” So I was like “Can I have an art show?” and he said “yeah definitely.”
And he has checked out my stuff before so he kind of knew what my aesthetic was. Which was in 2011, four years ago. My work has definitely grown from what it was back then. But that’s how I got my very first art show. //
Check out more of Jordan's work at www.wongface.com