There comes a time in every artist’s life when he or she must decide if art sales can pay the bills efficiently or if another career must be pursued to make ends meet. For Jarid Lyfe Brown, a painter who set out to make art his life from the beginning, the latter choice was necessary. Now, after a long hiatus from painting and showing regularly, a door to the Columbia arts scene sits in front of him again, wide open.
Jarid will show his thoughtful, vibrantly colored, light emulating paintings — many of which depict animals that possess human-like qualities — at Frame of Mind: The Art of Eyewear this month, a move that he says should open doors to more shows, give him exposure and perhaps lead him to live his dream as a full-time artist. “Mainly, I just love painting,” Jarid says when asked how he feels about his re-emergence onto the scene. “I’m excited about painting again.”
Born in Atlanta and raised in the Columbia area, Jarid says he had a knack for drawing as a kid and was encouraged by his teachers to pursue art. In high school, he drew faces with charcoal and discovered oil painting, which is now the only form of art he creates. (“I love the workability of oil,” he says. “It creates a romantic feel and I like the fact that it won’t dry up on me.”) He attended the Savannah College of Art and Design for two years, where his experience was similar to that of a small town actor arriving in Hollywood.
“I was used to a small group of artists, and there was a large group there,” he says. “You realize that you either have something special or you blend in.”
Jarid returned to Columbia in 1994 and immediately began showing his art. He won awards at the South Carolina State Fair and had exhibits in Columbia’s downtown library, Lewis+Clark gallery and Haven’s Gallery as well as at festivals in Sumter and Myrtle Beach. He says he sometimes showed at venues that weren’t his first choice, but did so anyway for the sake of getting his art noticed. “I sold out sometimes,” he says. “I just wanted to paint and show.”
Realizing that he had to do more than sell art to pad his bank account, Jarid began a career in the construction field, and other than a few commissioned pieces here and there, he put his painting aside and let the years go by. However, art was always in the back of his mind. “There probably wasn’t a day that went by in those years when I didn’t think about it,” he says.
Construction work was financially satisfying; he acquired a two-story home in rural Gilbert, where he lives with his wife of four years, Anita, and their 16-month-old son, John Michael. Now 34, Jarid has taken up painting again in his attic/studio, which is filled with large easels that he’s turned into works of art — a green cat’s head, a peach bird-woman in a mossy green dress, two deep purple and salmon pink elephants embracing one another amidst a night sky. So, why do animals keep reoccurring in Jarid’s paintings? It turns out that they are a reflection of himself.
“They’re portraits, and some of them are stories,” Jarid says, looking around at his works of art. “Most of them are self-portraits.”
One work that is certainly a self-portrait is a jungle green elephant displaying a tender expression and posture. Jarid says the elephant represents the expectations others have of him to be masculine, yet sensitive, as a man. “Elephants are huge, yet gentle, and that’s intriguing to me,” he says. “Every man wants to be strong, yet is pulled in directions to be sensitive.”
Some paintings show more than a single animal — in one work, a giraffe, dog and turtle stand near a fence under a night sky containing a crescent moon. Jarid says the scene represents a night in his life just after he ended a relationship, and when he walked outside, the moon shined in the shape of a crescent. The giraffe, which towers over the other animals, represents him if he were able to look ahead into the future. “That night changed my life,” Jarid says, adding, “I do night scenes because of the drama. When light hits something at night, it’s beautiful.”
Jarid typically begins a new work by sketching it onto paper, then translates it onto the canvas, painting in layers. While he sets aside time specifically for painting, Jarid says he sometimes works all night on pieces when he feels he “can’t stop.” He often comes up with ideas while laying in bed, whether they be “the little instances in life that make you happy or the moments in life when you’re sad.” He adds that many of his works act as time capsules.
“When I capture it, I can look back on my mistakes and also on the things that were extraordinary,” he says.
Jarid will soon see where this month’s show will take him (hopefully, it will lead to showings in large markets, such as Charlotte and Atlanta), but above all, he aims to paint every single day and create works that allow people to think about the moments in their lives that they usually take for granted.
“These are my days, my emotions,” he says of his paintings. “Every stroke that goes on a painter’s easel is an emotion. It’s a reflection of how you’re feeling those days.”