Nov. 4 was not just a good day for Democrats. It was especially fruitful for one fledgling artist in Ventura. Not only did his presidential candidate win by a near landslide, but it seems the planets aligned in favor of his career.
Ever since artist Scott Jacobs painted the president-elect’s portrait from his sidewalk studio in downtown Ventura, he has accomplished what few fledgling artists do: publicity, sales and exposure (albeit, very brief) in the Sylvia White Gallery.
The 22-year-old homeless artist has had an easel set up in front of It’s All Good Bar & Grill in downtown Ventura for several months, but it wasn’t until he began his rendering of an Obama photograph that he began to draw attention. Jacobs — whose forte is portrait painting, though he also paints perspectives and does some multimedia work — began his Obama piece in October, but decided quite auspiciously to finish it in public on election day.
Within hours, he was drawing attention from passers-by traveling by car and on foot. Soon the press jumped on it, and a city official, whose name escapes Jacobs, invited him to the Obama party at Sylvia White’s gallery in midtown. Jacobs and his wife spent their last few dollars on new clothes and headed to the gallery where his painting was displayed amid revelers from the arts community.
His goal for the piece, which he painted with acrylics, was to bring Obama to life on canvas. “People always paint politicians methodically,” he said, “I wanted to show Obama’s energy.”
Before Jacobs began living the artist’s life — painting from the street, living on donations and art sales — he was a Seabee, stationed in various locations around the U.S. and in Ethipoia, where he helped build a school and unwittingly ate cooked dog meat. During his tenure with the military, he was asked to paint a huge sign for the base in Africa.
But the artist’s life called, and Jacobs has been giving it his best for the better part of a year. Originally from the East Coast, he has traveled with his portable easel in tow from coast to coast twice.
His entrepreneurial spirit could serve as inspiration for local artists lamenting the tumultuous economy’s effect on the arts. But whether he’s actually able to sell the Obama piece, for the $100 thousand he’s asking, remains to be seen. Following his day of fame in Ventura County and elsewhere via the Internet, Jacobs could be found signing and framing a series of 50 multimedia souvenirs of his famed Obama painting. Using copies of a “Planet Ventura” photograph from VCReporter, bits of paint-stained cloth and a glue stick, the artist created what he hopes to be collectible renditions of his work. A deal with clothing manufacturer Greene Label is also in the works.
Jacobs’ presence on Main Street has garnered no complaints from merchants or city officials. He says it brings attention to businesses, and people see it as a positive thing, especially in a city so strongly identified with the arts.
Does his lifestyle get discouraging? Does he plan to get a “real” job any time soon? His answer is an emphatic “No.” To the contrary, Jacobs says if “I’m painting, I’m happy. As long as I can eat and have a cigarette, I’m good.”
E-mail Michel Cicero at firstname.lastname@example.org