Born in 1976 in Wilson, NC, Jason Bryant graduated from East Carolina University with a BFA and went on to the Maryland Institute College of Art for his MFA in painting. Bryant moved to New York City soon after and began work with such notable artists as Kehinde Wiley and Bjarne Melgaard. Heavily influenced by classic film, Bryant begins each painting by researching images from cinematic moments or magazine images of interest to fit various themes exploring loneliness, vulnerability and frailty. Bryant renders each image, at first as a pencil sketch on canvas without the use of projection and then by transforming the image through oil paint into a photo-realistically and beautifully rendered film still. Bryant then incorporates his signature skateboard graphics, a skateboarder himself, or paints in pixilated areas often cropping the eyes or other notable features of each character.
Hi Jason, today MoW selected for 5 of your artworks inspired by music. Can you tell MoW what was the music behind the artworks ? What inspired you to create them ?
To begin with, one of my paintings featured in this interview is a piece titled "I live For That Look". It is a painting which is part of a series of works called Symbolic Portraiture. This is a series of portraits were ones favorite album serves as a conceptual device making up the subjects "portrait". There is no literal portrait or face seen in the painting, but rather than a representation of an album cover as a part of the clothing such as a T-shirt, hoody, etc. The painting "I live for that look" was inspired by the album "Green Mind" from the band Dinosaur Jr, one of my favorite bands and in my top 10 lists of albums. You can see the album cover rendered in a central part of the painting.
Why is music important to you and your art?
Music has always been an intrigal part in my development as an artist. I started painting when I was 6, and when I was 12 a began skateboarding. I skated very seriously for about 17 years and although I am getting older and can't physically skate at the same level I once did, it still remains an important part of my life. It was through skateboarding that I was introduced to many of the bands I listen to today. Bands like Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, and Peg boy would always be playing on my stereo.
I was also very fortunate to grow up in North Carolina near Chapel Hill during indie rocks 15 min of fame during the early 90's. Chapel Hill was a mecca for indie rock. I was introduced to great bands such as Archers of Loaf, Polvo, and superchunck. I would see them along with many other great bands at the legendary Cat's Cradle. The culture of skateboarding made me feel as If I belonged to something and was accepted.
If you had to choose between the artworks presented today, which of your artwork would be your favorite ? And why ?
Of all the paintings featured, I would say that my favorite piece is "I'm A Fool To Do Your Dirty Work". The painting is a part of my solo exhibition "Letters From Home", up now at Porter Contemporary in NYC. It is a painting of a young Marlon Brando from the movie "The Young Lions". As he is looking through the barbed wire fence, you can see he is struggling with his own morals and loyalty to his government, which is Germany during WWII. He does not believe in the cause and has been misguided. The title of the piece was inspired from the song "Dirty Work" from Steely Dan. It is a perfect song and title for someone who believes that what he is doing for his government is humane or morally right.
Can you tell MoW more about the techniques you used. How old is your technique? How did it start? How long does it take you to make an artwork ?
My paintings can take between 2 weeks-2months, depending on size and amount of information to be painted. Although my paintings are hyper-realistic and very technical, I do not use any mechanical means, projector, grid, etc to draw the image onto the canvas. I draw the image into the canvas by freehand, trying to correctly capture the right proportions and details of the figures in the source image I am drawing from. I have worked this way my whole career. I'm still very much in love with the natural act of drawing. This process may take me longer, but it is very important that my hand remains involved in every aspect of creating a painting, from building the canvas to the final brush strokes.
Do you have plans on creating new artworks inspired by music ?
I'm just finishing up all of the promotional duties for my solo exhibition "Letters From Home", but will soon be back in the studio starting new projects. One project I'm excited about is a series of paintings inspired from the band Built to Spill's album "Perfect From Now On". I can't wait to create paintings merging classic movies with considered by many a classic album.
Do you listen to music when you’re working ? If so, what kind of music ?
Because my work is very cinematic in subject matter and scale, I often have a movie playing or soundtrack to a film playing while I paint. I really try to create a very cinematic environment in every possible way when I paint. I like to loose myself in the world of the subjects of my paintings.
What is the song you liked the most lately? The album ? What was the last gig you went to ?
Are you a musician yourself ? If so can you tell MoW more about your music projects ?
Unfortunatetly as much as I love Music I am not musically inclined, but very much enjoy seeing live shows watching the artist perform.
Jason Bryant's solo exhibiton "Letters from home" is currently going and he's inviting you to the closing reception and artist talk this Thursday the 22nd at :
Porter Contemporary from 6:30-8:30
548 W 28th St, New York, NY 10001, USA
Find out more about Jason Bryant here :