We had the good fortune of connecting with Jason Stallings and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jason, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
My post-art school career has been all about risk-taking. Though at that point it’s been quite a while. When I got to the end of my time at SCAD, I had a portfolio that I would call a bit too “safe.” I was pushed to get better in regards to my drawing skills. That definitely proved to be an asset in the long run, but I had let certain influences poison the well of my creative process. I loved studying Illustration. It provided me with a lot of structure and challenges. However, I had to push against all of the rules I had learned in school about what it meant to make art effectively. I have a lot of respect for artists who are masters of simplicity, but what made sense to me was finding order in complete visual chaos. I got out of college just before the great recession. My father bought me some canvases and directed me to continue to explore the same thread of the work I had done in a class under professor Joy Flynn. My first truly successful painting “Can You See Me?” came out of her experimental drawing class. Growing up I was adamantly against the fluff and sugary colors of an artist like Lisa Frank (showing my age a bit I guess). That kind of disingenuous expression had seeped into my senior portfolio. Again, I could draw much better, but I had to rebel against that impulse to bow down to the demeaning words of all of the people back home who constantly demanded that I make “art that will sell.” The work in my senior portfolio wasn’t anything that was ever going to get me particularly far professionally. So, the tones became dark, the textures became rough, and the compositions became unhinged. As my work has progressed, the ideas I explored have become more and more sophisticated in nature. I’ve taken influence from music, philosophy, history, geography, and popular culture. Around 2014, I saw a need to take another risk. I had grown a bit tired of doing only abstract art. I needed to explore the figure. So began the somewhat slow process of doing portraiture. With the exception of a portrait of Anthony Bourdain I created in 2018, the portraits have been of people I know to one degree or another. This risk proved to be a big challenge for my career. There’s a tendency to get a wary reaction when you move from abstraction to even somewhat literal representation. Historically artists move in the opposite direction. I have a constant need to grow and develop, so this was the direction that made sense to me. There is an element of compromise that can come out of this kind of risk-taking that’s healthy. By this point, I definitely saw that my art is very much a business. So, I concluded that I would go back and forth between the two modes of expression that I’ve developed into. I found that I still had things to say in both avenues. This year, I again took a risk or two. The first risk came in the form of signing on with a company called Loupe Art. They are a video streaming service that streams original art in public venues and private homes all over the world. My work can be sold as prints or originals through this service. This type of venue is pretty new for art, so it was a big risk to take jumping into unexplored technology for the arts. So far it’s been a positive experience. I also got commissioned to paint an 8×10 foot painting by a local law firm. From here I had to take a “risk” by taking direction from an interior designer, the client, among others. This was far from the first time I had taken direction, but I took bold steps to explore my own solutions to balance out that direction. By falling back on my training and education, I was “taking a risk” in a way.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have had some great support in my career. I’ve worked with some visionary interior designers. An Art career is far from easy, but I consider myself very fortunate. I definitely did the work and studied art to a pretty deep extent. The biggest struggle I’ve had has been with overcoming or coping with the negativity often lobbed at an artist, which is all by and large a lot of useless noise meant to hold you back for the sake of other people’s insecurity. A lot of people put their own baggage on you thinking it will be for your benefit. You have to learn to process what’s good and filter out the bad, and not take other people’s problems on for their benefit. To me, overcoming the hurdles of an art career is all about doing the work, being willing to grow, developing patience, and learning how to foster positive professional relationships. But taking the time to learn how to grow and cope with that process is absolutely key to personal health and sustainable growth. That’s the silver lining of a slow and steady career. I’m still growing, and as long as that’s the case the art will continue to grow.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m a huge fan of the Wild Detectives book store in Oak Cliff. I’ve been hanging out there since it opened. Given that we are not in normal time’s it’s a little challenging to give recommendations. I just recently took a date out to a place called “Si Tapas.” I traveled to Spain when I was 18, so I guess I’ve had an interest in that ever since. I’ve lived in Dallas for a way too long, so if you want someone with a fresh take on the city, I may not be that person. I definitely recommend visiting the Dallas Arboretum though. The little bit of nature that exists in the Dallas area more or less lives there. If you want a fun, quirky place to drink I suggest Strangeways. For a Dallas staple, I suggest the original Campisis “Egyptian” on Mockingbird. It’s got everything you don’t expect from Texas: Great Italian food, vague mafia history, and a sense of mystery. My mom ate their food when she was pregnant with me, so I guess I have a personal history with that place to say the least, ha.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My former art professors at SCAD: Kurt Vargo, Mohamed Danawi, Julie Lieberman, Richard Kreple, John Foerster, Joy Flynn, Don Rogers. Also the teachers that taught me about art growing up: Judie Culbertson, David Duncan, Tom Hands, Sandra Packman, Richard Hayse, etc. I also want to give a special shout out to Sherry Hayslip, the wonderful staff at Sherry Hayslip Interiors, and Amanda Mayfield Hill for taking a chance on my creativity and working with me to create some beautiful artworks.