Miami-based artist, Jason Seife initially made a name for himself when he designed Big Sean's famous lion Jesus piece. Then in 2011, Sean and directors Mike Carson and Mike Waxx commissioned Seife to paint the background for the "Dance (Ass) Remix" music video featuring Nicki Minaj. After working with Sean, Minaj, and creating cover art for Pharrell Williams and Mac Miller, Seife is now branching out into the fine art world by launching his brand new website The Departure Project.
When did you realize your love for art?
My love for art began at a very young age, when I was in elementary school my art teacher realized how well I drew and encouraged me to apply to a magnet school for art; I ended up enrolling. As I got older, there was a particular high school I really wanted to attend because an uncle of mine was an alumni. All through middle school I worked on building my portfolio with hopes of being accepted, and at the end of my 8th grade year I applied and auditioned. I got called back, but later found out I had been denied.
I took it pretty rough and ended up resenting art for a while, I picked up guitar and played in different bands throughout high school. After I graduated I was in a band full time and it wasn't until 2009 that I realized how much I had missed art, I gave up music and decided to pursue art full-time.
How did your relationship with Mike Carson and Mike Waxx begin?
In May of 2011, I reached out to Mike Waxx at ILLROOTS because I had been a fan of the site for some time. I sent him my portfolio and told him if they ever needed any artwork to let me know. It just so happened that I was heading to New York City while they were working on some stuff for Watch the Throne, we were able to meet up and we clicked really well. Thankfully they liked my work, and I was able to do some stuff for them and their ILLAMERICA line.
How did the Big Sean lion Jesus piece come about?
Mike Waxx reached out to me when Big Sean was looking for a design for his chain. Sean wanted a Jesus piece based around a lion, I jumped at the opportunity and sketched up three or four examples and sent it to Waxx. Sean really liked one of the designs, we made a couple of tweaks and Waxx took it to Jacob the Jeweler; the rest is history. Sean ended up liking the design so much he requested a color version for use on his logo and merchandise. The lion Jesus piece is what led to the murals that I painted for the "Dance (Ass) Remix" music video, which Waxx and Carson directed.
Have you ever considered doing a collaborative collection with any fashion brands? Who would you like to work with?
Yeah, it's definitely something I'm interested in. KAWS is one of my favorite artists, I especially love the way he's been able to take his art into so many different outlets. I wouldn't say that I have any particular brand in mind, but I do have a lot of ideas for incorporating my designs and artwork into clothing, skate decks, accessories, etc.
Who are some of the creative people that influence your work?
Some of my favorite current working artists are Daniel Arsham, Jose Parla, Takashi Murakami and, as mentioned before, KAWS. A few of the other creatives that have influence me and my process are Kanye West, Virgil Abloh, Pharrell Williams and Christopher Nolan.
What's the most difficult part about being an artist in the 21st century?
Thanks to the Internet I think there's very little difficulty in the 21st century, but it's a blessing and a curse at the same time. The Internet allows for you to get your work in front of others with ease, and finding inspiration has become a lot easier, too. But at the same time, the difficulty in it is the over saturation. It can be discouraging to an up-and-coming artist because being able to find your own lane can be very difficult.
On the other hand, I remember growing up and always feeling intimidated by the "art world." It appeared to be a high class club, one that you needed to be of a certain wealth, or family, to be a part of. I think nowadays that has changed a lot with so many graffiti artists becoming gallery artists, and with the incredible amount of young people beginning to show interest in the "art world." There's a really strong movement from young creatives right now and I'm glad to be a part of it.
Haha yeah, it's actually a funny story. When I was a kid I always used to get colors wrong when referring to my mom's car as green when it was actually blue. It was the worst with blue/green and red/purple. My mom just thought I was stupid and didn't know colors, until I went to the eye doctor and took a test, and failed miserably [laughs]. I was diagnosed at around 8 or 9 years old. It's not extremely terrible or anything, I can clearly tell the difference between a red and green stoplight [laughs].
It's common in some of my paintings for something I see as a dark green or subtle blue to actually be a bright teal to most people. But then again who knows, maybe I'm right and the rest of the world is wrong! Haha.
Tell me a little bit about The Departure Project.
I started The Departure Project in order to distance myself from boundaries as much as possible. In art, as in any creative outlet, people are quick to pigeonhole or label you. You're either a painter, sculptor, graphic designer, photographer, etc. I've always found it hard to stick to one medium or style. I like to evolve as much as possible, I like to try new things and refrain from being one-dimensional. I don't want my past work to influence my future work.
Some of my paintings are extremely different from my design work, and vice versa, so instead of having different sites for each, I wanted to have The Departure Project serve as an umbrella of sorts for all of my work. I love jjjjound.com, I wanted to create something that had a similar feel.
What advice would you give an up-and-coming artist?
One of the reasons I've been able to work with the people I've worked with is because I'm always willing to try new things. I think we as artists, a lot of times, can be selfish. We want to do things our way and sometimes you get stuck in a certain style; it can be hard to branch off and try new things. You should always be open-minded and willing to learn. The more diverse your portfolio, the larger the clientele you will be able to reach.
What are some of your goals and aspirations for 2013?
I would really love to show some of my work in a gallery setting, as I haven't had the opportunity to do so yet. That's at the top of my list of goals for 2013. Other than that, I just hope to keep learning and progressing as an artist - there's still a lot more that I can improve on. I thinks that's a crucial part to becoming a successful artist and staying relevant, I never want to rest on my laurels.