West Palm Beach artist Jason “JaFleu” Fleurant was so profoundly affected by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, which left an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 dead and many more displaced on Jan. 12, 2010, that he had to do something to channel his emotions. So, Fleurant started to create.
“When the earthquake happened in Haiti back in 2010, something just took over me,” he said. “I couldn’t stop creating and in that, I found my calling or maybe my calling ended up finding me.”
Fleurant, 33, is a self-taught painter, but thinks his gift is greater than what he has learned so far.
“It started with me drawing what I was seeing on TV and then my friend Yanatha recommended I try painting on canvas, and the moment I did, everything changed,” Fleurant said.
“My family is from Haiti. So that feeling of knowing I had family and friends in the midst of it, that powerless feeling devastated me,” he said.
Fleurant believes it was a spiritual and artistic awakening. “That’s nothing but God,” he said. “The ancestors and spirits, whenever I create. I’m just the vessel.”
“I’d say the universe (had a plan). I didn’t go to school for it,” he said. “It’s all been from trial and error. Practice makes perfect, so I just kept doing it and doing it and in the process developed all my own unique styles.”
Although he explores imagery and an array of colors in his paintings, no image or color really excites Fleurant in particular. “I tell people all the time I have no earthly idea what I’m doing,” he said. “I just kind of go with the flow and whatever happens, happens.”
Fleurant, however, admits that color has always played an important role in his life. “I’ve always loved color, and that may be tied to being Haitian because in Haitian art there is often (many colors),” he said. “The only real conscious decision I make when it comes (down) to it is always trying to use blue and red somewhere in honor of Haiti.”
Fleurant has had celebrity encounters and is slowly gathering a following for his artwork. “My brother Jamaal ‘Visualist’ Clark and I (believe) if there’s a door cracked, we’re going in,” he said. “That mentality has led us to meet and give artwork to the likes of Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Jill Scott, Swizz (Beatz) and more.”
Fleurant and Clark were at the Drink Champs Podcast where they got to meet Hip Hop star Noreaga and DJ EFN, which led to a meeting with music producer Swizz Beatz, Fleurant said.
“One minute I’m just chilling in the back and next I look up to see Swizz walking directly towards me. He didn’t even, at the time, know I had art,” he said. “For whatever reason he just walked directly to me and started talking. So then I told him I had this painting I wanted him to see. We unrolled it and he digged it.”
Fleurant said he envisions himself becoming a version of Walt Disney, Dr. Suess and Stan Lee. “Art is cool, but I don’t really care for the art world or just making paintings,” he said. “I’ve come to use all my artistic skills now to be able to create my own books — be it family books, graphic novels or more. I’ve created and fallen (in) love with my own characters and I want to bring them to life.”
For more information about Fleurant, visit jafleutheartist.com.
Q & A
What are your hobbies?
Honestly, I don’t have any hobbies. I think some would view art to be, but that’s my career and therapy, too.
What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
I’d have an exhibit of my works and wander around and listen to people’s true thoughts on it. That was always a dream that nowadays seems even more less than likely.
If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
Stevie Wonder — he’s hands down my favorite artist in all genres. I’d love to pick his brain.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Paul Fisher once told me “Never wait to get your (expletive) together.” Too often we say ‘I’m going to do this or want to do this, but first I must do this.’ But, life is too short and the universe conspires for you when you move towards your dreams.
What event in history would you have liked to have witnessed?
Not so much an event but the whole movement of the Harlem Renaissance. From the artists going to Paris to get their props and coming home and banning together. I’d love to have been amongst that.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
Being at the kitchen table while my mom cooked and drawing ninja turtles and other cartoons that she too loved. Those were awesome memories that still stay in my head. Even when I quit art as a teen well into my adult years.
Who is your hero, someone who inspires you?
I’ll take that back to Stevie Wonder and the reason being, for someone to have no sight but see the world so clearly and create art that means so much. It’s inspiring and a reminder anything is possible.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
How heavily I battle depression and mental illness. I used to be ashamed to say it. In fact, this is definitely the first time in any interview I have. But it’s important to address that, particularly in the black community. The arts have been very helpful with it and speaking to someone (about it) (with similar issues).
What three things would you bring with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
Music, art supplies and books and I’m good to go. I spend a lot of time outdoors, so I’ve grown accustomed to that.
By: Kyoto Walker Special to The Palm Beach Post for the Palmbeachpost.com | November 29, 2017