At the age of 15, on a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago with his parents, Jonathan Mcafee was stopped in his tracks by Warhol‘s ‘Mao,’ and definitely marked the start of his artistic pursuits. Today, Mcafee is busy composing expressive portraits centred on the theme of memory.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
The first thing I do is get on my phone in order to help me wake up. I start with Instagram for a few minutes and then head over to pitchfork.com to read music reviews and see what’s new. Then I spend about 15 minutes reading the news.
What inspires you to create every day?
The simplest answer is that other artists inspire me. I look at what people are putting on Instagram and the enormous talent and competition that surrounds me and it lights a fire inside that makes me need to create. But on a larger scale, I have to create because it gives me purpose and without it I am really not sure what I’d do.
What does your work space look like?
My studio is in the upstairs of a very large, old barn in the foothills of Colorado. It’s a small space with certain limitations but I make the most out of it. I have both finished and unfinished paintings lining all of the walls. My work table is messy but to the point where I know where everything is, so it works for me. I paint using an adjustable easel and I use oils, pastels and acrylic.
Describe the core of your technique or style.
I paint quickly and expressively. This allows me to not overthink my brushwork while enjoying the overall process. A few years ago, when I switched from using acrylic to oil paints, my use of color and application of paint changed.
What are your top 3 studio essentials?
I have to have background noise of some kind. I primarily listen to podcasts while I paint. I also need to have several blank canvases ready to go so whenever I want to start something new, I am ready. Last, I just need uninterrupted time to let myself not feel rushed or pressured to finish something by a certain time.
How do you know or decide when an artwork is finished?
I will take lots of photos of it and stare at it on my phone. There’s something about looking at the painting as a photograph that allows me to see imperfections or elements that need more attention.
What do you like to do to unwind after a day’s work?
Lately I have been going for runs. I am trying to get better at it and to grow the distance that I can run without stopping. My wife and I will go for hikes and walks around our neighborhood in the evening. Alcohol and television are also important.
What’s your overall favorite aspect of the creative process?
My overall favorite aspect of the creative process is looking at what I’ve completed in a given day. I get a lot of satisfaction looking at all of my paintings in person or online and studying them and feeling proud of what I’ve created.