One of the greatest artist of our time, Jean-Michel Basquiat has become yet again another staple for expression in our generation. His artwork was legendary, pulling viewers world wide, old and young, into his innovative world of creation.
But for most, Basquiat is just a name or just a painting. I myself fell in love with him after taking an intro class in the Visual Arts, and even more so after watching documentary The Radiant Child and viewing his exhibit in The Brooklyn Museum. His story was so inspiring, and can possibly relate to everyone.
Jean-Michel began from very humble beginnings, leaving home a teenager who’s artistic skill was self taught. He initially began his career by selling painted postcards and t-shirts, also garnering quite the street cred for his graffiti skills under the name SAMO.
Once he began exhibiting in his late teens, it was only a few years later that the virtuoso rose to fame as one of the first black artists whose art broke through the mainstream world. Often citing the black man as the protagonist in his paintings, Basquiat’s creations were numerous and undeniably unique. His aesthetic and techniques were almost above man’s understanding, but became recognized and cherished world wide.
By the age of only 25, Basquiat was at the peak of his career with greats like Andy Warhol and Keith Harring calling him friend. While his art was not always appreciated and accepted as it is today, Basquiat still made strides in the art field as his vision was so impactful.
Unfortunately, Jean-Michel died at the age of 27 leaving everyone to hold onto his work as the only thing we have left of him. But that’s not the only thing that’s left, we also have his story which can teach you just as much as his art can. And although there are many lessons to learn from life of Basquiat, here are just five:
1. There Is Beauty In Being Misunderstood
Basquiat was known for his impeccable use of symbols in his work, almost everything has a bit of crypticness about it, but I think that’s what makes him so powerful as an artist. As humans we all have this insatiable need to understand everything, and when something doesn’t make practical sense it’s scary or illogical. But I believe Basquiat’s life is a testament to the beauty in not always making much sense to anyone else but yourself.
2. Devoting Yourself To Your Passion, Pays Off
I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed someone, who worked as much on their art as Basquiat. He created so many pieces before his death, and had no problem with shutting himself out from the world and simply focusing on creation. Now of course there are some limitations to this, but I think it’s extremely important to be dedicated and disciplined in you what you want to offer the world. We all have gifts but it takes the right amount of effort to truly turn it into something. I like to say, “Don’t sit on your talent” and I don’t think there really as a moment that Basquiat did.
3. There is Power Creating From the Eyes of A Child
If you give a child a piece of paper and tell them to draw something, it doesn’t take them long to put something on that paper. They can literally go for hours, drawing, sketching, painting, just creating whatever images come to mind and putting it on paper. There is no second thought, there is no second guessing…. it’s just fluidity. Sometimes we put too much worry in our work, and not enough fluidity. Don’t worry about what looks good, or what will sell… focus on what is genuinely you in those first few seconds you pick up that piece of paper.
4. Do Everything With A Purpose
While it may seem that Basquiat’s creations are somewhat sporadic, he actually created with a sense of intention and purpose. He had something he wanted to say, and found a way to say it. I don’t think we put enough intention behind the actions we take, but it is important that we do. There is a reason you should be working, no matter what its on, everything has a purpose. Use that to motivate yourself.
5. Believe In Yourself More Than Anyone Else Does
Basquiat left home as a teenager, without much support of his visions and ideas. It took a while of course for his work to catch on but, just imagine if he decided to suppress his talent and just work a regular 9-5? (He actually tried once in his life and was so uninterested in that kind of work it left him in tears) Success, and not just monetary, begins with believing in yourself. So many times we are quick to knock ourselves down before anyone else even has the chance. Love yourself and your ideas, because how else will you make them into anything if you don’t even believe in them?
Visit @basquiatart on Instagram to see artwork by the artist!