Artist Showcase: Jon Sarkin

This Artist Showcase features the wonderfully diverse work of American self-taught artist Jon Sarkin. Below, you can read an interview with Jon about his work, or watch him talking about it in a video. Scroll down even further to view a curated selection of Jon’s works and find a link to his website.

Happy skull blues

When did your interest in creating art begin?

The DNA decided – my chromosomal composition was – this guy’s gonna create. When did it begin? Probably first memories, you know, like, like one thing that I really remember is, you know, like there’s dust particles that sparkle in the sunlight. And I remember as a little kid and I’m like I know what I want, I want to catch those sparkly things, I’ve got a shoe box I can put them in. But I was a little frustrated because when I lifted it there were no sparkly particles in the shoe box anymore. So I have continued to think illogically and non-common-sense-ically.

Extraneous man

What is your starting point for each piece?

That’s impossible to delineate because sometimes I start with words sometimes I start with images. Starting point is I put a mark on the canvas and then that leads to the next mark and the next mark, so my starting point is taking the paint brush or the pen or the crayon or whatever and hitting the surface. That’s the starting point.

Beautifully, eventually

Who influences your work?

Josef Albers, Basquiat,  Brancusi, Caravaggio, Calder, Degas, Escher, Giacometti, Homer Hopper, Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns, Kandinsky, Klee, Leonardo, Modigliani, Mondrian, Manet, Monet, May Ray, Picasso, Picabia, Rembrandt, Renoir, Vermeer, Van Gogh, I keep could keep going but you know I think that’s who influences me.


What influences your work?

When the guy who did the article was talking, he said, You know what I see you doing, I see like you go through a magazine to find collage stuff and all of a sudden you’ll see a picture that will make you kinda itchy. It’s like anything, like certain music or certain tastes and food or the way somebody looks. You find attractive. Why? Because you just do that’s why.


What do you want the viewer to get from your work?

I don’t have any dog in that race at all. I really don’t. I really don’t. I don’t. I don’t have any expectation with someone – let them get there like I’ll see a picture of like, Oh, this looks like John Kennedy. Like okay you know, oh, this is a seascape you know, whatever.


What do you think about the term ‘outsider art’?

That’s okay. It’s okay. Here’s what I think – if people, if it works for people, and they find it valuable for them to call me an outsider artist. I’m totally okay with that. I think paradoxically, if you’re a true outsider you don’t condone the label outsider.

Two cactuses

Is there a term that you think works better?

No. You have to verbalise it somehow, we got to pick a word, you write an article about somebody you have to write ‘outsider artist’ – that’s better than saying ‘I don’t know what to say.’

What are you working on at the moment?

The most recent thing that happened was I’ve been doing rugs. I did a design for a couple of rugs, and I got approached again by the rug guy, and he wants me to design a rug. So I’m working on that, that’s like, that’s the latest thing for me. It’s very flattering to me that a guy who makes rugs approaches me and says I want to turn your design into rugs.

Kublai khan

Where do you see your work taking you in the future?

Not trying to flip it, but it’s more where my work sees taking me and I don’t have a clue. I don’t know. I don’t know.

Watch this interview as a video:

Click here to visit Jon’s website


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