June 25, 2019 Artist to Watch: Jason Byron Nelson
Jason Byron Nelson
Illustrator, Fine-Artist and Writer
Born, raised and educated in Louisiana, Jason Byron Nelson is an illustrator, fine-artist and writer who finds inspiration in the diversity of everyday life. His methods and mediums are nearly as assorted as his inspirations. From pixels to spray paint, Nelson has adapted several unconventional styles on the path to creating his own.
Today, Nelson is the sole force behind Trick Button, a Monroe-based design boutique specializing in commercial illustration and convincing clients that the need for branding goes far beyond logos and Facebook posts.
How would you describe your art?
To answer that question, i would need to know whether i’m creating the art for a client or for myself. One of my strengths is my ability to “mimic” various disciplines and styles. Plus, my approach and style may differ wildly depending on the target audience. So since I just made that question akin to jumping down a rabbit hole, i’m going to answer it as if we’re just talking about the fine-art side of what I do. For that, I’ve recently embraced themes. Before that, my style was very schizophrenic… depending on my influences at the particular time, it could have a graffiti vibe, be more conceptual, or figurative. The latter is something that always tends to find itself in my work. I like the human form which lately i’ve combined with animal imagery. My technique involves a embracing a very loose, chaotic, mess of mediums from charcoal to acrylics to spray paint. I like working with mediums that you don’t normally see together and trying to find a balance within them.
Were you an artsy kid, and what got you into art?
I suppose I was an artsy kid. I knew I could draw and based on my grades, I was keenly aware that I couldn’t do math. And I always embraced the romantic notion of being an artist… even the starving artist archetype was something i had no problem setting my sights on. Perhaps my path should have been better manicured… regardless, it got me here. Like most kids, I enjoyed cartoons and comic books but unlike most kids (I think), I was subconsciously using those things as a learning manual… building a database of pop-techniques and figurative studies.
How did you learn your craft?
I was a very late bloomer. I didn’t embrace the computer until my senior year of college. And i’m still learning how to get what’s in my head onto a canvas. For design software though, most of it was learned from trial and error. I grew up when the computer revolution was happening so most of my instructors were learning it at the same time I was. But over the last 20 plus years, I’ve gotten to work with a lot of great artists and writers and creative directors; their influence helped more than i could explain. Same thing can be said for the many fine-artists out there in the big world. The internet makes it easy to find work that speaks to you. I find work all the time that I’m inspired by. And without really trying, as i look at the work, i’m deconstructing it… learning from it - then, much like my approach to computer design, it’s just trial and error as i put my own spin on it.
What other artist or people are you inspired by?
I divide the artists that inspire me into two categories. The narrative artists and the fine-artists. Sometimes these categories overlap. The best example of that would be a guy by the name of Ashley Wood who has a career in comic books, toy design and fine-art. His style is a mix of pixels and mess with a bend towards high-concept… I would be honored if someone described my work the same way one day. Another artist who works and writes is Shaun Tan… he’s amazing. He writes children’s books (as do i, I’ve self-published three) and he never speaks down to children; there’s absolutely zero patronizing or cynicism (that shouldn’t be as rare as it is). Other visual artists that i love and am constantly inspired by are David Choe, James Jean, Jamie Hewlett, Dave Mckean and countless others. Oh, and music… but you don’t want me on that path, neither of us have the energy or time.
Why did you choose this art discipline over the others?
Well, I do what i enjoy. If you enjoy it, you do it often… if you do it often, you get better at it. It’s practice by default and you know what they say practice makes. I got into commercial art because i felt it was a more stable money-maker than fine-art. But, like all creative folks I imagine, I hope to one day work without compromise. Therefore in the last year or so, i’ve attempted to do more fine-art… which is not always easy as my bread and butter is still logos, branding, poster illustrations, etc. But I make time. Sometimes at the expense of my family obligations I’m afraid. But that’s a topic for my therapist.
What can people expect from your workshop “Commercial Art with a Fine Art Approach” at Louisiana Arts Summit?
The approach to commercial design and the approach to fine art are wildly different - but only because most of us are taught that way. I disagree with this approach. I think it’s limiting. And the creative process, no matter the discipline, should not have self-imposed limitations. So basically, I talk about that and how I came to feel that way… while showing a lot of my work. It’s all about me, really. At the end, an airplane flies over and drops millions of my business cards.
What would you tell someone that is wanting to get into art?
I’d like to say have a back-up plan, but I didn’t. I’d say be flexible. There’s this myth that good art, whether it’s visual art or music, should be timeless. That’s ridiculous. The tide of trends and interests and experiences and perspectives is in constant flux… tapping into that at the perfect moment can create great art that speaks to a generation… and if not, it may speak to you and that can be enough.
Where can people see your work online and in person?
I had a website for nearly 20 years that featured my fine art but when i went into business for myself, i took it down, renamed it and now it shows a combination of fine-art and commercial work… it’s trickbutton.com - but, and i shudder to even type this… I haven’t updated it in nearly 3 years. I know. Don’t judge me. I also have a blog which you can get to via trickbutton.com but it also hasn’t been updated for years. That’s the cost of being busy I’m afraid. Good problems. If you’re looking for more of my work, there’s always google.