Jason Longstreet

Q: Tell me about your journey into comic art.
A: I started out professionally as a color artist for Shot in the Dark Comics about 10 years ago, but I’ve collected comic books since I was a kid. I soon realized it wasn’t as much for the stories but more for the art. I grew up collecting as many Dan Jurgens, Michael Turner and Todd McFarlane comics as I could get my hands on. I would try to collect art books and tutorials they put out in libraries or the rare comic book with sketches in them. To this day, I watch Todd McFarlane do his live tutorial videos on his Facebook page.
I never expected to meet these guys in person, let alone be attending comic book shows as an artist myself next to them and trading art prints with them. I still get starstruck sometimes. I’m a fan first. I recently had Mark Kistler from “Imagination Station” approach my table and ask to trade artwork with me. He said he was hoping he’d find me there. I was so struck, I could barely get the words out enough to say hi and shake his hand.

Q: What kind of art training do you have? Is this something you were always interested in?
A: I’ve always been interested in creating art. When I was growing up I would watch my grandmother, Jill Longstreet, for hours as she was creating her masterpieces. She was a real inspiration for me to improve my skills. In 2003, I went to school for graphic design, and they taught me how to use Photoshop and Illustrator.

I used this to my advantage and took my skills as a graphic artist and put them to use as a digital painter. Having a traditional art background with the tools of Photoshop really helps keep me grounded as an artist. I’m still traditional, but have endless colors and tools at my disposal working digitally. I still try to learn something new every day, whether it’s watching tutorials from my art mentors online or experimenting in Photoshop myself. I am always growing as an artist.

If I’m not, I’m probably bored and need to challenge myself somehow. My painting “Senua” is a great example of this. She has face paint, leatherwork and fur in her costume, three elements I struggle with. The challenge keeps me interested, and I benefit from those learning experiences more often than anything else.

 

Artist Jason Longstreet visits with guests to his booth at the Cedar Rapids Comic Con in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Q: The “about” tab on your website doesn’t have anything on it. Is that kind of thing hard for you to write?
A: It is. I never know what to write. It’s something required as an artist or graphic artist. You have to sell yourself. Most of a freelance artist’s career is spent marketing his or her own work, and being in the advertising and marketing business for over 20 years has not helped me in that matter very much, unfortunately. Sometimes, I even recruit my artist friends to write that stuff for me.

Q: You paint a lot of portraits of women. What do you find interesting or appealing about the subject?
A: A couple of years ago, I vowed to myself to strictly paint women. I wasn’t seeing women represented as often as I had seen men as strong leads. At least, they weren’t as popular. They were around, but not represented in mainstream media. I’ve always been attracted to the idea of a female hero lead in a story. I see this more and more today than I have in the past, but we still have a very long way to go. I get requests all the time to paint a male lead, and I consider it, but I feel like all of my hard work would be lost if I deviated from painting women.

Q: Have you ever provided an “artist statement” for your work?
A: In the past I used to provide statements for each piece I created, but I soon realized everyone is going to form their own opinion of my artwork anyway, whether it’s negative or positive, and what I had to say didn’t really matter. I even often find myself changing my opinion of a piece after it’s completed.
These days, I put her out there and allow everyone else to make up their own mind on how they feel about it.

 

“Senua” by Jason Longstreet

 

Q: The “about” tab on your website doesn’t have anything on it. Is that kind of thing hard for you to write?
A: It is. I never know what to write. It’s something required as an artist or graphic artist. You have to sell yourself. Most of a freelance artist’s career is spent marketing his or her own work, and being in the advertising and marketing business for over 20 years has not helped me in that matter very much, unfortunately. Sometimes, I even recruit my artist friends to write that stuff for me.

 

Q: Tell me about the trade shows you’ve been to. Do you have fans?
A: When I was in the 4th grade, I drew a couple of pictures. I think one of them was a shark and the other a spaceship. I set up a table in the yard and put up flyers down the street that I was selling my artwork and to come to my yard to buy it. I remember a bunch of people telling me I was crazy and people won’t want to buy it. I ended up selling the shark for a quarter. Today, I’m basically doing the same thing only on a much larger scale.

Yet, there was a large period of time in my life in between then and now where I wasn’t creating art. I was focused on family and my children. I thought I should settle for the maintenance job I had at the time, and I would work construction jobs and cashier on the weekends at a gas station. I was OK with that at the time. I never expected to attend a comic book convention as a fan at that point in my life. I realized later that it wasn’t a selfish decision to pursue my own dream; it was required of me to show my children they could do it, too.

I bought tickets to the Minneapolis Wizard World Comic Con and brought my two boys with me. It was a dream of mine that seemed so far out of reach for me while I was married. I didn’t know how other artists would react toward me, and I was so nervous approaching them to talk. I bought my first piece of artwork from Chrissie Zullo; she has worked for DC and Dark Horse, among others, and I was terrified meeting her. She was so happy to talk to me, and I felt so welcome there. I truly felt like I was in my element. As soon as I returned home, I inquired about the next show. It was in Madison that same year, and I applied to have an artist table, not expecting to ever be accepted, but I was. I had three prints and a couple business cards, but I pulled it off. After that, I started meeting new artists, creators and actors, and I was hooked.

I’ve done 12 shows since then, and I have at least one appearance per month lined up across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Kansas City for this year. I always feel weird when people seek me out at a show. I have a small social media following, and I am very tight with my followers. I see them more as friends than fans. I kind of get flustered when people find me at my table and are excited to see me. I get excited to meet them, and we kind of geek out together.

Q: Explain to me the scope of what you’ve accomplished. Where are you now, and where would you like to be?
A: My first challenge was finding a niche to identify myself. I needed a subject and a style. I struggled with this for years. I finally starting seeing a style coming through and conversed with my peers as to what I should claim as my own. There was no doubt I wanted to paint women, and that idea quickly turned into a series of paintings over the past two years, and now I have an identity in the art field.

Being invited to be a special guest at shows was huge for me. I’ve had to turn shows down because I have other shows to do that same weekend. In 2017, I was a guest at Chapel Con in Albert Lea, Minn., and I met a group of friends there who introduced me to a whole world of shows outside of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

One of those artists is now my fiancee, and we have done an entire year of different art shows and conventions around Iowa and southern Minnesota. Eventually I hope we can both do this full time.

Q: Are you interested in teaching art? Do you do art activities with your children?
A: Whenever I do a show, I always get approached by kids interested in learning how to do what I do. I love when this happens. It gives me an opportunity to give them tips and hopefully inspire them. I usually give them some free artwork and tell them to keep going with it no matter what.

I have three children myself, and my two boys, ages 12 and 17, have both taken interest in art. I recently bought my 12-year-old the same Wacom Tablet I use. He does commissions online for his friends, and my oldest boy designs characters for people he knows for online gaming. My daughter is an award-winning and published photographer. Sometimes I think they are more successful than I am.

Q: Tell me something you like about Duluth.
A: I’ve lived in many different areas across the United States throughout my life, and compared to most of those places, Duluth is unique. What is most attractive to me are the hiking trails and the lake. I am a fan of the wildlife we have here, and I love getting out there and experiencing that as often as possible. I love walking the boardwalk in Canal Park in the summer.

Q: What hobbies do you enjoy?
A: When I’m not home painting or travelling for shows, I am often found playing video games, playing Magic the Gathering or going to movies in the winter and hiking, biking and swimming in the summer. However, the hills we have here do challenge my bike-riding quite a lot.

Q: What are you reading right now?
A: I am collecting the Batman White Knight comic book series and trying to finish “The Walking Dead” graphic novels by Jay Bonansinga and Robert Kirkman.

Find Jason Longstreet online at artstation.com/bluejay20 or squareup.com/store/jlongstreet.

— DULUTH.COM

Duluth artist Jason Longstreet (right) meets Ant Lucia, an artist for DC Comics.