Jawara Blake (he/him)
Occupation: Painter, podcaster, filmmaker
Brand: Painter Files
In keeping with the spirit of who and what NerdyBebop is, the following interview will be getting to know the human behind the art/craft, Jawara Blake.
NB: What do you do for self-care?
Jawara: I mostly play Legend of Zelda to try to relax. I used to jump into a new painting after a day of finishing one. It was kind of too much after a few years. So I picked up video games again. It just lets my brain rest. I can forget the next ten paintings I’m working on in my head.
NB: What movie/TV show/book/anime/etc. changed your life and why?
Jawara: I loved Hellboy. It gave my brain a chance to make space to create worlds. The comic is my favorite but the movie was really good too. The designs and lines are so smooth and the shadows inspire me with textures in my paintings.
NB: What is your guilty pleasure?
Jawara: I am a Japanese Wrestling fan. I speak very little but I enjoy the energy and expressions. I’ve watched it for 20 years a least. I remember watching it growing up with my Abuela. She would get so into it that she threw things at the black and whiter TV. Very intense. The patterns and textiles later really grabbed me.
NB: Who or what inspires you to do what you do?
Jawara: A long time ago when I was a kid, I trained under an art professor named Charles Rogers. He was an Art Professor of an HBCU. He would let me play in his studio after I cleaned it up a little. I wanted to exist as him to people for years. He just had this Bohemian vibe that I couldn’t help but want to become. I learned so many fundamentals from him about painting, cooking, jazz, and boxing.
NB: If you could be known for one thing, what would it be and why?
Jawara: Got to be painting. I’ve worked my whole life as a painter. It has been my rock in an ocean of America. I think a lot of times as a young man I wasn’t sure what to do next, but I could always draw or paint. I have drawn in so many countries now and I feel like I learn from each painting. I understand more about who and what I want to be, and to be able to make as I go. I would love to be one of the New Renaissance painters of our time.
NB: What’s one song that you can listen to when you’re having a bad brain day and it makes you feel better, and why?
Jawara: Seu Jorge – Rebel Rebel is my favorite song and it’s a cover in Portuguese of David Bowie. I like Seu Jorge’s version better. Portuguese is my love language.
NB: What advice or tips would you give to your childhood self?
Jawara: Just to be okay with not being okay. Life is going to be hard and the better you get at things the more people might try to bring you down; that is about them and not you. Also love your hair. Don’t let other kids make you cry about being Afro Latino in the South. You got this better handled at some point.
NB: What is something about your community you wish you could change?
Jawara: I wish we could teach each other to love ourselves. We are taught to be flashy so other people see us but not just for us. Does that make sense? I know I wasn’t taught to love my hair and my eyes spots. I was taught to sit up straight so when other people saw me I looked professional. It always felt like an act. I got older and figured it out better. That is what I would love to see in my community.
NB: Who is someone, without a shadow of a doubt, you would SIMP for? Dead or alive.
Jawara: Dead or alive, maybe Lenny Kravitz. He was my first moment in seeing I could be and do anything and [still] look like me. Almost all of my youth, people would tell me “to fit in.” With Lenny, I saw an alternative that gave me a chance to go my own path.
NB: Is there something you regret doing, or regret not doing, and how does that inspire you today?
Jawara: I wish I had taken my time with the big choices in my life. I ran into a lot of them blindly in my early 20’s. I did some fun things but I missed out on some little things too. I can’t go backwards but I can still learn.
NB: If someone wants to do what you do, what would you tell them?
Jawara: Learn the basics and be open to being wrong for a while. You learn more from mistakes in art than perfection. It’s not cheap but it is important to be flexible.
NB: Favorite quote/motto that you live by.
Jawara: “Can’t rain all the time,” Brandon Lee in The Crow. I must have watched that movie 200 times as a teen.