Instagram: @jay_durrah
Facebook: Jay Durrah’s Art, LL
Cheverly, Maryland

Jay durrah

Tell us about yourself
I am a self-taught modern-day impressionist artist originally from western PA. I have a B.A. in Political Science from Howard University. I have been practicing the art trade seriously for 9 years. Prior to that I used to always say that I would paint more if only I had more time. God was listening, and I got laid off from my day job in 2009. Since then I obtained another day job but have maintained my efforts to become a successful artist.

What kind of art do you do?
I paint portraits using multiple layers of vibrant colors.

How did you get started & how long have you been doing it?
I started drawing I guess when I was about 9. My grandparents were very crafty. My Grandmother knitted, crocheted sewed and made quilts. My Grandfather made model cars and boat, hooked rugs, made decorative leather belts, wallets and keychains and wall art out of beads. I especially liked assisting my Grandfather. During my daily visits with them I often pursued the many magazines they subscribed to. One was the TV Guide. In it was an ad for an art school with the image of a cartoon squirrel. As I recall, the caption stated, " if you can draw this, you too can be an artist." Well I did, and with my Grandfathers encouragement, I have been drawing ever since.

How do you work?
I generally start paintings by putting down a sketch on the canvas. I either paint with water-based oils or acrylics, and I either use a flat brush or a palette knife. I apply the pigments thick to create texture.

How has your practice changed over time?
I was a photo realist when I first started to paint portraits. When I rebooted my art career 9 years ago, I was looking for something unique. I knew that my portraits would have to be colorful but wasn't quite sure what I was going to do. I painted a blue rectangle on the cheek area and continued in this fashion with different colors until "Multi Colored Man" was complete. A few more paintings were done with the colorful rectangles. Then I tried applying colors with odd shapes, Finally I realized, I could get a similar effect of the rectangles by just using single strokes from a flat brush. The palette knife gives me a freer stroke and produces a slightly different affect. 

Do you pursue themes?
I pursue themes that turn into series, but rarely do I paint series in a set amount of time. I might know that I want to do a series or theme, but I generally bounce around between them. It could take years to complete a series. I have created a jazz and blues series, historical figures series, family series, couples’ series, dance series and ancestry series. My dance series sold the quickest

Is your life expressed in your art or vice versa?
My art expresses my passion for music, dance, history and family.

What message would you like to convey through your art?
The use of multiple colors represents the multiple ethnicities within each us and society that come together to form something beautiful. It takes all the individual strokes to come together to become a powerful piece, as in our world it takes diverse individuals that make society stronger.

What’s integral to your work as an artist?
I feel my colorful pieces brighten any room where they are displayed as well as the people that occupy the space.

What has been a seminal experience in your career?
I pray to have multiple seminal experiences as an artist. To date i would have to saying a live piece before thousands of spectators in the GA Dome during the Honda Battle of the Bands and displaying my art at the US Embassy in Rome.

What’s your favorite piece from your collection?
That is a hard one because of loved so many of them. I would have to say Stand Up Base Blues because I incorporated much of the background into the piece as well as the bass player. I did not have it for long, but the owner is a friend of mine, so I try to visit often.


Where does your inspiration come from when you are working?
I previously listed some of my passions that normally inspire me. Sometimes, I just see someone who I know will make an interesting portrait.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
This applies most of the time: to be a better painter, apply more paint.

Professionally, what’s your goal?
To have permanent pieces in the National Portrait Gallery.

What obstacles have you faced as an artist? What obstacles have you had with getting more people to know about your work?
Not having the luxury to be a full-time artist, I have to share my spirit with mundane work-related activities to provide for my household. I lost opportunities because I could not totally commit to art projects. Also, I sometimes feel that not all curators, jurist, gallery owners and collectors appreciate my style. I accept this knowing that many love what I do. So I try not to take the occasional rejection personal.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
I offer lay-away for those who are interested but need more time to pay for original art.