Sunday, July 7, 2013

Jason A. McHenry

Name: Jason A. McHenry

What do you do?
I’ve been an artist for all of my adult life and one of the projects that I’ve been working on for years is called One Thousand Thousand. The idea behind the project is to create an edition of one million original pieces of art. So for the last 20 years or so I’ve been plugging away at this goal and I’m just recently nearing the first third of the way to a million. [As of right now the final count is just shy of 325k paintings.]

Where can we find your work?
I’m pretty good at keeping the project website updated with images of the latest pieces and you can always see the work online at
A number of new and recent pieces from the project are currently showing at KALEID Gallery and I try and replenish the sold pieces and rotate the pieces with new work as often as possible. I would like to stay on there as long as I’m able. In addition to KALEID Gallery I try to make the work available at various art events like SubZERO Festival and at South First Fridays. I’ll be showing at South First Fridays in August and September for sure. There are usually pieces available for sale as well.

What inspires you to create and how do you keep motivated when things get tough?
I’ve been really thinking about this question a lot after recently spending some time visiting with other artists at SubZERO Festival. The whole One Thousand Thousand project was borne of the idea of doing something that would serve as a motivator to continue making art. It was initially just a little creative exercise that served as a way to experiment with ideas and colors and composition and all of that and over time the little pieces ended up looking better than the other work that I was trying for at that time.
In terms of this specific project I am motivated to work almost every day now. Some by the excitement of it and some out of necessity since I announced to the world so long ago that I planned on making a million paintings and want to put my money where my mouth is , so to speak.
But ultimately, when I look back on this project and the body of work that I’ve done so far I feel tremendously inspired. It’s remarkable to look back and see how my own styles and approaches have evolved over time and that’s the part that inspires me the most. It’s cyclical in a real way. Motivation to create will invariably produce inspiration. Honestly, you just have to keep at it. If you’re an artist then make art. For good or for bad you need to just keep going at it. Trying new things. Figuring stuff out. Something will come of it.

What do you think is more important content/finished product or technique/process?  
In some ways I am inclined to say both are equally important. It’s obvious that what we see first with a piece of art is the content/finished product. The visual aspect is all that a lot of people ever see. “It looks nice. It’s not done well. I don’t get it.” Looking a bit more closely at who created the thing and how they did it and can be the part that makes a piece of art so much better than just the sum of the visual elements themselves.
But there is also this aspect of art that is not so easily defined. I call it ‘soul’. Sure, a work might look amazing. Or some technique the artist used was head-shakingly incredible. But if it lacks soul the art just doesn’t do it for me in the long run.
[This is a tough question. I could go on about this topic forever. No kidding.]

Who are some people who influence and/or inspire you?
I may be confusing the artist or where I saw it but I think it was at an early Henry Darger show in Chicago that I saw this piece of wood that just had layers of paint on it. It was cut in half so you could see all of the different layers of paint that had been applied over the years. The thing was a couple of feet tall with paint layers and colors and it looked like the ring section of a tree in a way. Marking time with paint. Darger also cut out the Nancy and Sluggo comic strip from the newspaper every day and would paste them into pages of a phone book. Like, four strips per page and the book was just unmanageably big when it was full. He did this more than once.
That sort of dedication to a goal or project has always been impressive to me and was a very early source of inspiration for the One Thousand Thousand project.

If you could be any fictional character who would you be?
Seymour Glass. With very little hesitation.

When do you get your best ideas?
Looking at art. In galleries and shows and museums and books and magazines. I love seeing what other people have created and that generates ideas for my own work.

What materials/tools do you use most to create your work?
Mixed-media in the strictest sense of the word. I don’t play favorites when it comes to art supplies and truly do work with just about everything. I’m a fan of making great art with little.

Are you self-taught or formally educated? How do you think that has influenced or affected your work?
Both.I went to a Visual and Performing Arts high school and later studied Fine Art in college. Still, in the long run I’d call myself self-taught. I learned just about everything that I find to be valuable to me as an artist are things that I learned on my own or from other artists. For years I said that I was doomed to spend the rest of my life trying to unlearn the things they tried to instill in me in school. I feel like I’m better for being my own judge of things. Art is pretty personal that way.

What would your creative work taste like?
Horchata. Or maybe Guinness Extra Stout. It’s probably a liquid of some sort. And it’s got to be simple and comforting. Something proletariat. So, yeah. Either of those would do.

When you are not creating what do you like to do?
It doesn’t get much better than being on some road trip or long car ride listening to music that you love.

How did you learn to access your creative talents and gain the confidence to put it out there for everyone to experience?
It was a necessity for me. My childhood was kind of crummy and I knew I needed something to support me emotionally and spiritually and intellectually. Art provided that and I believed that since I was a kid. So I pushed towards that with all I had and I’m better for it.

What advice would you give others just beginning their creative adventures? 
I’d say that creating art will invariably make you feel big and strong. It’s some kind life in and of itself. You’ll see and learn new styles and techniques and mediums and you’ll hate some and fall in love with others. You’ll find success by accident and you’ll fail miserably when you try hard to succeed. But the opposite will be true too. Just like life.

Like Hunter S. Thompson said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”


  1. i like your tips and explaining style its great i like mixed media and one thousand thousand.
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  2. Glad to see your still on your way to a million. Keep it up.