The Flow of Jonni Cheatwood

A look into the studio and creative process of the internationally renowned painter-sewer.

Jonni Cheatwood's giant canvases line the walls of his space in a warehouse-converted-studio-artist-community. He's hunched forward on a wooden work table with a calm, casual smile. His all-black outfit is interrupted by random pops of color, from the paint scuffed on his clothes to the paint that covers every inch of his workspace. Color is everywhere—the signs of someone whose been at his craft for years.

Cheatwood's "thing" (as he describes it) is to sew patches of fabric together, making the backdrop for his painted work. He prints on these fabrics—from nostalgic photographs by his wife's grandfather to old graphics to Gucci patters. As we discussed, 17 different fabrics made up one of his current canvases. His paintwork is Cy Twombly, Pollock-esque; a refined-graffiti thickly plastered in perfect chaos.

It's clear, Cheatwood's work is not "Christian"; at least not in any direct sense of the word, nor in its symbolic implications. For Cheatwood, the action of painting is the act of faith.

"As far as my actual [paintings], I don't know if I see a one-to-one connection to God. Like, you can't see [my painting], and be like 'oh there's a cross in there.' But the act of painting, that's a reflection of my faith."

"Action" becomes apparent as Cheatwood begins the creative process. He mixes some white-paint on a large glass panel. He cakes a brush in the mixture and walks up to one of the canvases, applying methodically. He walks to a second canvas, painting there as well. The process repeats, again and again, Cheatwood walking from canvas-to-canvas in a rhythmic theatrical dance. He ends up applying paint to six different canvases in total.

"It's just my 'thing,' I gotta be working on like six paintings at once. I don't know; it's just my thing."

When asked if he feels "called" to painting.

"Well I think just making work is what I'm supposed to be doing. I don't feel called to painting specifically. I feel the calling to do work, if that makes any sense."

"Everyday changes. Today I have to build frames and stuff like that, and some days it's just stretching canvas. Some days it's only sewing. Some days it's going to the fabric store. Some days is getting art supplies and doing administrative stuff, which I hate doing but, yeah, there's really no set day. Every day changes."

There's a flow to Jonni Cheatwood. Flow in his ease of jumping from building frames, to sewing fabric, to painting. Flow in his ease of painting from one canvas to the next. But, also, flow in the sense that he can come off as so care-free and, at the same time, be so dedicated to the process of "doing."

"[Painting] is about repetition, but I'm also just to the point where I'm curious to see what next and then from there, like the repetition that happens after that. And so it's just, I don't like using the word evolve, but like, it's kind of like evolving —I want to see how much deeper I can go as an artist."

Words and Images: Bryan Ye-Chung
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