Featured Artist – Jett Bailey Answers All Our Questions!
We had a moment to sit down with Jett and pick at his 3d brain and gather answers to all our hive questions. Megan was kind enough to narrate the interview in the embedded video. Do enjoy!
Watch Megan’s Narrated Video Below!
Megan: “Tell us, what was your first ambition as a child? Does it relate to you now as an artist?”
Jett: “As a child, my first ambition was to become a cowboy. It’s a pretty typical childhood dream when you grow up in Texas. My boyhood dreams of being a vaquero don’t particularly relate to what I currently do; neither do my boyhood fantasies of being a boxer, or an astronaut, or anything else unless it’s on some subconscious level that I haven’t fully examined. No matter what I daydreamed about doing, art was always this ‘thing’ that I did; as a kid nobody ever clued me in that ‘artist’ could be a career choice.”
Megan: “Did growing up in Texas influence you artistically and how, if so?”
Jett: “I suppose it did, more in terms of attitude than actual representation of Texas imagery. In the dark nether reaches of my psyche there is a bold, bull-headed, no-nonsense, “kiss my ass if you don’t like it” bit of Texan brashness that finds expression in my work.”
Megan: “What art piece from which artist was a major driving force for you to start creating?”
Jett: “My first recognizable influence(s) would have to be comic books, primarily Marvel stuff from the late 60s and early 70s. When I was a kid I used to copy panels from my favorites as a form of autodidactic art training. The bold, colorful images, interesting perspectives, and the narrative aspect appealed to me much more than the traditional fine art paintings of Van Gogh, Monet, Dali, Thomas Hart Benton or Edward Hopper, although I came to develop a love for these cats later in life. When I first got turned on to the work of Robert Williams and the lowbrow art movement I felt that I had blindly stumbled upon art that REALLY spoke to me, with a voice even louder than comic books; art that spoke to a need to explore the bizarre inner workings of the artist’s mind rather than an attempt to capture a literal image of the world around them.”
Megan: “What did your “Surrealist Fish” series look like?”
Jett: “Loud, cartoonishly bright, with colors, patterns, and shapes not actually found in nature. Most of it was characterized by odd cropping and lack of perspective. Here, take a look…”
Megan: “How did you find your voice with 3D sculpture?”
Jett: “I never thought I was worth a damn as a painter. I was seldom ever satisfied with anything 2D that I created, and there was always a feeling that it was inadequate, incomplete, and somehow unfinished. I came to a realization, had an epiphany, in my mid 40s that I was doing it all wrong; I didn’t want to create images of things, I wanted to create actual THINGS. As my “surrealist fish” painting phase was winding down, I started tentatively making some small clay sculptures of fish and marine life and was much happier with the results than I had ever been with painting. My humor, my insight (what little of that there is), my skewed perspective, my visual sensibility…it all seemed to come together just the way I wanted it to. It kind of snowballed from there, and nowadays sculpture accounts for 99% of the work I produce.”
Megan: “I feel like I know the characters you’ve created with these figures. Are these based off of real people?”
Jett: “Sort of, but not really. Most of the human sculptures I’ve done I like to think of as cultural archetypes and composites rather than depictions of actual individuals. My piece “Billy F. Badass III” is a composite of every schoolyard bully who ever gave me —or you— a wedgie, tripped you in the hall, or threatened a beating or a slicing if you didn’t cough up your lunch money. As frightened as we were of him, we couldn’t help but wonder what sad upbringing or childhood trauma molded him into the vicious brute he is, and if the passage of time will change him. When I finished work on “Starlene” a friend of mine opined, “Great. You’ve sculpted a hooker.” Starlene is no hooker, though; although she and her thousands of sisters have seen many a dimly-lit pool hall and beer joint, she’s just another desperately lonely soul hoping and dreaming that —after kissing hundreds of toads— her next bar room encounter will be Prince Charming. Starlene is just as worthy and deserving of love as anyone else on the planet. “Ecce Homo, aka: Calvin” is a composite of several homeless winos/tramps/hobos I used to know when I worked at a convenience store near a homeless camp ages ago. Although there is a persistent image of ‘the homeless’ as a collective of miserable, morose, depressed and depressing individuals, I found my homeless customers to be —all things considered— happy, cheerful old gents with big smiles and a million crazy stories; men who kept pushing on as best they could despite having had fate kick them in the balls of the soul. One tiny detail that a lot of people didn’t pick up on is the brown-bagged can of beer in Calvin’s hand; if you look at the position of it you realize that Calvin isn’t about to take a drink; he’s offering YOU a drink. Only one piece from my website, “Stephanie le Patissier” is based, however loosely, on a real person. It was a graduation gift commissioned by a proud dad for his daughter who had just graduated from culinary school.”
Megan: “Tell us some details about your process from idea to completion?”
Jett: “It all starts with an idea, of course; anything from a suggestion by a commissioning client, to a deep exploration of an aspect of humanity, or an inspired musing of, “…wouldn’t it be cool if”. After playing with some sketches to be sure I’m on the right track, I make an armature out of aluminum foil, wire, wood and masking tape. The initial bulk of the sculpture is made out of Sculpy brand polymer clay (because it’s cheap and I’m poor), and the fine detail work is done with MagicSculpt epoxy clay. Usually I craft the head and all of the body parts separately and blend them all together in the final stages of construction. My work is painted with multiple layers of acrylic paint and sealed with varnish. Most pieces feature a cut and sculpted wooden base. The eyes on my sculptures are all reverse painted glass hemispheres, and occasionally if the curvature of the glass is just right the eyes appear to follow you as you move around.”
Megan: “What do you want to convey with your lovely, whimsical styled sculptures?”
Jett: “That’s a tough question. All of my work is unique and some are intended to communicate a very subtle unspoken message; some are political, some are emotional, some are deeply personal, some are rooted in Jungian psychology, and some are just a bit of fun. I’m generally a very quiet, reserved person —some would say dour and gloomy— in my day-to-day life, and almost all of my work conveys a bit of the concealed humor, bright wit, and playfulness that people only get to see if they’ve known me for a decent length of time.”
Thank you both for this wonderful and lovely interview! It was great to get to know a bit more about Jett and his inspiring creations! Be sure to find and purchase Jett’s work from his website at
Follow Jett On Instagram: @JettVBailey