Interview with Diego Jacobson - Artinterview online 2008
October 15, 2019
Diego Jacobson is an emerging artist who began to paint in 1999, after completing a Masters in Practical Spirituality. His paintings are an outlet for his subconscious thought and spirituality. They are composed in an abstract expressionist style using brush and drip techniques.
Taking his initial inspiration from the paintings of The Beatles band member Paul McCartney Jacobson has developed a very fast style – working with acrylics and spending only a few hours on each painting. This has led to a vast body of work which he promotes with advertising campaigns in major magazines such as Art News.
In 1988, Jacobson began running his own business selling cloths to the U.S. government. The financial stability this presented has allowed him to paint leisurely. Jacobson had his first show in Galleria Calle de Cristo in San Juan, Puerto Rico and to date he has had over 25 solo exhibitions internationally. Diego Jacobson is currently living and working in Palmas del Mar in Southeast Puerto Rico.
Diego Jacobson: I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1964. My family moved to New York when I was 2 years old. Then, when I was 10 years old I contracted a condition called Dystonia, which made it very difficult to walk and write. When I was 13 I had brain surgery to cure it – which was obviously a major event in my childhood.
Art Interview: What did your parents do for a living?
Diego Jacobson: My mother was a psychologist and my father was in the government contracting industry. He started off as a sewing machine mechanic and ended up owning his own business.
Art Interview: Was your family relatively affluent?
Diego Jacobson: No, not until I was 15.
Art Interview: Did your family encourage you to become an artist?
Diego Jacobson: No. When I was young, I drew, just like any other child. At some point I stopped because I judged it as not very good. When I began to paint in my thirties, I drew just like I did as a child. Now, I consider that to be my style.
Art Interview: How old were you when you started seriously working as an artist?
Diego Jacobson: It was 1999, so I was 35.
Art Interview: Did you study art?
Diego Jacobson: No. I started to paint when I finished a Masters program in Practical Spirituality, which in essence taught me not to judge. It was then that I felt free enough to draw without worrying if my work was good or not. Soon I began to receive positive responses to my work and someone suggested that I should show my work professionally.
In addition to working as a professional artist I have owned a business since 1988 selling clothing to the government.
Art Interview: Were you living in Puerto Rico at that point?
Diego Jacobson: Yes, when I was 15 my family moved to Puerto Rico and my father began his business. After I graduated from high school I went to Clark University near Boston, Massachusetts. Then I moved back to Puerto Rico.
Art Interview: Were you working for the company that your father owned?
Diego Jacobson: I started working there, and then, after 3 years, began my own company.
Art Interview: Was your business established by the time you began painting?
Diego Jacobson: Yes, it was established in 1988 and I started painting in 1999. Things were going very well with the business and I started to spend my time on other things that interested me, such as painting and music.
Art Interview: How have you been able to balance running a business and working as an artist?
Diego Jacobson: Well, running a business is another form of expression for me. Also, I don’t have to depend on the sales of paintings in order to live. I have the freedom to paint what and when I want.
Art Interview: Did you have any role models who inspired you to become a painter?
Diego Jacobson: I was inspired to begin painting when I got hold of a catalogue of paintings by Paul McCartney. This shifted my perception of what art is. Before that period I thought of art in terms of Goya and Rembrandt – who never really moved me. But when I was introduced to abstract expressionist painting it shook me. I began to really appreciate art and started researching artists like De Kooning and Picasso.
Art Interview: What steps did you take to work as a professional artist?
Diego Jacobson: I had about 100 paintings completed when a friend of mine, who is an artist, invited me to put some of my paintings in his show. Afterwards I received a write up, and one thing led to another. I’ve done about 25 solo shows around the world now. It was really just a question of getting started.
Art Interview: How did you develop your painting style?
Diego Jacobson: The first year and a half I tried to find out what my style was by painting a bit of everything. I found that abstract expressionism worked really well for me. As I’ve learned various techniques I have incorporated them into the paintings. I started to do drip paintings by accident. I normally do not use a palate. I was putting some color directly onto my canvas by dripping it. I really liked it and thought it would be bold to just leave the painting as it was. People really liked it too, so I started to incorporate dripping into my other paintings. I try not to be formulaic. I like to create new processes and new forms of expression. I am always looking for new ways to paint.
Art Interview: What materials do you prefer to work with?
Diego Jacobson: I like to paint with acrylic on canvas because I paint fast and a lot. I have done various oil paintings but they are very slow to dry and they smell strong, so I prefer to paint with acrylic as they dry in an hour or so and then I can continue.
Art Interview: Why do you create art?
Diego Jacobson: Because I like the magic behind it, for me it is a mode of expression. I channel energy into the paintings and after an hour or so when I feel it may be finished, I look at it and start to see faces and objects in it that I did not purposefully paint. Each painting takes on a life of its own. It’s like a Rorschach test – where you put some ink on a piece of paper, fold it in half, open it and ask the patient, ‘what do you see?’ Some people see an ocean whereas some see an animal – the paintings are the same, but each viewer brings their own interpretation to it. I feel the paintings express a communication with the spectators’ subconscious. It is through the subconscious, through intuition and emotionms that we communicate with spirit. I have had shows in universities where art professors have come to see my paintings and have started crying – to me that is magical.
Art Interview: Do you find that your subconscious comes through unintentionally onto the canvas?
Diego Jacobson: Absolutely. Often I am not aware when it happens, sometimes I will look back at a painting and realise what was going on in it. There is a combination of conscious and subconscious processes going on to produce the end result.
Art Interview: Have you ever produced a piece of work and felt that it was too revealing?
Diego Jacobson: No.
Art Interview: You studied practical spirituality – how does that experience tie into what you are doing?
Diego Jacobson: I studied practical spirituality, which is not religion. The most important thing I learned from it, like I said before, was not to judge. Everything is perfect in its own imperfections. It is not up to you to judge or consider why it is perfect or not. Often I think that I finish a painting in one session, but sometimes I will continue on another day. That is perfect too.
Art Interview: Do you work on multiple canvases at the same time?
Diego Jacobson: I try not to, I like to complete things. Sometimes if I am not happy with a painting I will start another and then come back to it. I do not sign a painting until it is finished. As long as it is unsigned I still give myself permission to paint on it.
Art Interview: Has your experience working in business given you an advantage in building an art career?
Diego Jacobson: My goal is to show my work. I only sell to a particular clientele, which is why I have produced reproductions that can be bought at very reasonable prices. That is the business part of it that does not have anything to do with art.
Art Interview: Do you find that you have to split yourself between being a creator and a promoter of your work?
Diego Jacobson: Absolutely – they are 2 very different functions.
Diego Jacobson: I am relatively lucky in regards to my painting. I paint quickly, so it becomes more of an event. I usually have a painting done within a couple of hours, so I have time to paint during the week after work and at the weekends. If I did realism or painted with oils and used processes that took hours and hours, I would have great difficulties. I am very lucky in that respect.
Art Interview: Was time an issue that you intentionally considered?
Diego Jacobson: I always wanted painting to be fun. So, it was my intention to create an enjoyable process.
Art Interview: How many paintings do you have in storage at the moment?
Diego Jacobson: I have about 1100.
Art Interview: How many shows do you have in a year?
Diego Jacobson: It varies between 3 and 6 shows a year.
Art Interview: I see that you exhibited at the Miami Art Fair and the Florence Biennial.
Diego Jacobson: That is correct. The good thing about shows like that is that so many people visit them and see the work. Often people will come to the show, see the paintings and walk by. Other people look at the painting and they stand and stare at it and start discussing it. To me a painting is about that interaction – my mission is to give people something to take away from the work and shows are a great way of reaching out to as many people as possible. Doing these shows is a great experience. I met loads of great people from all over the world, and get to see a lot of good art.
Art Interview: Do you try and combine your travel for the art exhibitions with work for your business?
Diego Jacobson: Whenever I can I do. A lot of my business is done in North America, so when I have a show there I can combine them, but when I show in South America or Europe I do not really have many opportunities to do so.
Art Interview: What differences stood out for you between showing in New York, Puerto Rico and The Dominican Republic?
Diego Jacobson: Well they all tend to like different things, but within that, I always seem to find people who like what I do. I have not had a bad reception of my work anywhere. In places like The Dominican Republic or Argentina, I have something similar to a cult following, where hundreds of people come to see my work and it is like a happening in the gallery.
Art Interview: Why do you think that you have such a strong following there?
Diego Jacobson: I am not sure. I think it might have to do with the vivid colours that have a Latin American feel to them.
Art Interview: What is your most important goal today, apart from letting people see your work?
Diego Jacobson: My immediate goal is to finish my book.
Art Interview: How are you going about producing your book?
Diego Jacobson: I am producing it myself. It takes a long time to select the images as I produce so much work that there is so much choice. I can put around 80 in the book and have around 1100 paintings to choose from. I also have to have written the accompanying essays, which take a lot of time. It is going to take about a year.
Art Interview: Have you chosen a company that will put the book together for you?
Diego Jacobson: No, I have a graphic designer who is composing a draft for me. When I have that done, I will present it to some people to see what they think. When I have a clear idea of what I want, I will take it to a publisher and see who wants to print it.
Art Interview: How has your reception from art critics been?
Diego Jacobson: Unanimously good. I have not had any harsh criticism. Maybe I am lucky in that I have had the right critics looking at it.
Art Interview: What is your opinion in general, of art criticism as an art form?
Diego Jacobson: I find that some of the art critics say things and I am not really sure what they are saying. They talk about concepts that are very abstract to me. On the other hand, there are the critics that express very clearly what they like and what they do not like – I prefer that type.
Art Interview: Has anything that an art critic has said ever helped or hindered your career?
Diego Jacobson: Before a show, I present the paintings that are going to be exhibited to the critics and they will review them. If they write that they like a certain aspect of my work, I try to do more of that, but that is the extent of their influence really.
Art Interview: What would you say has been your most important success to date?
Diego Jacobson: Show-wise, I would say the show I did in Argentina in 2006. It was a great show – 52 paintings and 8 charcoal drawings in a beautiful space – that got great critical reviews. I also really enjoyed the biennale in Florence last year. It was full of great artists and there was a favourable reception of my work, with lots of interviews that were shown around the world.
Art Interview: What do you consider success as an artist to be?
Diego Jacobson: For me, success is when people tell me they like my art – it is people telling me that they feel something when they look at my art and are moved by it. A successful career, however, is a different story. A successful career is one that makes money.
Art Interview: Do you see being an artist as a viable career option?
Diego Jacobson: Yes I do.
Art Interview: Do you have any advice for other artists?
Diego Jacobson: First, paint a lot. With every painting, you aquire experience and improve. Then, document your work really well and ensure the photos of your work gets to the critics and hopefully they will start writing about you. With the photos of your work and the essays that the critics have written, put together a professional looking catalog and get that into the hands of curators, critics, collectionists and museums. It is important to show your work to as many people as possible. You can then define success as to what it means to you (ie. Critical acclaim or sales).
Back to News