[Ed. Note: The following is a transcription of a studio talk Jonas gave to a group of visitors recently]
This is my area. It’s my sacred area. In last two days I’ve made seven new paintings here. I’ve been inspired by these quotes (pointing to the quotes on the wall) as well as these from Stewart Cubley:
“Don’t go with what your mind thinks, go with what the painting tells you.”
“The creative block is both a locked door and a key,
depending on how you use it.”
“The mind acts reasonably, intuition is wild and unpredictable.”
Intuition is the tool that I use mostly. It’s listening to that little voice that says, “Don’t do it! Go red.” But the mind says: “But red doesn’t belong in this painting”! “Go red”.
Don’t listen to your mind. Listen to your intuition.
“But they’re not going to like it!”… “Who cares!”
“But you won’t sell it!”… “Who cares!’
“But don’t you want their approval?”… “No! Go red!”
So, you listen to that voice. That voice says, “don’t do it for the approval of others”. Do it for yourself. Be true to that creative energy that comes through. I’m always giving that talk, especially to young artists because they all try so hard to look good. That’s what they teach at art school. Do a good painting.
Yes, if you want, learn composition, how colors mix, how to do forms and shapes, how to do far away vs. close, and then let it all go! Picasso gave us great two-fold advice. He learned and learned and learned and then he un-learned and un-learned and un-learned. He said that he spent a major part of his life unlearning what he learned. It’s a lot more valuable once you learn it and then you unlearn it. But how do you unlearn something? Interesting question, isn’t it?
Asheville gave me the permission to let it all go… to let go of all the rules… lots of different rules in all kinds of categories.
Let me tell you some of my old rules:
“I should do more of this because this sells.”
“I should do more of that because that looks good.”
“I should go to art shows because this particular city sells better than that city.”
I said no more rules “I’m going to stay here, and I’m going to let it all go.”
And then, what happened? They all came here. I didn’t know that Asheville was such a tourist town. 95% of our sales are from people that don’t live in Asheville. I had no idea. I just knew that this was the right place. Also, in this area whether it’s the Smokey Mountains, the waterfalls, the crystals or the arts, the very atmosphere draws positive energy to you. Asheville is a sacred, magical, blessed place. As soon as I arrived I felt it in my bones. My intuition said, “This is it”.
About a year later, I found this place [the studio]. It was occupied by another gallery that was having a terrible time. This place did not work for them. So they moved out and I said, “I’ll take it. Are you kidding? I love it”!
They used the front loading dock as a parking space. We added tables and chairs like a café. We use it for art, we have art on the walls, and plants and flowers, and of course music. We transformed the space. It’s very charming and lovely. It’s been one sweet adventure after another.
We have a continuous flow of visitors from all over the country, and also from various parts of the world checking out the River Arts District. We’re so lucky to have the Clingman Cafe right next door. People bring their coffee from next door and sit around and enjoy. It’s fabulous: the music, the art, the colors, the ambiance, and the loving atmosphere. It’s very inviting and relaxing. We encourage that.
Have you seen the maps inside? It’s a map of the United States and a map of the world where you can pin the spot where you are from. It’s fascinating to see where folks come from. Check it out!!
I’m very grateful to Asheville for what Asheville has given me. About 2 years after I arrived, a film crew from ABC Television’s 20/20 came here and said they wanted to do a story about Asheville.
“20/20? Are you serious? What?” The program was called “Happiness.” They were doing a whole hour show on happiness and Asheville had just been named “The Happiest City in the United States”.
Eric Weiner from NPR wrote a book called The Geography of Bliss, it made the New York Times bestseller’s list. In his work he traveled the world in search for the happiest places.
In his book he talks about the happiest country (Denmark). The happiest city in the US is Asheville and the most miserable place in the world is somewhere in Russia. Some miserable, horrible, depressing town… Very interesting.
He was part of that hour program, and I was on it for a little bit. They spent 2 hours filming me. They edited me down to just a few minutes. Which was very good! On national television, just imagine!
Guest: “I want to know how you value what you do. I mean, if I want to look at that piece, how do you know that it’s worth $100 or $10,000”?
Jonas: “Well, I’ve developed a very simple system. I have three categories, A, B and C. Each category has its price by the square inch. So the paintings are priced by size. That really simplified things a lot. I always keep my prices very reasonable. We don’t do discounts anymore. We do time payment plans. If you can’t afford it, we work it out”.
Recently someone purchased a “reasonably priced” painting and they said: “Jonas, I stole this painting from you!” And I said, “Great! I’m glad you got it”.
Guest: “How long have you been in Asheville”?
Jonas: “Five years, and four years in this building. And it’s been, what can I say? Wonderful, just wonderful. Here’s the secret. I don’t go into worrying about this or that. What you think about, you bring about. When you worry, what you’re worried about will happen. It’s good not to worry. It’s good not to be involved in the negative aspects of what’s going on out there. The recession and all that can really take away from the sweet energy we’re all experiencing right here. So we don’t go there”.
Guest: “And you’ve been doing this five years in Asheville. It’s been a pretty tough five years”.
Jonas: “It was supposed to be, but it wasn’t for us”.
Guest: “That’s what I’m saying. So you’ve managed”.
Jonas: “I’m always experimenting so the art is always fresh and exciting. I have a fabulous staff. We think positively. We think in terms of abundance and when the money goes down, down, down, down and payroll is due in a few days, I say let it go. And if someone says, “But-!” I say, “Let it go.” And then someone comes in from Dallas and says, “You know, I just came from Dallas and I heard about your painting. How much for that one…. and this one? Can you ship those two by tomorrow?” The day before payroll, isn’t that a blessing? We are so grateful. Saved at the eleventh hour before they pull the switch! It’s amazing. It’s just totally amazing”!
“Any burning questions inside? Who’s a painter? Is anyone an artist”?
Guest: “I am”.
Guest: “You’ve given me some inspiration. Just don’t worry about it. Just do it”.
Jonas: “That’s it, you’ve got it! Let it come off your brush, right”!
Guest: “I love your color. Your color is fabulous”.
Jonas: “I tell you, it’s the consciousness you give to the color, because anybody can buy those colors. Anybody can buy canvas. And you can put it on, and it’s just basically color on canvas. It’s what the artist does with it. Where is he coming from? Is that red everything that he feels? You want to kiss it and eat it. You love it so much! You want to smear it on your face. You have to have that kind of attitude”.
“And then, when you paint with that, and it’s red – that red, whoo! And then, next to it is a beautiful teal, and the way they work together, the way the envelope each other. I got some great ideas from the Hubble Telescope photographs”.“Painting a landscape is a lot easier than doing an abstract because you have some kind of an idea of what you’re going to paint”. With abstract, you’re dealing with not knowing, you’re painting what’s inside you. And I don’t mean what’s inside your mind. You have to be willing to explore what’s inside. How do I know what’s inside? Well, you don’t know! So you find out. How do you find out? You look at your colors! And that shade of yellow stands out! No idea why. But yellow says, “Me!” Okay, so I pick it up. What are you going to do with it?
Well, one of my great teachers Stewart Cubley said to me, “Jonas, your job is to get out of your own way. You don’t have to know, what it’s going to look like, because the brush knows. Trust the brush.” Okay. So it goes. It’s letting go. Allowing the intuition to guide you, instead of being the doer.It’s a bit tricky at first but slowly you begin to enjoy the painting process calling you to make some new discoveries. You’re just the messenger, so to speak. And, in this way things happen. It’s really mind blowing! With time, and practice, practice and practice paintings just bubble up on their own, all by themselves.
So this is what this place is all about.