BOOM FOR REAL - Jean-Michel Basquiat and what I learned from him

The funny thing is, I wasn't into Basquiat's art at first until I saw his bio as a movie.

Back in art school was when I was first introduced to Jean-Michel Basquiat. I watched the movie by Julian Schnabel because a friend recommended it. 

I felt immediately inspired and couldn't stop drawing and painting the whole night. See, I didn't appreciate his drug and alcohol use or even really liked his finished pieces of artwork but I admired his fearlessness!

A year later he was to be our main inspiration for that semester and I knew exactly what I wanted to do! I ordered a 10m roll of canvas and started painting. Watch me work in the timelapse video below.

You might not know this but I actually studied fashion design and have a Bachelor degree in it before I gave my heart completely over to the fine arts. So with those 10m of painted canvas, which I managed to finish in a week, I now intended to make into a mens wear collection.


I've never done menswear before and I wanted it to be a true acknowledgment of what I felt Basquiat went through. He got famous so incredibly young and so so fast. I felt almost like he was a child playing grown up at times. That's why all my clothes are a little bit too big, fit a little oddly and also give you that childlike timid vibe.

I also wanted it to look like he woke up and threw on the first thing he could find, last nights painting.

I had to incorporate his signature, his crown of course! And I did end up writing a mixture of his own quotes and things that floated through my head at the time on the canvas pieces because he first got recognized for his tags throughout New York.

I also used silk as my second material. Silk pyjamas to be exact, to stand for his riches and that he would walk around in his jammies more often than not, looking a bit bum, while actually being one of the best-known and paid artists at the time. Each silk piece has a bright neon pink brush stroke on it though. He wasn't precious with his belongings and painted on every surface he could find. And like him, I painted everything I could, even the shoes and backpacks.




I loved working on that collection. And it is to this day one of the turning points where I allowed myself to be true to myself and finally jump into my art career. That's why earlier in 2018 I went and drove to Frankfurt without a second thought. They held a Basquiat exhibition and it was the first time to see his work in person! See a little bit of my impression of Frankfurt and the Basquiat exhibition in the video

What I learned from this

  1. Be FEARLESS and stop being precious with my art. Rip, cross out, paint over, walk all over it!
  2. Use HIGH CONTRAST. The highest being black and white. So far I've never used black in my art, but now I am tempted
  3. Show your PASSION. Basquiat dreamed of working with Warhol one day. When they got introduced, he immediately walked home, painted a portrait of himself and Warhol for 2 hours straight and went back with the wet painting under his arm, giving it to Warhol.
  4. Use art supplies that make you GET OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE. He used everything he could get his hands on. Markers, oil pastels, ball point pens, loose paper flying around, wooden beams to stretch his canvases, old doors, even tires to paint on! There is no excuse not to paint/ draw with this mindset.
  5. USE WHAT YOU LOVE and identify with to create work. He dabbled in religious, mythological and pop culture references, put meaningful quotes next to pieces of street chatter he picked up during his strolls through New York, added anatomical drawings, observations of his day to day life and intwined black Jazz players and famous athletes in his paintings.

I try and think of these things when I paint. I try to stay in the moment, not be too careful and let it all out. My titles incorporate what is meaningful in my life or what I think about right at that moment and it all comes together and creates a beautiful tapestry of thoughts, intentions and overall good feelings. I strive for a sense of harmony in my pieces and a way to awake emotions in the viewer that make the world seem a tiny bit brighter.

I hope this gave you a peek behind the scenes. How I work, what keeps me moving and overall, what inspires me. Let me know what you think in the comments below and if you haven't already, subscribe to my Newsletter below for more behind the scenes and studio sneak peeks.

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Julia BadowComment