We had the good fortune of connecting with Jonni Cheatwood and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jonni, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
My work-life balance is actually something that I think about often these days because I’m a workaholic by nature. I love working because I usually get to see my getting to paint for a living instead of, I have to paint. Sometimes, it does feel like I “have to” paint, when I had a deadline coming up, but I try my hardest to keep myself mentally healthy when I’m painting. There is a huge emphasis on less is more, listening to my body and taking time away from the studio when I need to. I realized recently (pre-covid) that when I’m in a good headspace, everything in the studio falls into place. I don’t remember where I heard this, but I read that the reward for doing good work is getting more work. This saying kind of became my mantra, but there was a time when I was overworked myself without even realizing it. At one point, I was balancing 2-3 jobs, newly married and trying to keep a studio practice because my goal was to be a full-time artist, and by 2015 I was painting full-time but not before we moved to Los Angeles to chase an opportunity for me to make some money with my work. In 2015 I didn’t really understand the art world, supply and demand or just how to control my market. I figured that in order to not go back to bartending, I had to paint as much as possible and I became a machine cranking out as much work as I could. The work became so automatic that I forgot why I was painting in the first place. The work wasn’t as exciting for me, but I had so much on my plate because I said yes to so many opportunities that I never thought I would get again, so I just kept working and grinding. I hate this pandemic for a lot of reasons; however, I am personally grateful for this big pause in my life. All of my upcoming exhibitions were postponed, so I really just had a lot of time to think, watch great movies, re-evaluate my work, moved my studio to my house, learn something new and re-invent my work, which was all so necessary for me.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am an abstract painter based in Los Angeles. I think some of this came be answered in my answer about balance, as far as less is more, supply and demand, etc… but I’ve been able to paint full-time since 2015 and to be honest, my career has kind of been made by being in the right place at the right time and working like a mad man. Maybe this is the imposter syndrome in me, but I feel like I had to the backdoor into the art world because I’m a mostly self-taught painter. I went to film school instead, which I hated. Film school kind of ruined film for me. I love art, I love everything about it, but I didn’t want school to ruin it for me, so I didn’t go pursue a degree in painting. I’m happy about that. I think my work ethic and desire to push myself to be a better painter is one thing that sets me apart from some artists. The other thing is that no one has the same story as me and I am excited that I get to constantly explore my race, cultural economical upbringing and humor into my work. It is true that “making it” in the art world is easier if you have an MFA from a good school, but I get to tell my story and invite viewers into it. I had a few harsh experiences with collectors and dealers who liked my work, but felt that because of my lack of education I wouldn’t carve out a career for myself. There was one incident in particular that rattled me and in turn pushed me harder to find my way into galleries and strong collections. To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m where I want to be, working with who I want to be working with.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My house, because I am not leaving the house any time soon. I kind of forgot that I live in Los Angeles during Covid. We take advantage of free delivery on postmates. Silverlake Wine, Mizlala, Highly Likely, Howlin’ Rays and Krispy Rice are some of our favorite places to order from these days.
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?
There are a lot of people who have helped me along the way. I’m grateful for every single one of them and I’ll never forget those people, but there is one person in particular who deserves the world. My wife, Amy Cheatwood