Jamie Russell Talks Art School Politics, Lisa Yuskavage and Being a Fiery Aries

Jamie Russell Talks Art School Politics, Lisa Yuskavage and Being a Fiery Aries

Drawing has never been a skill set for me.When I was a wee child, my mother used to tell me I cried for hours because I couldn’t draw circles for my kindergarten homework assignment. It just wasn’t perfect. I guess I had some rigid standards as a kid.That is why I have an immense respect for people who can draw with such ease. My inner child can attest that it’s fucking hard. My good friend Jamie Russell is a perfect example of a natural artist; I’m not talking about just circles. Her work is a fantastical, abstract world; her choice of color is spectacular. I personally love the way she paints eyes. They have such a soulful depth that demands your attention. I was so happy she agreed to answer some of my burning questions. Enjoy!
Do you remember the first time you picked up a paint brush?
Honestly, I was more of a crayon and pastel kind of girl for a long time. It wasn’t until college that I started getting heavy into painting. I always preferred the control of a drawing utensil rather then a brush. Paint can be unpredictable and have it’s own mind. It bleeds, drips, changes form. It took me a while to let go and let the paint do what it wanted rather then what I wanted it to do.
Take me back before your college days , I'm talking way back to your Crayola days. What did drawing/art mean to you as a kid? 
I guess you could say I was a pretty lonely kid. My siblings were all a lot older than I and home life was rough when I was a small thing. In elementary school, I don’t know why but the art teacher really took me under her wing. My mom worked late so I would go to the art room after school and help the teacher paint all the murals and posters for the building. She gave me my first sketchbook and showed me all these different techniques. I tried visiting her once after I graduated elementary school but there was a new art teacher when I went. I’m not sure what art meant to me but I think maybe it meant quality time? Not necessarily time spent with other people but my time spent making art was always quality and probably filled those lonely gaps.
Jamie Russell Peach Photo
I’m not sure if I should refer to you as a painter or artist. Any preference?
I guess, I would call myself an artist first because I don’t limit myself to paintings. I dabble in sculpture and other creative avenues as well. But I don’t mind being called a painter.
 Self Portrait Jamie Russell Painting
How would you describe your style?
I’m not even sure. I’ve always loved painting people or figures. I also enjoy textual things that make you go “oh, I wanna touch that!” Often times my work is really colorful with a dark undertone. Just like my personality!
As someone with zero knowledge about the world of painting, Picasso is the only name that comes to mind. Besides that dude, any artists I should google?
This is so hard. There are so many amazing artists and it’s interesting because when I was in high school, we never learned about artists who are flourishing today and have made being an artist a valuable career. You always learn about artist from the past like Monet and Picasso (great artists), but they don’t help you with understanding that being an artist and having some sort of income isn’t a wild dream. I personally love the works by Lisa Yuskavage. She makes enamel paintings of these dream spaces with morphed figures. She plays a lot with exaggerations of the body and explores her own self image within her work. Then, there’s Khendie Wiley who’s known now for painting a portrait of Obama. His paintings are all about glorifying the black figure and he’s done a series where he repaints famous paintings and replaces the white characters with black ones. Other notable mentions are Dana Shuts, Kara Walker, James Jean (I could go on).
Water Falls Painting Jamie Russell

What sucks about being an artist?
Probably the politics. Art school was a hard pill to swallow. The professors were the gateway to the art world and showed us what that art world liked and what that art world heavily judged. You don’t want your work to be classified as “commercial” or “kitch” or basically crap-straction where anyone throws paint on a canvas and calls it art. I couldn’t just make a painting to make it. There had to be thought, and meaning, and an essay behind it.

The only documentary about art that I’ve seen was Exit Through The Gift Shop, have any recommendations?
I don’t have a documentary for you but I did love the show “She’s Gotta Have it.” It’s a Netflix show about this painter who lives in Brooklyn and is basically trying to discover her art through this modern art world and ever changing communities in New York. I really loved it.
Eye Ball Sculpture Jamie Russell

I was really impressed with your sculpting skills (She made a miniature Sailor Mercury figurine ), is that something you would seriously pursue?
Oh yeah, I love sculpting. Usually my sculptures are for myself and close friends. I might add them to my site one day but they take a lot of time to make.

Last year you went to Paris for your birthday, what was that like through the eyes of an artist?
I went to many art scenes in Paris but my favorite was the Centre Pompidou. The building itself was really rough and industrial and the works inside were a healthy mixture of installation art and paintings. It was great to see paintings that I learned about in my art history courses, in person. I even got the chance to check out Monet’s home in Giverny. Actually seeing the water lilies that he painted from was awesome but what was really cool was seeing how this man essentially created his own perfect painting haven. He had bamboo trees delivered from Asia and bridges and beautifully curated ponds just so he can paint them. I’d love to be on that level one day.
Crescent Moon Sculpture Jamie Russell
When I discovered astrology as a teen, I checked daily horoscopes more than the weather. I’ve since moved on to Tarot, birth charts and moon cycles. What do you think is the most interesting thing about your sign and does it affect your daily life in any way? What sign do you get along most and least with?
Well I’m an Aries so we’re a firey bunch. I haven’t done too much digging into my sign but I do know that I’m a really passionate person. Once I get fixated on making something it becomes the only thing that I do whenever I have downtime. I purchased an iPad recently and now I’m obsessed with digital drawing and hopefully will be releasing prints some time soon. I think I get along with most signs but Scorpio’s and Gemini’s are hard ones for me. Nothing personal y’all!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I usually hate these kind of questions, but I think putting it out in the universe, we can perhaps manifest good things!
Quarantine allowed me to take some time and step back into my art. I’d like to have my site up and running with a healthy flow of revenue. One day, I’d like to buy a building somewhere, make the first floor an art gallery and the other floors would be studios I’d rent out to up and coming artists. That’s the dream.
Lip Hair Purple Lips Jamie Russell Painting
Jamie Russell is also a fellow Queens Native, born and raised in Elmont, NY. She has a Fine Arts degree from SUNY Purchase College. 
Check out her portfolio:
Follow her on Instagram, her feed is so dope!  
Back to blog

Leave a comment