Rising Star James Massacci:
“Diversity is needed for new thoughts and ideas, which, in turn, lead to change and enlightenment”
Jan 13 · 7 min read
“I believe that the multifaceted styles of art should be indicative of the many styles and ways to go about life. Diversity is needed for new thoughts and ideas, which, in turn, lead to change and enlightenment.”
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing James Massacci. James’ paradoxical life has led to the creation of thought-provoking, diverse paintings for which he has become known. His art spans from the whimsical, yet head-tilting, modernization of antique photographs, remarkable paint-splattered portraits,
Thank you so much for doing this with us James! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a declining steel mill town called Warren, Ohio, in a single-parent household with my mom and two sisters. We grew up poor, and when you grow up poor, at some point, you either cave and accept a life of poverty, or you punch it in the face and learn the ropes.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started creating art just so that I could see different things on my walls, but when people started asking if they could buy some of my pieces, I began to think differently about it. That’s when I became more committed to making art the focal point of my career.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Geezzz, there are so many! I used to watch tons of documentaries about the cocaine era in our country. I learned about a woman named Griselda Blanco, the cocaine Queen Pin of the ’80s in Miami. I was consumed! Fast forward 20 years later, and I ended up making a painting of her and her son Michael Blanco; now, the painting hangs in his living room. Michael’s become a good friend. The whole experience was very surreal! And now, I am expanding into the world of television series and music through many of the incredible clients turned friends that have commissioned me for my art.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting out? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Never quote art with shipping included, unless you know the exact price of shipping! I actually lost money once on a piece of art I sold! I quoted a price for someone who commissioned me to make them a piece of art, and when I went to ship it, the people at FedEx told me it was too big for regular shipping and needed to be sent “freight.” I ended up paying almost as much for shipping as I quoted for the art and lost my shirt on that piece. Haha!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am in talks now to start licensing my art for a clothing line and doing an art exhibit in California that is backed by a major brand. I can’t say who it is until the deal is finalized, but I will be announcing it soon!
We are very interested in diversity in the art world. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in entertainment? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Ok, so I think diversity is imperative to have because too many times we try and put art in some kind of box, or some kind of regulated structured environment. For example, everyone thinks that I can make a portrait of their dog because I am an artist, although I can barely draw stick figures! My art agent would say, “You will never make a dollar because you can draw, but hell, are you clever!”
I believe that the multifaceted styles of art should be indicative of the many styles and ways to go about life. Diversity is needed for new thoughts and ideas, which, in turn, lead to change and enlightenment.
What are your “5 things you wish someone told you when you first started” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Don’t get discouraged. Don’t think that your art will sell just because it’s good. You’re going to struggle for a long time before receiving true recognition and profits. There are millions of great artists in the world; you need to ask yourself, “What separates me from the masses?” and hone in on that to stand out and make a difference.
- Don’t ever tell anyone what you’re going to name a piece of art before it’s done. People will weigh in giving their opinion whether you asked them for it or not! It’s like when you tell people your baby’s name before it’s born. Just don’t do it, haha!
- People are going to take great advantage of you. People who charge for you to hang your art will tell you you’re the best artist they have seen in years and to be ready for a lot of sales, etc. Many artists are susceptible to these types of arrangements because clearly, they want to feel that their art is good, and people like that will attempt to validate you based upon your emotions and naivete.
- Don’t do it to become rich. Artists are very much like farmers. We live poor and die rich. Do it for the love of the craft. To send a message, to change minds, or to simply find something that soothes you from the busyness of the day. All forms of art seem to be somewhat cathartic for the person creating it.
- The best way to get to the top is to start with money, lol! Short of being “discovered,” your rise to the top will cost you significantly. Art shows, travel, charities asking for free art, etc. If you already have money, that’s awesome, but if you don’t, be sure to spend your marketing dollars wisely.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
If you’re doing something because you love it and are passionate about it, you’ll never get burned out. It’s only when it becomes “your job” that you will have the potential to be burned out.
You are a person of enormous influence! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement is about awareness and education. To be self-aware, be aware of how the money flows to and from you, and be aware of who it goes to and why. Education brings change!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are literally so many people who did something small and large to help me get here. At the end of the day, though, you have to be your own support system, your own critic, best friend, only friend, worst enemy, and motivational coach.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A barber is cutting a man’s hair, and a kid walks by the front of the barbershop, barber says “this is the dumbest kid ever, watch this,” he yells for the kid to come inside the shop, he pulls both hands out, and in one hand he has 50 cents, in the other a dollar. The kid hesitates and snatches the 50 cents and runs out of the shop, both men laugh. After the haircut the guy leaves the shop and sees the kid down the block eating an ice cream cone, he says to the kid “Hey kid, don’t you know the dollar is worth more?” And the kid replies, “the day I take the dollar, the game is over.”
I’ve learned that most of the time, it’s better to take the 50 cents and keep moving.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Denzel Washington, he’s a fucking badass!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful. Thank you so much!