Profile

Introduction

Before creating this profile page, I referred to a number of profiles on various artist websites hoping they would give me some insight on how profiles should be written. What surprised me, was most of the profiles were written from a third person's point of view. I decided not to do so. Not only because I made this site myself and am the only one writing in it, but also because I felt it appropriate for me to be present at my own introduction, especially if my viewers went through the trouble of finding my site and were interested enough to click the profile button. Since this is where my viewers may possibly relate or connect to me, I felt I should make it as personal as possible. With this idea in mind, I got a tad carried away and my profile ended up becoming a sort of biography. I, more than anyone, am surprised at the amount I had to say. However, actually putting it into words has helped me grasp a better understanding of how I ended up where I am today. It's long winded and a struggle to read but since this is the formula for me being myself, I decided to leave it at its original length in the hope that a hand full of you may be just curious enough to read it through to the end.

Childhood

I was born on February 4th 1980 to a British father and a Japanese mother. As a child, I loved to draw and make things, even more so than watching TV at times. I'm guessing it was due to my genetic background. My English grandfather used to craft furniture, my grandmother made clothes, my Japanese grandfather built bridges, and my uncle drew illustrations. Currently my father writes books and my brother creates apps. In a family like this, it is a challenge not to be creative...

However, the definitive incident that made me want to become an artist occurred when I was 5. I may have glorified this memory over the years, but that incident marked the birth of a new identity. Due to my cultural background, I spent my childhood in both England and Japan. The thing about being multinational, especially in the '80s, is you are foreign where ever you go. In Japan, I was referred to as a gaijin (foreigner), and in England I was referred to as Chinese or sometimes Turkish. Not being able to fit in, in addition to the language barrier I was experiencing from juggling two languages, lead me to become one of the quietest kids in the class, always hiding in the corner of the room trying my best not to be noticed.

One day our teacher gave us a task and said we could play with anything in the room upon completing it. There were dolls, Lego blocks, Transformers, and a sandbox. That day, I was the first to finish so had the freedom of choice, which is actually quite stressful for a quiet kid, as we usually play with whatever that's left over. I really wanted to play with the transformers but I knew the bigger and stronger kids would want to play with it later and I wanted to avoid any conflict. So I made a typical quiet kid decision, which was to do something that no one else would want to do. And that was to draw on the blackboard with colored chalk. So I went to work and started on a colorful townscape, and as I expected, all the other kids rushed to the toys so I had the entire blackboard to myself.

As I progressed, a tingling sensation at the back of my head made me realize I was being stared at. I, the quietest kid in the class, was attracting the attention of everybody in the room. When I finished, the teacher was so pleased with my work that she stuck a "do not erase" message next to it and left it there for a week. The effect was tremendous. Everybody wanted to talk to me for the first time in my life. Girls were flinging themselves at me and the class bully wanted to be my best friend. I remember students in a higher grade even approaching me and asking me to draw an "egg man" to prove my skills (when I did, their reaction being "wow, he's good..."). The next time we were allowed to play with anything in the room...all the kids rushed to the blackboard.

From this time onward, I was no longer the foreign kid. I was the artist. Such identity lasted well into the following year, and my painting of " The Iron Man" by Ted Hughes (not Robert Downey Jr.) was put up on the wall of the local library. My teacher then put in a word to my parents and told them I may one day tell them I want to pursue a career in art, and if I do, they should let me...so they did.

Education

At the age of 7, Our family came to Japan and I attended an international school. Here too, I succeeded in displaying my skills and acquired the identity of class artist. Although our trip to Japan was only supposed to be a transfer for a few years, my father decided to quit his job and stay in Japan to pursue his dream as a writer, ironically at the same age I built this website and decided to pursue my dream as an artist. Ever since then, Japan has become my permanent home lasting until today.

Although my dream as an artist wavered through elementary and high school, to writer, football(soccer) player, and pop star, by the time I graduated I was back in my old shoes and decided to take a foundation course in art in England. Here was where I first experienced the bitter taste of failure. Being the best drawer or painter in a class filled with random students is a completely different story to trying to become one among a class filled with former best drawers and painters. I had lost my identity...and together with it, my confidence and motivation. However, I did gain a new identity...the class piss artist, which unfortunately also lasts until today...

That winter, I attended my friend's Christmas party at her parents' house. Despite their Irish origins, her mother was a Buddhist and was fond of everything Japanese. She was also famous for her ability to "see things". She lured me and my Japanese friend to her lair filled with Japanese dolls and festive Japanese music played in the background. As we sat down, she stared at me and told me she can see wood and that it was protecting me. My first thought went to my carpenter Grandfather who died 3 weeks after my Dad was born. Then, she turned to my friend and told him he is protected by a collector of boxes. Surprisingly enough, his late grandmother used to collect boxes with pictures of Mt. Fuji on them. In the midst of her increasing credibility, she told me I was on a rowboat heading in the right direction, but for some reason was trying to let go of one oar. I knew exactly what she was talking about and I had to do something about it.

After I finished the foundation course, instead of staying in England to proceed to my major, I decided to return to Japan. Studying art in England was fun but it was all about letting out your inner self. "Today let's draw with our feet" sort of classes. Now, I can understand the significance and importance of such teaching method. But in order to become the best of the best, I felt it was necessary to concentrate on developing my skills. It was time to learn the basic principles, methods, and rules of painting, and when it comes to learning rules, Japan was definitely the favorable choice. The year after graduating from the foundation course, I took a two year course in a Japanese college, and majored in oil painting.

The painting method I learnt required lots of preparation and endless layers of paint so the process was extremely time consuming. However, I could now paint photo-realistic paintings to a level I never thought I could achieve. After graduating, I was set to pursue a professional life in painting...or so I thought...

Adulthood

Without a clue on where to begin, I started work as a designer at a publishing company. This only lasted 3 months due to the murderous workload and I became a freelancer at the age of 22, as my experience at the publishing company led me to believe working as a full time employee would deprive me of any chance I had at becoming a painter. It was during this time that I learnt how to make websites with the help of my brother. I wore many hats over the years, working as a part time translator, English teacher, art teacher, illustrator, designer, and web creator. But I had also succeeded in gaining a few painting jobs - pet portraits.

Since I didn't have the business or marketing skills to promote myself, I registered my name on a pet portrait website. I was one of many artists and my paintings were set at the highest price of 100,000 yen (approximately 1000 dollars) per painting. Even so, I received an average of 1 order a month. Although this marked my first step as a professional painter, I faced a serious problem. As I mentioned earlier, the painting method I chose to pursue was extremely time consuming. Including preparation time it took me about a month to finish each painting. A month glued to my easel unable to accept any other incoming work. And of course, the pet portrait company took 50% of my earnings, so my months income was 50,000 yen at the most... It was time for plan B.

By this time the world was experiencing the SNS revolution. I, as many others, registered an account on an SNS site and participated in a number of communities that interested me. One being a multiracial community. My encounter with this community led to an idea that occupied my attention for the following three years.

Through interacting with fellow artists within the community, I noticed how their mixed backgrounds influenced their style of work. That was when I realized the impact culture has on art. Remembering back to my own experiences working as an illustrator and designer, I realized how both my Japanese and English clients often shared a common impression toward my work - that my style looks foreign.

Every culture has their own distinctive style of art, whether it be painting, music, architecture, or fashion, and our artistic abilities are strongly affected by those cultures. If you ask someone Japanese to draw a picture, the odds are they will produce a manga-style drawing, whereas you ask an American to do the same, they will produce something resembling the Simpsons. We are all affected by our cultures and upbringing whether we like it or not. Then what sort of art will someone brought up in a multicultural environment produce?

Based upon this concept, I started a multiracial art group. We started with 6 members and our first exhibition got featured on the magazine "Metropolis". In two years, the group grew to 300 registered members. We held events every few months, the biggest in which presented the works and performances of 50 artists. I was interviewed for magazines, radio programs, and a newspaper. I devoted all my time in managing the members and making sure each event was a success...but there was a flaw in the plan... I wasn't an artist any more but an event planner. Moreover, a volunteer event planner as most of our earnings were used to host the events, and the little revenue we raised were stocked for future ones. I was so busy organizing that the artwork I exhibited was lazy, sloppy, and unfinished. I was now in my late 20s and it was time for plan C. The decision many artists end up facing...putting their dreams aside and getting a "proper" job.

Present Day

That was back in 2008. Since then, on the down side, I lost a significant amount of hair, but on the up side, I got a job at an IT company as a web designer and worked my way up the ladder to become the manager of the web marketing department. I got married to a beautiful Finnish/Japanese wife, who I met at the multiracial community, and am now a father to two adorable kids.

It took a lot of courage to admit to this, but looking back, I remember how relieved I was to give up my dream as an artist and get a full time job. The honest truth was that painting wasn't fun anymore, but a burden. The more I think of it, the more I realize I was set on this path back on that day when I was 5 and discovered a way to be recognized and make friends. Art was a means to impress people rather than express myself and I had spent a lifetime trying to keep up to an ever increasing standard I believed people expected of me...and I just couldn't keep up anymore. As my responsibility at both work and home increased, although I continued to accept illustration work, I gradually pulled myself away from any other artistic practices, until three years had passed since my last painting.

Then why the website?

As much as I love my job, my colleagues, and the responsibility, a chain of events led me to realize just how much control I didn't have over my life. And at the beginning of 2017, I burned out. As of April 2017, I decided to periodically use up all the paid holidays I accumulated over the years so I could acquire time for myself.

During this self time, I started to paint again. And this time...it was different. I wasn't painting to prove anything. I was painting because I purely wanted to, and with a pang of nostalgia, I felt the innocent kid inside of me emerge. The one who loved to draw and make things purely because he wanted to. It reminded me of Picasso's famous quote "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." Then, my mind was set.

I decided to ignore every painting technique I learnt over the years, and start from scratch with just one thing in mind - enjoy it. After four months of experimenting, I started work on this website.

Whether I will succeed as an artist or not is something time will tell... but somehow that's not the point anymore, as I am more content than I've been in a long time - I even cut down on beer! All I can say is that now I am ready to present my work and myself to the World. My only regret being that I couldn't present myself with a full flock of hair...

Jamie Belton Profile