Thursday, April 06, 2006

Meet Jeffrey

This is Jeffrey and he is a commercial artist who specializes in airbrushing, comic books and portraitures. Jeffery was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri and discovered his artistic talent at age six while drawing from a coloring book. He is self-taught and did not have the opportunity to take art classes when he was in school. As a young adult Jeffery made his money in construction, industrial, and assemblage work. About six years ago he began to focus his career on art. Jeffrey purchased a "how-to" tape from Aztec Airbrush Company and started painting basic lettering, cartoons and portraitures on t-shirts, caps, and license plates. He began to sell the merchandise at flea markets and then at fairs. He and his, now, ex-wife traveled to fairs in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio in a car that had a personalized license plate with both their names airbrushed on it. Jeffrey would airbrush the merchandise during the fair and felt comfortable as an audience of people watched him.

Jeffrey also makes comics. In 1985 he made his first violent comic book. He had never read a comic book before that point. He created the character Pandemonium Panda and obtained a copyright from Washington D.C. "Panda got locked up for drinking too much, getting into fights and then I had him steeling and breaking into stores to get alcohol and all of that stuff. "  At the time Jeffrey didn't really care about the consequences of Panders actions but included them in the story so they didn't look one-sided. He also wrote a comic about a little girl who ran around killing people. He enjoyed the process of creating comics but only showed them to a few people. Occasionally he would hand them out at fairs or leave them on the tables at a library.

In 2001 Jeffery caught pneumonia and almost died. He was extremely ill, went two weeks without eating, couldn't talk or walk and started remembering things from his past. He knew that he was close to death before he went to the hospital to receive a diagnosis. Jeffery did not think he was going to survive until he started thinking about his ex-wife. "I hadn't heard from her so it gave me a strong will to keep going."  Jeffrey recovered and as a result of the experience stopped making violent comics and began to create stories based on positive miraculous miracles.

One of his recent comics, 'Bryon's Well', was based on a true story that he read about in Readers Digest. Bryon is a young boy who learns about African children who are becoming ill and dying from polluted well water. Bryon becomes a hero taking it upon himself to solicit donations on the Internet. He raises enough money to help several communities in Africa build clean wells. Another comic is called 'The Unfortunate Family Disaster'. "This is about a baby that is in a car accident with her parents and the parents die and the baby gets out of the car and crosses the interstate. She was about five years old and didn't get hit, and I thought that was quite unique considering how big that interstate was. And somebody picked her up and they found out who the relatives was and the relatives resumed the responsibility of raising her."

Jeffery says his comics are similar to soap operas because each book is a continuation of the same story. Jeffery focuses on people that are extremely ill and who have less fortunate lives. He says those are the type of people who gravitate towards him. Panda Pandemonium is still a character and narrator in his recent work, but he does get into as much trouble. Panda is confronting HIV, which Jeffrey based on the life of his real-life friend. In one book the warden accuses Panda of trying to spread HIV within the jail. Panda objects to the claims but later in the story writes to his wife asking if she would still have sex with him. Jeffery read something at the time about the high risk of spreading HIV and how it recommended using condoms. Most people that he knows have a real problem using condoms because they find them uncomfortable. As a result there is a lot of disease that spreads in his community. Helping others and spreading awareness about these issues gives Jeffrey the motivation to make comics. He is also working on confronting his own problems day-by-day and is recovering for a drug problem. He recently attended church, something he has not done in over twenty years.

Jeffery went back to school for his GED a couple years ago which improved the grammar in his comics. He loves to write and says that he expresses himself better on paper. Jeffrey just applied to take online classes through the Art Institute of Minneapolis. They are sending him an art test for a scholarship. When he was fourteen they offered him a scholarship but he did not find out until years later. His mother had answered the phone and told them that he was not interested. She didn't want him to depart from the house. He says she did not encourage nor discourage him from making art, she just never said anything about it. At the moment he takes commissions for realistic portraitures and says that Norman Rockwell is his favorite artist. His weirdest portrait commission was drawing a nude transsexual. Jeffrey hopes to receive a grant that he recently applied for so he can start another airbrush company and move on from there.

If you are interesting in a commisioned portrait by Jeffry please let me know and I will put you in contact with him.

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