The self-taught artist reveals how a strong entrepreneurial streak helped her career
Jasmine Becket-Griffith talks eyes.
Where did you grow up and how has this influenced your art? I grew up in south Kansas City, Missouri. I went to the somewhat blighted public schools there; it seems like we were all pretty poor and there was a lot of negativity. More than anything, I think it inspired me to lose myself in my artwork and try to better my own situation with it. There’s a lot of escapism within that, especially with fantasy and surrealist art. Is there a piece of art you saw as a child that changed everything? My dad had a lot of art books that he shared with me when I was younger: the works of Salvador Dali, Hieronymus Bosch and MC Escher. We’d visit the city’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art a lot and my favourite piece was Penitent Magdalene by El Greco. Every time I went to the museum I had to see her, my “lady with the most pretty eyes.” I think in a lot of my paintings I still try to capture that look on her face, over and over again. What was your next step in art? I was always a little entrepreneur when it came to my artwork. I remember trying to sell my artwork door-to-door when I was five. In middle school I won a bunch of money from the National Spelling Bee and spent it on art supplies. I began selling more professionally when I opened my Strangeling.com website in 1997, while I was still in high school. What character that you’ve painted do you most identify with? Gosh, I might have to go with Alice in Wonderland. I see a lot of myself in her. I like adventures, cats, reading and exploring new things. How much are you on the road? An awful lot. In 2016 alone I caught 45 airline flights. Countless miles are clocked up on our van. In just one year I’ve been to 15 countries on four different continents.
I have three homes: my primary house is here in Celebration, Florida, but I still maintain a studio near my family up in Kansas City, and a secondary home in London. I’m not always travelling specifically for art shows, but often it’s tangentially related somehow. What’s been your best convention experience to date? Wow, that’s a hard one. Gotta love DragonCon. It’s the one I’ve been doing the longest and I have the art show every year there. It was my first convention in fact: my friend and fellow artist Larry Elmore convinced me to give it a shot – and I’m so glad I did! What’s the most important thing that you’ve taught someone? I’ve just come back from a teaching position as faculty for The Fantastic Workshop in Nashville, Tennessee with the folks at One Fantastic Weekend, which was fun and hopefully helpful.
More than anything though, I think I teach people that it’s indeed possible to have a very fulfilling and lucrative life as a professional artist. Is your art evolving? What’s the most recent experiment you’ve made? I’m an acrylic painter and I like to push the limits with what acrylic paints can do. Recently I’ve been playing with the notion of censorship in art and have been using a ruler to create grids of tiny squares of paint that resemble pixellation blurs. People first think it’s done by a computer, but it’s all done by hand with acrylic paints. I have fun experimenting. Do you make space in your busy schedule to paint for pleasure? I’m lucky in that almost all of my painting is completely for pleasure. I don’t do much commissioned work, and when I do I only take on projects I genuinely enjoy, like my work for the Walt Disney Company. So 95 per cent of my painting time is my own, on my own projects for my gallery shows, and so on. What advice would you give to your younger self to aid you on the way? I’d tell myself to drop out of school as soon as I could. I hated school. I think I’d have been better off starting my art career full time even earlier. That’s probably really bad advice for most people though. Stay in school, kids.
I remember trying to sell my artwork door-to-door when I was five
Abyssa l Merma id “I painted this acrylic piece for the DragonCon Art Show. It celebrates my love of deep see critters and bioluminescence.” “This was created for Pop Gallery Orlando at Disney Springs – it’s one of my most popular pieces!” Alice and Snow White