Come and take a look inside the bold-colored world of visual artist Fritz St Jean. The New York-based painter was born in Haiti, and fully developed his art in his homeland. His art is available for purchase on his website!
Kreyolicious: How did you get your start as a visual artist?
I am a painter and historian, through my canvas, I narrate the Haitian story and archive Haiti’s history as it is happening. My paintings explore the complexities of our culture, the intimate details of our pain, triumphs, and our resilience. In doing so, I use the colors of nature as a backdrop for my stories.
As a child, I used to paint in watercolors in school, and my father encouraged me by calling me the artist of the family. Although I am a self-taught artist, there were two significant milestones in my childhood that impacted my development as an artist, which was my relationship with Le Centre d’Art and meeting a local artist named Fritz Jacques.
The first time I visited Le Centre d’Art [Haitian Art Center in Port-au-Prince] and watched the students work, I instinctively knew that I had a gift. I could create what the students were doing without instruction, so I went to the director of the school at the time, Ms. Francine Murat, and told her exactly that. She took me seriously and gave me some paint, brushes, and a canvas to work on a piece. Subsequently, Ms. Murat was impressed with my finished piece, and that started a vital mentorship for my artistry. She continued to support my growth by to giving me art supplies and selling my paintings at the school on consignment. Although I was not an official student at Le Centre d’Art, I spent a considerable amount of time early in my artistry there, and Ms. Murat’s encouragement helped cultivate my craft.
Next, I met Fritz Jacques, who was a local artist specialized in jungle scenes. I was inspired by his style and started to work with him. From there, I mastered the art of painting in that style. However, in the 1980s, I stopped painting jungle scenes because I wanted my work to reflect the revolution that I felt inside of me. Certain events such as the slaughter of the Creole pigs triggered me to paint about what was happening. So, I created my own style to depict the social, cultural, and political problems that Haiti was facing.
Kreyolicious: Have you ever worked on two paintings simultaneously?
In my practice, there is no order when it comes to art. I work based on what I am inspired to do and at times, I may be working on two or three pieces. What determines which painting I will complete first is not dependent on the order but the inspiration that I feel.
Kreyolicious: Are there some artists that you look up to? What is it about them?
There are many, but my top favorite artists are Andre Pierre and Wilson Bigaud. I look up to Andre Pierre because he is a mystical painter and that his paintings vividly reflects Haiti’s culture and voodoo. As for Wilson Bigaud, I love his imagination, and I am most impressed by his expert use of pastel colors and how the color gray stands out in his pieces. There are many artists from my generation that I admire as well such as Saint Louis Blaise and Fabolon Blaise.
This concludes PART I of the interview with the visual artist Fritz St Jean. Watch out for Part II.