La Mesa pen and ink artist to be featured at Mission Fed ArtWalk
Jason Humphrey used to scrawl graffiti over buildings and walls as a teenager in Los Angeles. Through a turn of events and a decision of his own, the La Mesa resident is now one of San Diego’s best-loved pen and ink artists. His work will be featured at the Mission Federal ArtWalk the weekend of April 29-30.
Humphrey has been a presence at the ArtWalk for several years. “They have seen my progression as an artist, as well as the evolving nature of my art.
“I am honored to be recognized as a featured artist for this show, and look forward to showing people a very unique style of art they may have not seen before,” Humphrey said.
Humphrey has redeemed his years as a graffiti vandal, now making beautiful works of art that honor people. He has created his “own lane,” as he put it, by combining meticulous pen and ink stipple with vibrant colors and different mixed media.
In his years of graffiti work, Humphrey had learned the art of adding great outlines to his drawings and lettering.
“I still use this in my art to this day. A lot of my work appears “flat”, with outlines around it like a coloring book may have. I purposely do this, to make the colors really pop, and also to blend the pen and ink and color together seamlessly.”
Pen and ink stipple is a very long, and meticulous medium, explained Humphrey.
The subjects of Humphrey’s work include other cultures, such as ancient Egypt. He appreciates their prolific society, the fact that the marvels from that period are still around today. For instance, many branches of government, politics, are based on systems and teachings from that period as well.
“You don’t have to go far, just look at the back of a dollar bill, to see their influence,” he said.
Humphrey also is impressed with the culture of Japan, one of the places he was stationed in the Navy.
“It was such a peaceful culture, based on a lot of trust. I saw police patrolling with no guns. Not just being exposed to the culture, but the age that I was, really left an indelible impression on my psyche. You end up remembering some of your fondest memories at a young age, and you build your life out from there. Those memories and feelings are continuously coming back through my art are a part of the circle of life,” he said.
The decades of the seventies and eighties also come into play in Humphrey’s art. The seventies were his youngest years, and ones on which he reflects fondly, being shaped by a loving family.
When Humphrey was three years old, his family moved to Culver City. He grew up at Venice Beach, where his dad would lift weights with all the bodybuilders.
“That timeless magic can’t be repeated,” Humphrey said.
The 80’s for Humphrey were a time of Saturday morning cartoons, bright colors, cheesy movie music, and lots of trends, he said. He saw “The Breakfast Club”, and could go to Sherman Oaks and “really see ‘Valley Girls’ saying ‘gag me with a spoon.’”
“The seventies were the happiest times of being with is family before divorce broke it up.
“The early eighties were my innocence years. The bright colors of the eighties in my art are proof that I was there. I got to experience that crazy time,” he said.
Things got bad for Humphrey, however, after his parents divorced when he reached his teens. He had begun to run the streets of Los Angeles as a “wanna be thug,” as he put it.
His mother convinced him to join the Navy, which he did at the age of 17. He had not even yet graduated from high school, so his mother had to sign a waiver and Humphrey had to score high on the ASVAO test.
Humphrey did well on the test and got sent to Air Traffic Control School after boot camp. He chose the USS Independence Aircraft Carrier as his duty station because it was in San Diego. He was flown aboard the ship in the Indian Ocean, as “Operation Desert Shield” got underway in 1990.
Serving four years in the Navy, Humphrey saw nearly every corner of the world, going to Australia, India, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Japan, and many other places.
“Being exposed to all these different cultures had a profound effect on me as a young man, and it continues to shape the current direction of my artwork,” he said.
When he got out of the Navy, Humphrey went to school and took a basic drawing class; the last subject taught was pen and ink stipple.
Just when he thought he had created a great final piece, the teacher explained that a good stipple has mostly dots. He had too many lines in his work.
That was a challenge for him. Over the summer, he continued to draw different statues, animals, and other subject matter using just pen and ink.
“I ended up falling in love with the technique,” Humphrey said.
For young people who have an interest in art, Humphrey has some advice.
There are so many opportunities for artists these days. Know that real friends don’t want to see you in trouble, they want to see you shine. Don’t try to be a graffiti artist to be “cool.”
“Create art because it is your passion. And don’t do it on walls, do it on canvas,” he said.