Today I’m finally continuing the series I first talked about here, and I’m chatting with the supremely skilled Jay Mercado. Jay’s whimsical still life paintings of donuts are relaxed and beautiful, and make me want to go straight to the San Francisco coast with a few in hand! Inspiration for these photo-realistic works comes from a pit-stop at All Star Donuts on the way to his studio nearby.
I took inspiration from Mercado’s donuts and made my own with brioche dough and a vivid pink hibiscus glaze!
8 Questions with…Jay Mercado
Why donuts? Because they’re there!! Frankly, that’s the truth. I prefer to paint from life, and my neighborhood never fails to feed my still-life practice. Clement Street overflows with exotic fruits, vegetables, Chinese pastries and crazy objects. It also provides the city’s best donuts only a block away from my studio. My first donut paintings were warm-ups. Before I get to work for the day, I like to warm-up – my wrist, my focus, my rapport with my medium – with a sketch or a study. The donut provided a convenient, simple and not-so-serious shape to do this. Studio-passersby found them delightful, nostalgic, whimsical and cool – and so they became art patrons. And this made them happy. So I was happy. And I painted more donuts.
Do you find yourself constantly hungry considering your work? Haha – are you asking if I still identify as a starving artist? No. Do you mean does painting donuts make me want to eat donuts? No, hunger doesn’t come from my choice of subject. I look for a model that moves me. And if I’m hungry at the time I’m moved, well then, one for a model and one for me.
How do you work? What is your creative process like? I have to be in a solid, grounded place to create. I am not a good brooding, depressed, hungry artist. I wake up early, exercise, take in the ocean the beach and the cypress, have a good breakfast, take my vitamins, write in my journal and do a sketch/study warm-up. Really, all of that is essential to my process. I am surrounded by inspiration for artwork – my street, my home, the landscape of my life. My sketchbook has been the source of what becomes a painting. I conjure, conceptualize, compose and correct. In the studio, I expand on these ideas and create my paintings.
How many projects do you usually have going on at the same time? Several. Every project in the studio feeds off the energy of the others. and, in turn, creates a new energy. I am usually working on a commissioned artwork or two as well as paintings that are part of a larger series destined for a gallery show. I’m always building my collection of large-scale charcoal drawings and usually have something off-beat and unusual in the stacks. I also work alongside my students as a mentor and mirror to their creative process.
Where do you go for donut inspiration? Deep within. Very, very, very… deep. Really, I do tap into a nostalgic place. Childhood memories of donut experiences are part of our collective consciousness, our Americana. I go back to my boyhood paper route where my last stop was a small Sunset-district donut shop, where old Mr. Sullivan would hand me a piping hot cinnamon roll. Then I go to All-Star donuts at 10th & Clement.
Which artists do you most admire? I admire all artists. Anyone who surrenders to creation and commits to invention, commits to an idea and sees it through to completion, is admirable. The painters I revere span the globe, now, yesterday and centuries ago. Someone who’s been creating art for a short period of time can be as inspiring as someone who has been making art for a lifetime. I am always on the lookout for it. This week, I’ve been looking at Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo, a phenomenal colorist. Japanese artist, Masami Teraoka, who shuffles social, political and cultural issues on an intriguing large scale, is also on my desktop. Mural artist, Waone, from Kiev, Ukrane creates outstanding surreal, almost magically real, far-out paintings that reinvent familiar allegories. Almost nightly, I comb the internet to glean inspiration from the worlds imagination.
What is your dream project? As an artist, I have vivid dreams. And I expect to continue dreaming. Bigger, better, simpler, sweeter… A current dream is to live on an island in the Caribbean and create a series of fantastical paintings based on the coral reefs. I am a diver and have experienced another universe in the deep sea. The shapes, colors and crevasses could create a brilliant story on canvas that I believe I could well tell.
What is your dream donut? To tell you the truth, I like donuts just the way they are. Simple. Traditional. Fresh. Plump. Shiny. Glowing and gleaming. Remember, it’s not just the donut, but the memory that’s the muse.
Than you so much, Jay! For more amazing food paintings, check out his website.
Featured art: Jay Mercado, Ocean Beach Donut, 2015 / Berliner, 2015. Copyright © by the artist and used with permission.