By Lauren H. Dowdle
Photos by Mary Tweedy
Jon Osborne uses not one, not two, but three types of paint in his pieces.
House paint reminds him of his southern roots and upbringing in rural Davenport, Alabama—an aesthetic of his humble beginnings. “House paint makes everything look warm and helps me to tell the story of hometown,” he says.
The spray paint he incorporates shows how energetic he is now in his life. “I’m very vibrant and grateful, so I wanted to pay homage to that.”
And then the acrylic paint represents where he’s going in life and has a permanent, matte style to it. “Each paint style plays a part aesthetically in telling the stories I want to portray in my paintings,” Jon says.
While his style fits in no single box, he thinks of it as redemptive contemporary that’s been inspired by folk art that started with painting on found objects that helped him express a narrative. “I like to share stories of positivity or redemption in my work, whether that’s something personal to me or a story of someone else who was able to overcome something,” he says.
A creative child growing up, Jon remembers always having his hands in something artsy all the way through school. He majored in fine arts with a minor in graphic design at Alabama State University before transferring to Trenholm State Community College to earn a graphic communications degree.
“I’ve always had a big imagination, and most everyone in my family was artistic—though more music-wise,” he says. “I used that to help the time go by when I wasn’t doing homework or chores. It kept me busy.”
Jon transitioned to a professional artist in 2016 and now paints full-time from his home in Shelby County. His pieces can be found in Design Supply at Pepper Place and Art On 7th in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Both Jon and his artwork have evolved through the years, from mostly smaller pieces to the larger, more detailed paintings he focuses on now.
“At first, I was creating art for fun,” he says. “Now, it’s turned into something I was meant to do.”
Besides his humble beginnings, there’s something else that contributes to his artistic style—something that’s much more personal. Recently, Jon discovered he has synesthesia, meaning he experiences one of his senses through another—though putting into words what it’s like is difficult.
“If you play music, any genre, I see the colors and lights in lines, shapes, etc.,” Jon explains. “Sometimes, my artwork comes to me in my dreams. But most of the time it comes from my synesthesia now, which inspires me to illustrate how it unravels and evolves.”
His pieces allow him to focus on something he’s passionate about, while also giving him an avenue to connect with people. “I’m able to touch people with my artwork, and I feel very fortunate that art has that ability,” Jon says. “I’m also able to share the story around the piece.”
One of his favorite pieces he’s created is called “Liberation.” As the name suggests, it set him free from his own artistic insecurities, allowing him to open up and also talk with other creative friends.
“It was a piece where, at the time I created it, it clicked to me that part of my purpose was to create,” Jon says. “It was a validation and a spark for me personally that what I was doing was right and that it was alright to be an artist.”
Jon meditates before he paints, drawing artistic inspiration from music, imagination and identity—sometimes using the lyrics of a song he’s listening to as the title of a piece. His first round with a piece is where he can let himself play and see what comes out. Then, he goes back to see what he’s created to better define what message the piece is portraying. “Ultimately, I want to tell a story at the end,” he says.
While his audience may be growing around the Birmingham area and beyond, the message he hopes to instill in each piece stays the same. “Most of my work has a little happy ending. I like to uplift people, and I use vibrant colors as a metaphor for that,” Jon says. “I would love to use a bold choice and step outside of the box. That’s how I use my imagination.”
To view or purchase Jon’s pieces, visit jonosbornejr.com or follow him on social media at @jonosborneartist.
Healing through Art
Following an assault in 2019, Jon’s synesthesia was enhanced, and he decided to take a break from painting because it became overwhelming. Now, he says he’s learning to incorporate this neurological condition into his artistic style. “It’s a blessing,” he says.
During his own personal healing, Jon explored being more vulnerable in his purpose and his perception. He wanted others to have that opportunity too, striving to bring awareness to art therapy and creativity—especially for the younger generation. He says he often sees children who have gifts or think differently but aren’t allowed to explore that side of themselves.
“To get through my traumatic brain injury and the rehabilitation around my incident, I had to learn how to speak again, comprehend, balance, everything. I had to create,” Jon says. “It changed my life to be an artist. It helped me to heal a lot, and that’s why I pushed.”
Having walked that journey, he can understand and identify when anyone is dealing with their own struggles, whether that’s from an experience, recovery and/or disability. But Jon says there is healing through art and music