Friday, November 2, 2012

A Conversation With Ramel Jasir

Ramel Jasir and his artwork.
Several words come to my mind when describing the artwork of Ramel Jasir, a self-taught artist from Portsmouth, Virginia: bold, colorful, and filled with rhythmic textures and elaborate line detail. All of these elements come together to create some very poetic pieces. Jasir spoke with ArtSeen about his artwork and his artistic inspirations. 
Can you tell us a little about your artwork, artistic process, and what types of artistic materials you use?

My artistic process always starts with color and music. Many of my paintings were created to the timeless sounds of Fela Kuti, Ismael Rivera, Donny Hathaway, Syl Johnson, and Gil Scott Heron to name a few. I often let the music set the mood, pace, and creative flow. Then I use the colors that I see in the music like a big color swatch. I rarely have a concept when I start to paint. The colors, the texture, and the random shapes and images created by the paint brush or palette knife drives the creation if that make sense. Within the random abstract image I may see a face, city, or some other image that I may decide to isolate or paint over. It is a fun process of discovery because I never know what I am going to paint so it is a treat for me every time.

I mostly create my paintings with acrylic paint but often use oil when needed, especially when creating eyes or lips because I like the realism that you can achieve using oils. In general, I will create on anything I can, which I often do because of financial constraints. When I cannot afford canvas I create on hardboard or wood and have even used hard Styrofoam blocks in which I coat in polyurethane for hardness.

"Where is the Honor 2"

What inspires you as an artist? Why do you create art?

My greatest inspiration has and will always be my family. I have always been surrounded by my children while creating my artwork. As much as I would love to paint in peace they add a certain energy to the room and my work. Other than that, my desire to create, share, and create dialogue via my work is insatiable at times. I am always in the process of creating whether it be in a tangible form or in mind; I am always working on the next project.

What types of themes, ideas, or concepts do you explore within in your artwork?

My artwork at its current stage is but a reflective of my four year journey as a visual artist. As I often say, it is “my voice in color.” Not only through my artwork do you see my journey towards discovering and getting to know my cultural and multi-ethnic roots but you may also see many different themes that include love, family, politics, human rights, and social activism. I like to think that my work is representative of the diverse human experience through the four year lens of a visual artist.

Who are some artists that you admire, and why?

There are a few local artists such as Wayne Potrafka, Valente Frazier, Clayton Singleton, Trish Doolin, and Sharon Hanson that I admired because they were the ones that took notice of my artwork early in 2009 and 2010 before I had ever shown my work publicly. They not only encouraged me to keep developing my craft but some actually took the time to help guide me in the right direction in regards to the business of art and introducing me to other talented artists.

"The Taureg"
What’s the best and worst thing about being an artist?

The best thing about being an artist is being able to share and meet people from all walks of life and from all over the world with the help of the vast social media networks available nowadays. Going from creating my work to seeing it hung for exhibition is the ultimate high because it is like seeing my work for the first time. I get to enjoy and talk about my work along with everyone else with equal excitement. Because of the lack of storage space my work goes from creation to being stored very quickly in which I may not see it again until show time. So often when I am engaging with the public about my work I enjoy hearing what people see in my work. I am always amazed at the images people see in my own work that I would have never thought of. So again, it is always a treat for me as well.

The worst part about being an artist is the financial hardships as a developing artist. The rejection, be it a gallery or collector, is difficult at times, but it is part of the process. Yet being able to show my work with an engaging public makes it all worth it every time.

"The First Dance"

Can you talk about any current or future projects you are working on?

Right now I am working on portrait series for 2013 featuring many interesting people that I have met or read about during my journey as an artist. Most of the portraits are women who have been victims of abuse, human rights violations, or just symbols of power. I plan to create portraits in my style of art which will also consist of a couple of collaborations with other artists. I know a portrait series does not sound that interesting but I promise something new and interesting in regards to technique and presentation.

"The Color of Love 3"

And finally, what advice would you give to other artists?

My advice to other artists is to keep doing what you love and develop your craft. Create quality work, learn the business of art if your goal is to create for a living, and most importantly have fun. Don’t let the drive to make money and the competitive nature of the business make you forget why you started creating in the first place. Most people are very successful at doing things that they love and it will translate into your work and presentation.  Support other artists whenever you can and never give up.  If I may be of any assistance in any way feel free to contact me and I will be happy to help.

"The Wedding Planner"

For more information about Jasir, you can visit his website, Facebook page and follow him on Twitter for more details. You can also check out an interview PBS did with Jasir here.

"The Color of Love 4"
All images provided by Ramel Jasir.

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