Jason Austin
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Interview with Greg Bridges
Transitions On Traditions - April 27, 2009 at 8:00pm - KPFA 94.1 FM Berkeley
(The actual interview starts the last 30 minutes of the show.)

(cut and paste link)

Interview by Greg Bridges on KPFA. February 27, 2006
Artists Jason Austin and Duane Conliffewere interviewed about their artwork and participation in The Art of Living Black 2006. TAOLB celebrates it's tenth year of annual exhibitions featuring Black artists at the Richmond Art Center in Richmond, CA.
To hear this interview cut and paste the following link:

Interview March 25, 2005

This was an interview done by an art student that came across my work online and asked me to do an interview.

Hi I am a black art student from the Kansas
City Art Inst. and I wanted to know if you wouldn't mind me
interviewing you for my class.
Thank you for your time.

1. Age?
I'll be 32 on April 16th

2. How long have you been in the art business?
I've been doing art since the age of 3 but I've been in the business since the mid 90's. It's definitely been a progression (learning as I go along)

3. What is something interesting you do with your artwork to market yourself?
I don't do to much (need to do a lot more). For the most part I mail information to my mailing list about new art I have been working on and that I have for sale.

4. What percentage of your profit goes back in to the production of your artwork and marketing?
110%! Supplies and materials cost so much and there are always new things you need to make your job a lot easier, example: getting a computer and a printer so you can do your own printing instead of giving Kinko's all your money! You should always let your art pay for itself and do as much for yourself as possible (that way you'll never be stuck!)

5. Do you keep a sketchbook, what do you put in it?
Yes I do! I use them to put down concepts for future pieces; it really helps me work out my ideas.

6. Do you feel that going to school to learn art is arbitrary?
For me I feel that way (maybe because I'm self taught and stuck in my ways) but people are different and I think it's great if you need that. If there was something I could not figure out and needed technical information on how to do it I would be willing to take a class, example: I've been thinking of taking a print making class)

7. When did you start noticing your style?
Around 98. That's when I took a break from working and just did my art. During that time I really learn/ re-learned myself and was doing work that I felt I was giving my deliberate style to (thinking to myself how would I draw or paint a subject matter) example: I did a series of work that were based on 5 works by Picasso but with my take on them, they turned out to be some of my favorite works.

8. What do you feel are the limitations of being black?
NONE! As far as me and my work. As far as how people re-act to me being black and if they are willing to give my work a chance is a different story.

9. What have you experienced as a result of being black, positive and negative?
Positive for me. It's kinda funny it's like if you do something half way decent and creative some people are so impressed just because you are black and doing something and don't even give the art a second look, which is crazy to me. I try to do the best work possible each time because when it all boils down it's about the art and not me being a black artist. Sometimes when I get a surprised reaction I sometimes ask why are you so surprised?

10. Do you think sales for black artists are dependent upon where they live? Or just effective marketing?
I think both those things come into play. We are all some what at the mercy of our environment (sometimes good, sometimes bad) that's why it's always good to go outside your area if you�re not getting out of it what you need. Example: How you can not get along with your family and you can make friends outside of your family that fits you better, so you spend your time with them instead.

11. Did you starting working right out of school? Did you consider yourself successful as a grad.?
I worked during and when I got out of high school. I shortly after went to the military for 4 years.

12. How do you manage your money? How do you deal with quarterly taxes?
I'm pretty good from what I'm told. I pay them when it's time, but it works out pretty good for me because I sale the majority of my work through a gallery so they are responsible for that part of it so when I file it's basically a wash.

13. Are their any books you would suggest I read? Or people you suggest I talk to?
"Taking the Leap" it's a great book to put you in perspective (it does a great job of breaking the game of art down. You can really learn a lot just by talking to other artist and hearing what they learned and went through. My friend Salongo Lee is a great artist that is full of information as well.

Thanks Emory for the great questions! They brought a lot out of me.

Interview in the Vallejo Times Herald on December 31, 2005

Vallejo artist has high hopes

By SARAH ROHRS/Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

Vallejo's Jason Austin has done payroll for thousands
of people over the years, first in the U.S. Air Force
and then in the Vallejo and Benicia school districts.
But, if he had it his way, the 32-year-old would be
responsible for just one payroll - his own, as a
full-time artist.
Make no mistake, Austin is glad to have his new job as
Benicia Unified School District's payroll technician.
He enjoys working with numbers, but he has a strong
creative spirit and desire to foster a career as an
While he is not crunching numbers and preparing
paychecks, the Vallejo native devotes serious time to
painting and drawing. He has drawn and painted since
he was a child.
Born in Vallejo General, Austin attended Patterson
Elementary and Franklin Middle schools, and graduated
from Vallejo High in 1991. He was stationed in Omaha,
Neb. while in the Air Force.
Fascinated with faces and body postures, his paintings
and pen-and-ink drawings deftly capture complex
emotions and expressions.
Some figures wear hats that hide one eye. Many are
done in black and white with a swath of color on a
hat, forehead, cheek bone or skirt.
Sometimes he puts a face entirely in shadow, or he
just lets one feature - a mouth or the eyes - do all
the talking.
The Vallejo native has no publicist, and no studio.
After work, you can usually find him sitting on the
couch in his apartment with a painting on his knees.
He paints while talking on the phone, watching
television or listening to music.
Being prolific is not a problem. Promoting himself is
more of a challenge, he said.
"I have a hard time letting go of my work," he said.
"I need to work on exposure and marketing. You got to
sell - that's a big part of it."
Austin is known not to tell any family and friends
about his art showings. Further, he likes to attend
his art openings incognito so he can walk around the
gallery and listen to comments about his paintings
without anybody knowing he's the artist.
It's not that he doesn't believe in his work. It's
just that he would rather people react to his art
without knowing him.
But that's got to change, he said, if he wants more
commercial success and exposure as an artist.
"I want my art to speak for itself, but people want
the connection (to the artist). It's important for
them to know where the art comes from just as it is
important for me to know where the art is going,"
Austin said.
Austin is gearing up for five exhibits, which are part
of the annual The Art Of Living Black shows
highlighting Bay Area black artists.
Ethnic Notions Gallery in Vallejo will show his work
today through March 15.
A reception for artists will be held 4 to 8 p.m. today
at the gallery, 318 Georgia St.
In the last six years, Austin's expressive portraits
have been part of shows in Vallejo, Benicia, San
Francisco, Oakland, New York and Philadelphia.
Oprah Winfrey and her partner Steadman Graham hosted a
Chicago art show in which one of his pieces was shown.

Singer Macy Gray has a long and thin black-and-white
painting Austin did of her. Austin took the painting
to one of her concerts in the hopes she would sign it.
When he went backstage, he met the singer and gave the
painting to her.
A month later, Gray called him and invited him and
several friends to a New Year's Eve concert at the
House of Blues in Los Angeles, he said. After the
painting disappeared from her home, he did another one
for her.
Austin has always preferred to let his art speak
louder than his pride or personality.
He said he learned the value of that from Franklin
Middle School art teacher Lynne Zickerman who never
seemed to have the need to prove herself.
Austin became a teacher's assistant for Zickerman who
submitted one of his paintings in an adult contest at
the California State Fair. He beat out the adults, and
won the contest.
As a freshman at Vallejo High School, he took the only
art class he has ever taken. The teacher gave him a
He's always remembered Zickerman's advice:
"You just do your own thing. You don't need to prove
- E-mail Sarah Rohrs at srohrs@thnewsnet.com or call


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