Jaii Marc Renee is an artist and Hartford native. He has always gravitated towards art since he was a child and is an artist who is very open in discussing his battle with self-esteem and mental illness while pursuing his art journey. Content creator Karrington Trice spoke with Jaii Marc and asked him a few questions to learn more about his journey as an artist and his goals for the future.
When did you realize that you were an artist?
"I would say within the past month or two as I’ve been doing things and growing over the past few years. I’ve always done art since I was a kid, but I kind of fell out of it and I just got back into it about 6 years ago. I would say within this past month or two when I was talking to my partner I mentioned, ‘I feel like a real artist now.’ It seemed funny and he said, ‘you are an artist, you’ve been doing all this stuff.’ I think I realized it with everything that I had going on within my art career. I had several different projects happening, my name was starting to get recognized, I had people reaching out to me and people that recognized me from social media. I think because of the recent success is when it hit me that ‘yes, I’m an artist.’”
In your bio, you mentioned you started drawing cartoons for family and friends. What inspired you to begin drawing?
“I have always watched cartoons, especially as a kid. I wasn’t really the type of kid who was always outside. I liked to stay more inside. One day I picked up a pencil and started drawing to pass the time. I currently paint and don’t draw as much now but that got me started. Just recently, my nana gave me a folder of pictures I drew when I was a child. When you look at those compared to what I do now, it is such a change. But I think I just always gravitated towards art.”
How has self-esteem played a role exactly in your journey with creating art?
“To be honest, I feel like the role that self-esteem played for me, held me back. I have always dealt with low self-esteem and doubting myself. And even to this day, I think that has contributed to my mental illness. I am very open about the fact that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I feel like the aspect of self-esteem has always been a troubling factor for me. Regardless of how many people compliment my work and support me or give me praise, I just never felt good enough. It has always been a challenge to fight through those self-doubting thoughts and ultimately keep going and pushing forward.
Whenever I think I cannot do something, I have had to ask myself, ‘Whoever told you that?’ I have had to sit there and think, ‘did anyone ever say that you were not capable of doing this, besides yourself?’ And the answer is, no. It has always just been me being hard on myself.”
What advice would you give to others who may be struggling to find their style?
“I struggled with finding my own style for many years. I think what helped me was trying everything. Try different things. There is this stigma in the art community about copying other people’s work, but I think that if you’re doing that and not trying to make a profit from it, it is okay to try new things and new techniques. When I started creating, I tried emulating other artists and tried their techniques, and eventually, that molded me and shaped me into having my own style. Don’t be afraid to try.”
Who are some of your favorite artists?
"I have two particular artists that I really look up to and that inspire me. If you look at their artwork and then look at mine, you can see the parts of their style that inspired me. Peter Terrin is an artist based in Mexico. He does large-scale works and uses palette knives and materials that I like to use in my large creations as well. I also like Kre8, an artist from Florida. He really specializes in mixing figures with abstract splash and techniques like that. I really look up to those two and where they both are within their careers.
I’m not too much into the traditional artists of the past. I prefer to support living artists because I am a living artist and I want people to support me as well. I don’t really gravitate towards traditional art and consider my art non-traditional. “
What was your last art show like, and would you do anything differently for the next?
"I have had three art shows so far. I think my first art show went really well. I had it at City Hall in Hartford and there were many people I knew that came out to support. I think I sold two pieces there. My most recent show was in September, and I remember reflecting on that. When I did my first art show, I knew nothing. I did not have a background and hadn’t even been to an art show, but I decided to put together my own. I learned that you should not wait for others to find you. You do not have to wait on galleries and museums to reach out to you. If you want to do it, do it.
My second show was in 2019. That show was even more successful. I sold about eight or nine pieces there and it was a lot of fun. The show I just had was at Work_Space in Manchester and the attendance was not as great as my last two shows, but I think that could be due to the pandemic. Everything still went well. The space was great, and I sold a piece to someone who was walking by, who wasn’t originally attending the show. He mentioned one of my pieces really caught his eye and resonated with him. Another woman commented that she really loves the way I portray black people in such a positive, beautiful way in my work. It felt touching to hear that and nice to receive support from strangers.
I only do a show once a year, but I am thinking of maybe doing a pop-up show somewhere. I recently had a venue reach out to me about doing an art show and having my work displayed for a longer period of time. I am thinking of doing that next spring.”
What is next for you?
"I am working on a project with CT Murals. Murals are new for me, and I am working on my first one in Hartford. It is very new, exciting, and challenging as hell. I think what is next for me is really getting into this new network and working with other artists while perfecting my skills with murals. I have met a lot of great artists since joining the team at RiseUp and everyone is really nice. It feels great to have that network of people who create and understand what you do, the challenges that come, and the hard work that is put in.”
What is your biggest goal as an artist?
“My biggest goal is to do art full-time. That has been my focus and what I am working towards. With my current job, it has been nice to have that feeling of security as I have been with my job for many years, and the income from art is not always consistent. But I am trying to figure out this balance and gain the confidence to put myself out there to get more work and make that a possibility.”