The Language of Art


The Artist With The Unforgettable Painting Style Talks About The Inspiration Behind His Portraits – Jayson Atienza

Jayson Atienza is a Filipino-American artist based in Shanghai. He’s known for his instantly recognizable signature painting style, which he originally developed by combining watercolor and ink. With a background in advertising, Jayson has worked with numerous well-known multinational brands.

At heart, though, Jayson Atienza is an artist. In his series, The Language of Art, Jayson takes a closer look at the signature style he developed while a student. The collection explores Jayson’s detailed work, each piece in the series a magnified deconstruction of a particular square inch from a past work.

These abstract pieces are delivered in fresh, color-saturated acrylic, and articulate the small decisions in Jayson’s process that form his unique style. And it’s this same technique that he has used to create a set of portraits of famous people. CNCREATE recently caught up with Jayson, and asked him about the inspiration behind the series of portraits he’s done of some of the most recognizable faces in the world.

Nelson Mandela

Q: How did you start doing your own style of artwork?
A: I developed my art style during my foundation courses at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I double-majored in Graphic Design and Advertising, and my coursework included painting, drawing, sculpture, and mixed media among other classes. I experimented with various styles during figure painting exercises, that eventually lead to my development of the meticulous ink and watercolor style that is my personal signature.

Darth Vader

Q: Why did you start doing portraits of famous people and what was the inspiration behind each portrait?
A: The famous people that I paint all have something in common. They have inspired me through their myriad contributions to society. These tremendous icons have shaped our cultural landscape. Mother Teresa inspired us to open our hearts; Muhammad Ali pushed us to be our best; Barack Obama shattered racial barriers; and The Beatles will always rock. I paint these icons as a tribute to the color they have brought to the world. My portrayal of these people is an expression of gratitude, and the colors I use to portray each icon represent my perspective on their energy.

Mother Teresa
The Beatles

Muhammad Ali
Barack Obama

Q: What made you choose the certain people you painted? Was there a story behind each one?
A: Many people I have painted stand for confidence, courage and unwavering strength. I admire these qualities and tend to gravitate toward cultural icons who embody these characteristics. These people help push culture forward.


Q: When you start each portrait do you paint the subject in the way you see them or in the way the world sees them?
A: I paint each subject the only way I can; as I see them. The world gets involved in the viewing and interpretation, but the creation process is all mine.

Adam “MCA” Yauch

Q: What advice would you give to any artist who does portraits?
A: Stay true to your art, because the people you are portraying will appreciate seeing themselves through your unique lens.

Kanye West

Q: Who would you like to paint next in terms of Chinese icons or people now who are in the spotlight?
A: Yao Ming and Kermit the Frog.

Manny Pacquiao

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