Studio visit with Jordan Betten
CREATE EVERYDAY FREEDOM
Natalie Kates: Jordan, you have a fashion label called Lost Art which most people are aware of, but you are also a painter. I would love to speak to you about that side of your creativity.
Jordan Betten: I've been drawing and working on other mediums besides leather for my entire life. I was actually drawing pictures much earlier then I was making leather pants, but I started to focus more on my painting and developing my painting in 2008, or I would say 2007. I just became completely focused on figuring out how to bring the vision I had in my head of the style and technique that I wanted to express, how to get that onto canvas, so I started experimenting with different techniques and styles around 2007. My first show here in NY was in 2008 so that’s why I’m referencing that year.
NK: Your technique looks like drip painted images that are than hand-finished with a cubist style. Can you take me through the process?
JB: Sure. I really became obsessed figuring out how to create that technique of the fluidity of not so much of a drip but it’s more of a continuous fluid line. I do it by using bottles so my line work is done with gravity helping, and it is a continuous fluid motion moving over the canvas. After I go and apply different colors, different other textures to highlight areas and define them within the piece, and that’s the technique.
NK: Are you painting on a easel or are your canvases flat on the floor?
JB: I paint on them flat. Because I am working from a bottle of continuous fluid coming out of it, the canvas needs to be on the floor or table. Once I’m done with the paint bottle I am going in to do the definition and the colors, or with brushes, but that is all still painted flat. And a lot of washes, like, you can see here there’s a lot of these wash effects that are going around the faces – those are also done with the bottle, not with the paintbrush.
NK: The works hanging in your studio look mostly like women’s faces, are they?
JB: The work should be defined by the viewer, but me, I don’t really care if people see men or women, I like if they see balance at some point between masculine and feminine, but I don’t really care if someone says “That’s a woman” and someone says “That’s a guy” and that’s for the viewer to decide.
NK: Your subjects are also animals, are the animals mythological creatures?
JB: A group of animals that are pre-reoccurring in my paintings: the elephant, the bull, swans, horses. For me they are just very spiritual animals that I like to represent. They are animals that are important to everybody so they reoccur a lot: a lot of elephants, a lot of bulls.
NK: If you had an animal spirit guide, what animal do you think it would be and why?
JB: I think all of them at different times, different times for different reasons so that’s why I paint them – they are my spirit guides.
NK: You also make sculpture? I remember seeing your animal sculptures on the High Line in the Chelsea area of New York City.
JB: Correct, those animal sculptures were made out of plywood and hand painted. Sun Love, Steward Braunstein, and myself got together, and we created The High Line Zoo – it was plywood animals, giraffes, monkeys, many different animals and they were displayed outside of our studio right next to The High Line. It was very successful, many people saw it because of the location. And it was cool, anything that I have to paint on – walls, mirrors, a guitar right here, I’ll paint on anything, a door to the studio, you know, whatever, if there is a surface I like to paint it.
NK: I loved how your painted animal on canvas came to life three dimensionally as sculptures.
JB: Well, actually Sun Love came up with animal figures, we fabricated them in plywood and then I painted the same types of figures with my bottle to get the same fluid motion onto them, so it’s black and white zoo. Many visitors came to see it.
NK: Do you visualize the finished works in your head before you start to apply paint?
JB: I visualize an idea but then everything in the universe gets to you and you can’t control. My way of painting is very free. You know, I can control it because of my practice and technique, but you can only control it to a degree because there is fluid coming out of your bottle pretty quickly, so there is a lot of freedom and chance, but it’s all directed by my belief in whatever power I have coming through me that I am creating what I want to create. The best piece will come from it. Usually the pieces turn better then what you’ve envisioned because universe gives you that little gift that you can never imagine and that gift is what makes it very special.
NK: Did you go to fashion school to be a designer or art school to become an artist?
JB: No. Self taught. I went to school neither for art nor fashion.
NK: In regards to painting, when was your first breakthrough.
JB: Meeting Sun was my first big break when it comes to my painting. It really was, because she went to Art school so I think my paint training came from her. She taught me my colors, I had no idea about color theory before I met Sun. She taught me that, really taught me about colors, how to choose my colors and then helped me even with my technique because she would bring me my first bottles and so that’s the inspiration there. She was my breakthrough for painting.
NK: And for those who don’t know who Sun Love is, can you tell us?
JB: She is my wife and muse. She is a creator, especially at Lost Art.
NK: How important do you think social media is for an artist?
JB: I think it is super, super important for an artist.
NK: How do you promote your work using social media? Are you on Facebook? Do you have a fan page?
JB: There is a Lost Art fan page, and I have my personal page on Facebook and Instagram. I personally wish I was more interested in it, and took a more of a personal approach to it, but because I don’t have so much time to focus on it, I actually have an intern who actually does most of my social media. I think it’s super important to do, and it’s an amazing tool we have for not to embrace it is like not using one of your arms.
NK: If you could collaborate with any artist, living or passed away, who would it be and why?
JB: I’d like to collaborate with a few different artists from the past, I’d say Modigliani, Picasso, and Pollack would be the ones I’d like to do my painting with. And then, living artist would be Carlito Dalceggio and my friend Chor Boogie from San Francisco.
NK: Most of your Lost Art clients are musicians. Do you listen to music when designer or painting?
JB: There is always music on, it’s pretty rare to be in here when there is no music on. So for that, yea, you are just here in the quiet time. There is usually music playing, music is big influence in everything we do – the clothing, the painting, for sure.
NK: Music being such a big influence, who are some of your favorite artists that you play while you are creating?
JB: I listen a lot to Bob Marley, I like to paint to happy music, so Bob Marley, a lot of reggae music. We listen to dub, some electronic, it just depends on the mood or the time of day, sometimes we are up really late doing stuff, so yeah, music changes. I have a lot of stations on Pandora, we listen to all of them. A lot of older music, some Edith Piaf to Bob Dylan.
NK: Your studio has lots of musical instruments. Do you also play?
JB: We play. I mean, I just play for fun, I am not a musician but we have a lot of musicians that come in to the studio so there’s a lot opportunities for jam sessions and friends who are very talented, so we play a lot of music up here. The more instruments you have the more people could play.
NK: Let me know the next time you have a jam session.
JB: Yes definitely!
For more on Jordan Betten go to:
Instagram @ LostArtBetten