Some people are simply gifted when it comes to artistic endeavors. The right side of their brain hogs the neurons and creative flow becomes the order of the day ~ EVERY day. So it is with artist J.J. Long, a realism painter who never leaves home without his camera so he doesn’t miss capturing the images he sees that inspire him. He then documents those landscapes and other scenes with his paintbrush, capturing the everyday beauty around him on a canvas.“
I feel that there is a little more freedom and flexibility when painting nature. I enjoy painting figure studies and still life as well, but I love the reflections that the clouds and sky mirror on the water and how the ocean can look like a sheet of glass at times. I also like painting cityscapes and images that offer eccentric angles in a chaotic environment,” Long tells me.
A graduate of the art program at the UNH, J.J. says he knew that “…his calling wasn’t to become a nuclear physicist or something of that nature,” but when it came to art, was “…skeptical at first because I wasn’t sure if I could make a decent living being a struggling artist.”
Ultimately, he decided that his love for painting was a dream he wanted to pursue full-time. What has pushed him to pursue this passion? It’s his strong belief that “…you get out of it what you put in. No one is going to do the work for you; you need to do it yourself. One thing I learned from my teachers was that success is dictated by how hard you apply yourself to your craft.” True to their words, J.J has found success in doing what he enjoys most. Twelve years after graduating, painting is still his sole means of support, showing his work in galleries all over New England.“
My artwork reflects my honesty as a person. I’m not hiding anything when I make a painting. It’s a direct reflection of my temperament as a human being. I am very representational with my art and always attempt to make a polished product that all will enjoy,” says J.J.
J.J., who also has a background in music (as the vocalist for Hell Within, he became a very familiar face here in Worcester at The Palladium, Ralph’s Diner, and The Lucky Dog Music Hall), shares that he strives to combine the two art forms and hopes to incorporate the lyrics he loves to write into his artwork. “I have no idea how I’m going to do it yet but that is definitely on the to-do list. I’d also like to experiment with more mythological subject matter and start being a little more conceptual in my painting.” J.J. is currently working on a commissioned piece along these lines; it features a mermaid spanning a 36”x48” canvas.
J.J. has a solo exhibition coming up in January at the Beebe Estate in Melrose featuring over 60 pieces of his original work. The opening reception is on January 6th from 7-9pm. Refreshments will be served, parking is free and artwork will be for sale. You can also go to public viewings each Saturday during the month from 11 to 3. You can also view J.J.’s work at your local Starbucks, as his art is featured throughout the chain.
To see more of J.J.’s artwork, visit his website at www.jjartworks.com or his official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jjartworksbiz.
You can also visit him at # 518 Western Avenue Studios, located at 122 Western Ave in Lowell.
J.J. Long’s oil paintings are grounded in realism, but the final compositions are reminiscent of the films Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. In those movies, actors were filmed and then, in post-production, animated. The result is extremely life-like animation but with a surrealist quality, as if the images were plucked from a lucid dream.
Long’s landscapes, portraits and still lifes possess that same quality: each figure is distinguished and true, yet seems to stare back through a filter, pushing at the edges of each line and stroke. For the viewer, the paintings are as tangible as distant memory, with large, clearly defined boundaries and opaque details filling in the rest.
That ephemeral quality of visual snapshot may be why one of Long’s paintings was featured at Gov. Deval Patrick’s North Shore inauguration reception at Merrimack College on Friday, Jan. 5.
Reception organizers were soliciting local artists to display artwork of North Shore scenery at the reception. Long submitted five samples and was chosen along with 25 other artists to take part in the event.
The chosen painting ‘Enchantment,’ a landscape of Spot Pond in Stoneham, captures the timelessness of nature nestled within that suburban oasis with the aspect of capricious childhood vision.
For Long, 25, a Melrose resident, his paintings are simply products of a singular vision — he has been legally blind in his left eye since birth.
“It’s weird, I never really think of myself as being legally blind. Sometimes I forget because I’ve been seeing the same way since I was born,” he said. “I think it’s important to let people know this is how I see.”
Long recalls a fellow artist once telling him there is a slight haze over his paintings and everything seems to be down a shade.
“After she said that, I was like, ‘I think you’re right.’ I think it looks how it’s supposed to look,” he said.
His impairment has become his strength, as Long translates from cornea to canvas to present a view of the world that only he can see.
“You can tell it’s my work, so to speak — it might have to do with a slight haze or my shadings,” he said. “I try to paint realistically and my style is realism. I paint a lot from photographs and stuff. When I look through my left eye, I can’t discern any detail at all.
“I don’t know how I’d paint with 20-20 vision. I wish someone could look through my eye and say, ‘What the hell is this?’”
Interestingly, the artist with a skewed vision of reality fell into realism as his predominant style.
“I just paint that way because I think back, when you’re in kindergarten or grade school, I always thought the best art was the one who makes it look the most real. They made something look as real as possible, that’s how you know how someone’s a good artist,” he said. “That’s not the way it is at all, but that’s just the way I was brought up, so to speak. I don’t favor realism over another type of art. I like all styles of art but that’s what I just kind of locked into from the beginning.”
“I’ve tried abstract and love abstract, and it’s not that I can’t do it, I’ve just built up my reputation as a realism oil painter.”
A clouded futureLong could not see his own future when he first arrived at the University of New Hampshire as a freshman. He chose UNH because of its strong liberal arts background, and his desire to get away from Massachusetts for a time while not straying too far from his home in Melrose. With his focus on a liberal arts education, becoming a painter was not an idea that had even crossed his mind.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be a rocket scientist,” Long said. “I think my sophomore year of college, one of my introductory painting teachers asked, ‘What’s your major?’ I said, ‘I don’t have one right now,’ and he said, ‘Well, why don’t you paint for a living.’ I said, ‘All right.’”
Long considered leaving UNH to attend a school like MassArt, but professors counseled him that applying himself and working hard to improve would dictate his success, not which institution bestowed his degree.
“Plus, I had already built up my friends there,” he said. “I had a great education up there. The professors were really good.”
After graduating from UNH in 2003, painting quickly fell by the wayside as Long sought financial stability.
“I’d say for two years after I graduated, I didn’t paint at all, just because I had immediate bills and stuff like that,” he said. “It’s not that I didn’t want to paint. I just didn’t think I could paint and make a living off of it.”
He hopped from office job to office job, all the while lacking fulfillment as he sought to strike a balance between a man’s needs and an artist’s heart.
“Month after month you’re paying off schools loans, and you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m paying for an education I’m not even using.’ I felt there was something missing, sitting by a cubicle and not doing what I love to do,” he said.
On his 24th birthday — “I did that on purpose, so I’d remember” — Long cast aside his reservations and began work as a full-time artist. For almost two years, his life has been painting as he tries gaining exposure through showings in Melrose and at galleries.
Gaining recognitionThe arts community in Melrose, and the Melrose Arts and Cultural Association ####(MACA) in particular, have helped make Long’s transition to full-time artist a viable and sustainable decision.
“MACA has really been good for me, as has the Hourglass [Art and Gift Gallery] downtown,” he said. “The arts community here is just amazing, there’s so many different opportunities and so many unbelievable artists. No one I’ve come across has an ego and everyone’s willing to help each other out.”
That willingness to help out fellow artists led Long to be featured at Patrick’s inauguration reception. He heard about the event from a fellow artist, who forwarded him e-mail with information on the event. Thus, ‘Enchantment’ became part of a historic event.
‘Enchantment’ and other of Long’s works are quiet, serene and calm. That might surprise those who know Long from his other passion as lead singer in the band Asystole, whose heavy drums, thundering bass and distorted guitars are a pummeling assault on the listener in the vein of bands such as Tool, Sevendust and Mudvayne.
“I tell people all the time I paint my happy trees during the day, and then at night I turn into the devil,” Long said with a laugh. “It’s my kind of balance in nature, I guess, as a human. You can’t just be happy all the time and you can’t be angry all the time.”
Asystole have started to make a name for themselves. They were just sponsored by Jagermeister, who will pay for band merchandise, CDs and give the band an opportunity to open up for national acts.
“Someone once asked me, ‘What would you rather do, playing in a band or painting the rest of your life?” Long said. “I want to do both the rest of my life.”
Local artist James Creighton Long Jr. (J.J.) is chasing a dream.
After receiving his BA in Art from the University of New Hampshire, in Durham NH, he returned home to Melrose and did what many students do; turn their back on their talents in the name of paying off school loans, and bills. He did office work for two years, where he says he made good money, but discovered there was something missing.
In March, on his 24th birthday, Long made a decision to embrace his talents, turn his back on corporate America and become a full-time artist.
Since then he has participated in at least three art shows, one of which featured his work on Newbury Street. He makes his living by doing commission work, and though he says he is on a tight budget he has the support oh his parents and is able to make a living off selling his paintings.
The main medium he works in is oil painting. His studio walls and ceiling are covered with his artwork, displaying landscapes, still art, and even the Eye of Saramon from the hit movie the “Lord of the Rings,” an image he says he just couldn’t get out of his mind.
“I’m trying to make it happen!” says Long. “I’m young and single, I don’t have too many responsibilities and I want to build a reputation for myself making music and art.”
Long says that he has always loved art and he took courses during high school but was never known as an artist. It was not until his sophomore year of college that he realized it was more than just a hobby.
He has developed his own website, www.jjartworks.com, where his art can be viewed. He is also a member of the Melrose Arts and Cultural Association, a new group in Melrose that promotes local artists. He is currently displaying his work at Canvas Alley Gallery, 231 Haven St., Reading through Sept. 30th.
By day Long paints but by night he sings in a heavy metal band called Mr. Ect., which has played all over Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
Their next show is set for Sept. 30th at the Half-Time Bar and Grill on Cape Cod, where he says the band has quite a following.