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Jonni Cheatwood | Studio Visit

Los Angeles, CA

February 2015


What motivates you?

The idea that I get to create something new everyday is motivation enough for me. 

What’s your studio philosophy?

I am a big advocate of just showing up to the studio, even if you're not planning on actually working that day. You just never know. You'll never know when your inspiration will come. There have been days where I just go to my studio just to eat lunch and stretch canvas, but then ended up unexpectedly painting one or two paintings or changing a painting for the better instead. 

When did you start calling yourself an artist?

When I quit my job to paint full-time in May, that's when I really started to comfortably tell people that I am an artist because it is how I make my living. Sometimes, it's still weird to tell people that I'm an artist because I'm afraid of immediate judgement, but that's my reality. I scribble, pour paint on top of more paint and make decorations for a living. No regrets.

When do you make your best work?

When I don't force a painting and just go with the flow. I also need to be calm. If I'm upset, hungry or just flat out not feeling it that day, I can just go kick rocks.

Regarding your method of making, is it a case of the material or method dictating the idea of the other way around?

My general ideas when it comes to the piece isn't so much the paint on the canvas, because I don't really premeditate a painting; but rather if I am going to sew that canvas together with another piece of canvas, burlap or denim. I think changing the materials used change the idea of a painting. I like seeing how different fabrics disrupt a painting. Once I have the fabric down, then my methods of painting come in. 


Is art making therapeutic for you?

When I first started painting 6(ish) years ago it was 100% for therapeutic purposes. Now, most of the time it's a very joyful time for me but I would be lying if I said that I've never questioned all of my life choices by deciding to paint. 

What are you most proud of?

I don't talk about this much, but the fact that I am 29, didn't go to art school or have any type of formal training, and I get to make a very decent living by painting full-time is very rare. I don't like to pat myself on the back, but I've worked hard to get to where I'm at and I don't plan on slowing down.

Artist whose career you covet? 

Urs Fischer probably. Maybe Daniel Arsham.

What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?

I'm committed to painting for as long as I'm able to. Hopefully, I'll have a kid or two and my dream studio. I see where my work was five years ago from now and I've seen how much I've progressed and how differently I view art as a whole; so I can only imagine what my work will be like in five years from now. Maybe I'll have a great art dealer and a big time gallery. I hope. 

If you could travel anywhere to create for a while, where would you go?

Right now, I would be curious to see what I would paint in a place like Marfa, Texas. I feel like my work is directly inspired by my surroundings and I think a creative community like Marfa would be interesting. I would love to go to Paris or London as well. Maybe I'll look into a residency. 

Did you grow up around other creative people?

Not really. I grew up in the burbs. I grew up playing sports and everyone around me played sports. I didn't really appreciate art until my early 20s when Obey started popping up everywhere.

What are your other hobbies?

Well, painting was my only hobby and now that it's my job, I need to find another hobby. Suggestions?

If you could have a drink with one artist, who would it be?

Tom Waits. Absolutely Tom Waits.

What influences you?

So much. Other painters painting, photography, rock n roll, a good museum, a decent book, good cinema, pizza. 

How many hours do you try and work in the studio per week?

I try my hardest to treat it like a full-time job. I don't really give myself a set schedule, but I like to be in my studio by noon everyday and work until I can't work anymore, generally 6 or 7 hours. I usually take off Saturdays and Sundays to spend that day with my wife, like normal working people. 

Silence or sound while creating? If sound, what?

Tom Waits, DMX, Bowie, Rage Against the Machine, Cold War Kids, Fiona Apple & whatever great Jazz I can get my hands on. I'm particularly fond of Milford Graves & Jack DeJohnette. Sometimes The Dayton Sidewinders. Silence is for the birds in my studio.

Favorite art-making tools?

I feel like my sewing machine gets a lot of play, but I would say this little squirt bottle that I turned into a pen-like tool is my favorite. I fill it with a fluid enamel paint and I scribble with it. 

Tools or mediums you’re dying to experiment with?

I have a very very basic knowledge of photography. I would really love to dive deeper into that. I've always wanted to work with lighting as well, but I don't know how my work would play into that. Could be cool.

What’s next?

So far this year I have a group exhibit at the Torrance Art Museum in June and I'll be in good company with Christian Rosa, Oscar Murillo and Albert Oehlen, then me. At least that's what I was told; but if that's the case, then I feel like I'm opening up for Led Zeppelin. I'm hoping to find a good gallery in Los Angeles or wherever that will represent me this year. Other than that I am open to most opportunities that present itself to me. 2016 should be a busy year for me.




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