SFN got a chance to have a one-on-one conversation with the one-and-only Artist Jasmine Becket-Griffith. She talked about her passion for painting and also how there’s a story to be told in her famous paintings.
The Inspiration Behind the Artist
It’s great having you with us, Jasmine! Why don’t you tell us about yourself for those who aren’t familiar with you?
Well, my name is Jasmine Becket-Griffith, I was born in 1979, and I’m a professional artist. I work in acrylic paints on wood, painted with water & a paintbrush the traditional way. Mostly my work falls into fantasy, pop surrealism or new contemporary genres and features female figurative imagery with a gothic/whimsical bent (usually featuring characters with large expressive eyes).
We’re pretty certain that we already know the answer to this one (two of us SFN hosts are artists) but how long have you been drawing and when did you know you wanted to make a career out of it?
I’ve pretty much always been an artist. I started selling my pictures door-to-door when I was five years old! I started my professional art website in 1997, when I was still in high school, and within a few years of that it became my fulltime job. As the years progressed I hired my husband fulltime to work as my assistant (he’s a writer, so he works at home too – it’s a great combo), then my brother-in-law, my sister, etc. – I have eight staff members now in total. They handle things like shipping, printing, order processing, packaging, running shows & events, etc.
Your art style has become a staple in the art community, with people recognizing it all around the world! What’s it like knowing your art is appreciated on such a global level?
It makes me very happy. I’m not a person who is very effective at expressing myself in many ways, so I put a lot of myself into my artwork. When it resonates with people all over the world and with people across many cultures it makes me feel like I am creating something larger than myself. I was in South Africa, wearing a shirt with one of my paintings on it, and a woman stopped me at a cafe and said “Oh! You know Jasmine? She’s one of my favorite artists!” and it made me realize just how far my artwork has spread. I’m not sure if she believed me when I told her I WAS Jasmine, lol. About half my customers live internationally outside of the USA, which makes me feel good as I really consider myself more of an “earthling” rather than any specific nationality or species really.
We were debating if your art can be considered Pop Art since a lot of your subject matters revolve around what’s big in our culture (Disney rings a bell, doesn’t it?). Would you say some of it can be considered that?
It’s definitely a term that can be applied to a lot of my artwork. The thing is, when you see Disney characters in my artwork – it’s because Disney hired me to paint them, hehe. I don’t ever do “fan art” or anything like that, I just happen to get approached a lot a lot of work for companies that have a high profile in popular culture which in turn benefits both me (in terms of exposure) and the corporations (it is kind of lending them some “street cred” by working in tandem with independent self-representing artists). I only take on corporate projects if it’s something I genuinely enjoy (I’m a big Disney fan for example, so I always leap at any contracts the Disney galleries send me!).
It’s neat because it’s a great way for new fans & collectors to “discover” me – they might have a Star Wars shirt with my Princess Leia on it that they bought at Disneyland, and they’ll look and see my name written on they credit byline – then they’ll google me and see that I have an entire body of work beyond that which I’ve done for LucasFilm, and suddenly they find themselves surrounded with all the other paintings I have done for myself with my own characters.
When I’m doing my own (non-commissioned/non-contracted work) I tend to focus on historic cultural themes from centuries past (I’m a big history / Art History nerd). Take this week for example: I spent a couple days working on my personal 14th century altarpiece imagery combined with French Rococo portraiture, and then the next couple of days I’m working on a portrait of Jack & Sally for Tim Burton’s 25th Anniversary of The Nightmare Before Christmas. The seemingly random anachronistic surrealism in my imagery & themes paired with my pop culture contract work keeps things interesting & exciting for me. I never get bored or feel pigeon-holed.
The Stories Behind “the Mermaids Coloring Book”
So, let’s talk about your latest book, “the Mermaids Coloring Book”. What’s the origin behind it?
It’s the third of a series of high-end coloring books I’ve created with Blue Angel Publishing (distributed by Llewellyn). I’d been approached many times over the years to create coloring books with my artwork, but I had some very specific thoughts on the matter. I wanted them to be high-quality art paper. I wanted them to be one-sided pages so people can cut out the pages and so they don’t have to worry about bleed-through. I wanted people to get a LOT of images for their money’s worth (We packed 55 separate paintings into this one!). Of equal importance, I wanted my voice and my intentions to be evident on every page of the book – in addition to all 55 images, I also personally wrote another 50+ pages talking about the stories behind the paintings, the history of the pieces, why I decided to include them in the book, etc.
Mermaids are a dear love of mine (I love the ocean, water, swamps, lakes, waterfalls, sea monsters, cryptozoology, etc) and I thought they deserved their own book! Blue Angel Publishing has been a dream to work with, they listen to all my thoughts and take all my artistic concerns into consideration, which means a lot to me. Mermaids is the third book I’ve done with them (all in the same format) and I hope to do many more. In the meantime too I’ve started releasing additional exclusive downloadable coloring pages (not found in any of my coloring books!) up at my Patreon a couple times a month to keep my colorist fans happy in between books and so they can have special pages nobody else gets to see 😉
A lot of visual artists tend to have a story to coincide with their illustrations. Is that the case for you?
I do. There’s always an old-school argument about “fine art” vs. “illustration” and basically (as far as my self-taught brain can figure out, lol) the difference is between “art for art’s sake” as opposed to “art that tells a story.” Some galleries and conservative elite publications tend to downplay narrative art or speak derisively of “illustration,” as not being “art” but I just don’t feel that way.
I WANT my art to tell a story. That story might be different for everybody who sees the painting (in fact I love it when several people interpret my painting narratives in vastly different ways), but I want people see my paintings and to immediately know there are many levels of meaning and representation in them. Sometimes the “story” comes to me halfway through the painting. Sometimes the “story” is in my head before I even bust out the paintbrushes. I don’t like to use language and write too much about any particular piece since I like the viewers to self-identify to some extent, it makes art an interactive and living creature in a way.
Last time we checked, it’s selling pretty well… “ahem”, so well that it’s sold out on Amazon. What are fans supposed to do?!