The Comic Book Kid Makes It Big

“I was the typical kid, up every Saturday morning and sitting in front of the TV with a big bowl of cereal from 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM. But while other kids watched cartoons for the jokes, I was mesmerized by the animation,” he said.

Before he even knew their names, Jermaine taught himself skills like foreshortening, perspective, and light sourcing. He sketched cartoon characters and collected comic books to study their techniques.

Like many creatives, Jermaine initially did not believe he had the talent to provide an income for himself through his art. Trying to be practical, he studied Business Management and suppressed his creativity for over a decade. To say it was unhealthy is an understatement. While working as a Food and Beverage Director in the Napa Valley, he turned to alcohol to fill the creative void. Unfortunately, he did not realize what he was doing until it was almost too late when in 2014, he discovered his organs were failing from alcohol abuse.

Magically, his road to physical recovery prompted a creative metamorphosis. While lying in a hospital bed, he picked up a sketch pad for the first time in over a decade and began sketching, and then he moved to paint. It re-engaged him in life.

“Art was my therapy; it was my recovery,” he shared. “I put a paintbrush in my hand instead of a glass.”

He let his soul sing with vibrant, expressive urban realistic portraits. Like Kehinde Wiley, the artist behind the iconic painting of President Obama hanging in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, personalities and pop culture inspire Jermaine. His work also references artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol, merging to become the form of art known as “Spontaneous Realism.”

And Jermaine has a social message too. “I want to bring awareness to social, economic, and world issues through portraits of minority and urban subjects. Portraits and pieces of my art open a window into the inner workings of this community,” he shared.

Befitting his subject matter and message, he uses a cubist faceting on many of his subjects’ faces, lending an architectural vibe and sense of strength, reinforced by the bold colors and foreground placement that appear in almost all his work.The up-and-coming Bay Area artist shows his fine artwork at galleries, art shows, restaurants, tasting rooms, coffee shops, and wineries, even exhibiting at Art Basel in Miami. He’s been successful; Jermaine now works almost entirely on commission. At present, he has nine projects in the pipeline.

There is no telling where Jermaine’s art will take him next, but there is no doubt it will be worth watching. Suffice to say, his natural talent and social messages resonate. The comic book kid and recovered artist has already achieved a lot, and he’s just beginning.


Story By: Layne Randolph // Photos Courtesy of Jermaine Burse