Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Erector Square: James Jasiorkowski

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: James Jasiorkowski
Oct. 14, 2007.

James Jasiorkowski, a commercial illustrator, has had his Erector Square studio about four months. The walls were profusely decorated with his portfolio work, primarily portraits, caricatures (his watercolor of Joe Lieberman, painted after his primary defeat last year to Ned Lamont, adorned last week's New Haven Advocate cover) and figurative imagery. There were a couple of watercolor posters he painted several years ago for the Trumbull Jazz festival. But there were also a selection of recent oil paintings—a medium relatively new for Jasiorkowski—based on photographs taken in Iraq.

These works have been inspired by Jasiorkowski's affection for Orientalist paintings. The Orientalists painted in the 19th and early 20th century, purveying exotic images of Near and Middle Eastern cultures that suited the sensibility of European imperialists.

"They did a lot of pretty straightforward pictorial scenes. Their painting would be filled with figures, market scenes. I love those painters but to paint that kind of stuff now would be kitschy," said Jasiorkowski. "I do Orientalism but with modern images, scenes from Iran and Iraq."

The photos he uses as reference come from his friend Daniel Smith, a photographer who has visited Iraq several times as an unembedded journalist and reported for the New Haven Advocate. Smith gave Jasiorkowski a selection of photos that he could work with, copyright-free. Jasiorkowski usually starts with a rag and thinned paint to coat the background. He uses one color to sketch in the figures and then builds up the imagery from there.

Most of the caricatures were current when they were painted, Jasiorkowski said. Besides the one of Lieberman sporting a shiner, there was one of Arafat painted just after he died.

"You want to send out current material when you send out samples. The only drawback is you have to constantly update your portfolio," Jasiorkowski told me. He purchases a directory once a year listing all the art directors at major and large regional publications. Jasiorkowski does biannual mailings, sends out postcards, goes to conventions.

There were a number of digital collages Jasiorkowski has produced to attract the interest of a top editor at a major graphic novels publisher. They tend to have figurative watercolors as the key imagery--a nude female figure in "Angel Unbound" and three poses of a guitarist (his cousin) in "Moving," for example. But then Jasiorkowski scans into the computer all sorts of other items. Feathers, lace and rope in "Angel Unbound." Old sepia photos, an antique map, cracked leather in "Moving." The combinations are seamless.

"A lot of times I will hit tag sales, flea markets. I'll find whole boxes of photographs, old brochures, magazine clips and things like that," Jasiorkowski said. "If it's flat and has texture, I usually grab it and keep it somewhere for when I have a use for it."

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