Art Asylum: Tell us about yourself, where do you live and your life style/background?
Jesse Reno: I live and work at my studio in Portland, Oregon. I’m self taught I’ve been
drawing since I could hold a pencil, painting since 1999 showing since 2000. I’ve created over 3000 paintings since 2004 so I basically paint all day. If I’m not painting I skateboard with my dog, make music, or listen to music. I’m generally doing one of these things. Unless I’m traveling for a show, or taking a break at the coast.

Art Asylum: You are most well known for you self-proclaimed “Native American” style, Can you tell us how this style was developed?
Jesse Reno: I’d say it’s more general in being primitive in nature. I’ve been interested
in ancient cultures since my earliest exposures. As a kid I wanted to be an archeologist so I could dig for pyramids and dinosaur bones. So it’s been on my mind for a long time…

As for developing the style that’s been painting every day for 10 years trying to just get out what’s in my head. It’s gotten more detailed, clearer in its meaning, and deeper in its layers. It’s a process of defining random beginnings until I find something both visually and mentally appealing. A lesson and story told in what my eyes and mind see as the
perfect arrangement of shapes and colors.

Art Asylum: Has any one artist in particular influenced your style or overall creative process?
Jesse Reno: I would say my main influence was Chris Giordani. He’s the guy who got me started painting. I showed him some drawings and he encouraged me to paint with him. He told me – if your brain tells you to paint it paint it, if you don’t like it paint over it… that’s pretty much it for me to this day… Sadly Chris’s work is almost impossible to find online or off…

Art Asylum: If you could choose one word to describe your art/style what would it be?
Jesse Reno: Transcendent.

Art Asylum: How would you describe your art for somebody who is not familiar with your work?
Jesse Reno: Stories told by an old spirit trying to remember and share his purpose; A
mix of simple ideas and some too complex to explain. Marked by symbols to give a general understanding of what should be made personal.
Art Asylum: Do you consider yourself a graffiti /urban artist or a painter? Is there a difference in your opinion?

Jesse Reno: I think more about the personal stories and my love for ancient cultures
above all else. I think there is a direct connection between prehistoric man painting in caves and painting on the walls of buildings to tell your story to whoever walks by. I live in a city so I’m of course connected and influenced by urban life by default. However outside of that influence I’m really looking for stories and lessons in my work more than anything else.

Art Asylum: How long have you been doing what you do? Is this a full time job?
Jesse Reno: Drawing since I could hold a pencil, painting since 1999. Showing since
2000 and fulltime since 2003.

Art Asylum: If you weren’t an artist what could you picture yourself doing for a career?
Jesse Reno: Music, recording, and performing.
Art Asylum: What do you love most about what you do?
Jesse Reno: Doing it. The freedom and time to actually create all the things that go
thru my head. There’s nothing like being in charge of your own life…

Art Asylum: As an artist with many facets how do you see the evolution of your paintings, do you see your art work drastically changing in the future?
Jesse Reno: Up to now it’s been an evolution of become looser and more fluid as well as
more defined and clear with my ideas and presenting them. I’m always experimenting with new techniques and applications, most recently adding collage from old paintings as well as torn origami paper into the works. It seems I’m always adding more layers painting and painting over to find something new and unexpected so the depth continues to grow.

As for next, I would imagine a never ending evolution of my work. It feels very natural and correct to me so I can’t imagine a drastic switch but you never know what my brain might tell me what to do.
Art Asylum: Can you share with us, the concept behind some of your series such as “Kings” or “Devils & Angels”?
Jesse Reno: These series were pretty old 2003- 2004 and pretty basic the ideas of good
and evil. Trying to remain good in the face of whatever negativity you encounter. Kings are always in charge so best to be aware of who the king is and what his objective is. Being aware of what and who controls you is key to finding freedom. A lot of these themes persist. Kings are now marked by pyramids the symbol of empires and systems. Angels replaced by shaman, animal spirits, and old warriors. Devils avoided and overtaken. I recently painted a devil named Harpoon, he was a killer of whales. I later reduced him to an angry man in a skirt and finally to a boy on crutches made of beach wood wearing the skeleton of harpoon on his head. You can view the piece below.

Art Asylum: Your style is very eclectic, your characters abstract, how do you define the direction taken in your work?
Jesse Reno: I define it as I see it. Creating from random abstraction and refining the parts that call to me. Leaving the loose ends to the past like memories of what came before and brought me to the current state. It’s all pushed and pulled by what seems relevant in moments. Watching and looking and acting on any idea that passes by to find the thoughts I neglect to see or understand.
Art Asylum: And with your series of paintings, how do you go about naming a particular piece, are the paintings based around a concept or the concept based on the paintings? Which originates first?
Jesse Reno: I never have a clear idea until the end. Pieces change as my mind changes. This is integral to the entire process and meaning allowing things to come together on their own. By watching and feeling. The names come from all the passing thoughts what was painted what was painted over what I thought yesterday what I think today. I analyze all this till I understand it then I write it down. These are the titles. They come last.
Art Asylum: When you are not painting, what do you enjoy doing?
Jesse Reno: Skateboarding, making music, listening to music, staring at the ocean,
walking in the trees.

Art Asylum: You have been featured in many publications as well as numerous solo and group efforts, do you remember the first piece of art you have ever sold?
Jesse Reno: I sold a handful of drawings at steel city tattoo my first show.
Art Asylum: When did art become a full time professional job for you and when exactly did you know “this is what I want to do”.?
Jesse Reno: I’ve wanted to do it forever. It became my fulltime job in 2003.
Art Asylum: You work in a variety of mediums and some may not know but you are a graphic designer and have also produced a myriad of art for various print and media, how does someone who is self taught become so versed within the art world? Any advice for those looking to move toward the same direction?
Jesse Reno: Not really a graphic designer and I actually do very few media jobs usually less than 5 a year and they probably add up to less than 5% of my income. I only say this because my income and career is based in creating and selling paintings. I do the print or commercial jobs if they fit in. It’s really secondary. I’m all about my freedom to create what I want. I’m also pretty picky in what projects outside of my own I work on. I think it’s important to be aware of who you work with and what you promote. The majority of companies I’ve worked with I’ve had a personal connection to and most are here in Portland. I do this very much by choice. I like knowing who I’m dealing with.

So this is all advice as well. Best to know what you’re doing and why. For me I love to paint. Most other work is a distraction from what I really prefer to do. So I do it very little. It’s easy to lose sight of this or to not believe it is possible. If you focus your energy and really push you can find your way. But you’ve got to be ready to hustle. I’ve made over 3000 paintings since 2003 and been in well over 60 exhibitions so it’s been a hustle for sure. Best to make that hustle something you love.

Art Asylum: Some artists create solely with the audience in mind while others use their creative prowess to produce work with no specific meaning, what is the drive behind some of your images? Do you think of an audience when you produce your art?
Jesse Reno: I think a lot about what I create in terms of meaning and purpose. All my paintings are like lessons or statements about things I care about. My drive has always been to develop ways to communicate the things that have meaning and importance to me. At this point painting has become that forum. So I think a lot about how to make parts of that clear, using symbols is one of those ways. We see a boat – we think of travel, we see a heart – love. This is one way I weave understanding into the abstraction of my work. The titles are all condensed versions of the stories or lessons within the paintings. But beyond making the stories understandable I don’t think much of the audience.
Art Asylum: What do you want to communicate as an artist to the people when they see your work? Does it matter?
Jesse Reno: I want to communicate stories and lessons of personal growth, awareness,
and persistence. I’m always happy when people get it but its fine when they don’t. The main thing is for me to learn from it and make the next step.

Art Asylum: What can we expect from you for the upcoming year 2010, what’s new and what do we have to look forward to? Anything you would like to share with your audience or those newly introduced to your work(s)?
Jesse Reno: More paintings. I’m always making new work and putting together new shows. I’ll be back in France in 2010 for the outsider art fair, as well some other shows. I have a collector working out the details for a museum show. So that is super exciting.. I created my first sculpture from beach
wood, bones, animal pelts, and clay. I’m hoping for more of these to come out. I’ve got a big idea to create a show like a museum exhibit, something like when you go and see all the art of a culture or tribe; the bowls they used, the clothes they made, their art, and sculptures. So I’m planning a show with my paintings surrounded by the other objects collected and created by my people. Working on a new album of music I should be releasing early 2010. There are some random tracks on my site now, but they are just a scattered recording from the past 10 years. This will be more a collection of stuff I’ve been working on for the past year or so. I’m just starting to put together a new book of paintings so that will come together for 2010 I’m sure. Other than that I’ll be painting in my new studio so I’m excited to see what comes out.

Thanks for your support! – Jesse


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