Who am I?
My full name is Jonathan Dantas dos Santos Cheatwood. No one calls me Jonathan, unless I'm in trouble. A couple of people call me Jon. I just go by Jonni. I was born and raised in Thousand Oaks, California, to Penha and Ed Cheatwood. My mom is from Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. My dad, Cleveland, Ohio. I am Brasilian, English, African American and Native American. Essentially, a walking scholarship.
I am a very apprehensive and pensive being. I generally keep to myself looking out the window with my head in the clouds. I am an observer more than a talker and I have always expressed myself in momentary expressions, quick and almost unconsciously executed. This goes for my work too. I've always been this way. I like process. Everything is a process and you have to trust the process. I used to often look back at events that have shaped who I am, not as an artist, but as an individual and how I arrived to where I am today and it's been an incredible, but unlikely journey as I often feel that this wasn't my master plan.
It's wild to think that if I had gone to this school and made these friends or moved here or there, then I wouldn't have met my wife and if I didn't come home that one winter then I probably would've never been inspired to paint, and it just goes on and on. I'll explain segments of that process below. It's one great big process. I have to look in the mirror from time to time and literally tell myself it will all be ok.
Now I don't even dare to mock up a new plan, I'm in this for the long haul. This is my job. I was created; therefore I create. I have to and I don't want to do anything else. The best thing about creating artwork is that there is no limit or restraint for me to make my work.
I don't do personal commissions because of the idea that there are restraints and I feel limited and then all of my insecurities come out and I don't like it. I'm an artist, I am insecure and I get bummed out sometimes when things aren't going well in my studio.
I have an exhibit coming up on the 9th here in Phoenix and my work so far has been shit in my opinion. I have almost no time, but I know that somehow I'll work it out; but I hate the fear of reception and rejection, it makes me feel like I have vertigo standing on the ground. This is also why showing your work is one of the most terrifying things that I can think of. However, it can also be one of the most rewarding.
I paint for myself, I paint as an act of hope. All I need to do is show up at my studio, stand on my ashes, look up, thank God and create like a madman, some times. Sometimes I wonder where I went wrong, or if this is where I'm supposed to be, or is this what I want to be doing, but this has to be where I'm supposed to be. It's all a process and this process for me is hard. I have a family to provide for and there have been times where I was working 3 jobs on top of painting just to make sure that we're ok. But we always are. I have all of the support in the world so how can I ever fail? All I have to do is look up and paint wildly.
I didn't start making artwork until I was 23. I was an athlete my entire life up until my second year in college and a series of [then] unfortunate events happened and suddenly the only thing that I was ever good at was taken from me.
I left school in Flagstaff, Arizona and moved down to Phoenix to attend Arizona State University as a film major with no real end goal in sight. I lived in a rundown motel next to campus, by choice. I was an insomniac addicted to HBO shows, late late night Fresh Prince marathons and I bought this old electric piano because I convinced myself that I would write music. I never played it. I lived off of microwavable salmon and a campus meal plan, but I was rarely on campus, so frozen salmon.
I had some friends and we hung and did life together. I eventually moved in with them and during this time I dropped out of school to work full-time at a restaurant. For two years, I became jaded at work and got so fed up with my schedule that I needed an outlet.
I started reading Keroauc and Donald Miller books and obsessed over them and then I began to write and I thought that writing was a new passion for me, then literally one day I told my roommate that I was going to start painting again.
I thought I wanted to make wheat paste and put them up over town, but I didn't have the patience to learn how to wheat paste so instead, I picked up some paints and a poster board, some brushes and painted absolutely terrible renditions of the album cover to Every Waking Moment by Citizen Cope and an awful copy of Male and Female by Jackson Pollock. Somehow I became so interested in how certain artists painted the way that they did and how they did it I tried to figure out how Makoto Fujimura painted and how Pollock did it, then I got into artists like Connor Harrington, Jaybo Monk and those artists opened up the doors of contemporary history for me. Basquiat, Warhol, Richter, Baldessari, Ruscha, Joe Bradley. Those are my go-to creatives now.
Anyways, I ended up going back to school and decided that I was going to be a teacher after I took a 2 month trip to New York City to tutor kids in Brooklyn. I was so far out of my comfort zone that I had nothing to cling onto except prayers and coffee, but I fell in love with what I was doing so much that I needed to go back to school so I can do that again. So my degree is in secondary education with an emphasis on the arts, thinking that I would be an art teacher somewhere, but I manage a restaurant and paint.
I am absolutely not mad.
Name: Jonni Cheatwood
DOB: July 21, 1986
What is your current location and where you come from? Born and raised in Thousand Oaks, California, which is a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of Los Angeles. I currently live and work in Phoenix, Arizona. For now.
What do you do? I guess I would describe myself as a mixed media, abstract artist. I don't know how to entirely stay in one medium or one practice. I can't help but work with materials that probably shouldn't go together like tar and coffee with denim, bleach, acrylic and photography. I'm all over the place and I am entirely satisfied.
Why do you make art? I do what I do because I don't think that I have any other option. I finally arrived at the conclusion that I was created; therefore I create and this is what I am supposed to do.
How did you start? I never meant to be an artist. I was an athlete my entire life; well, until my sophomore year in college - but I just assumed that basketball was it for me. It was kind of my end-all because I wasn't really good at anything else.
I was never really artistic, I suppose. I dropped out of college for a bit and got to a point in my life where I desperately needed an outlet creatively, so I told myself that painting could be dope. I bought a poster board and stole some paints from my younger sister and just tried to figure out how to make this hobby my own and I just haven't stopped. I don't see myself stopping any time. Ever.
Other profession: Before I started painting I began working in restaurants. That’s my sane job. I am currently a trainee opening up the illest restaurant in Phoenix.
In a short sentence, describe an experienced that changed your life. The day I decided that I was going to pursue painting.
First memory? I don't remember how old I was, but I used to live in a house that shared the backyard wall with the highway. We had massive trees along that wall but I remember my father was holding me in the pool and I was just looking out towards the highway seeing the tops of cars speed by through the trees. I don't know why I remember that specifically but that is my first memory.
What is your largest flaw? I think that I am a workaholic. I don't know how to relax and just sit and unfortunately, that has recently become my biggest flaw. I can be stubborn, but not as much as I am a workhorse.
If you could choose just one thing to change about the world, what would it be? I wish that we could all just take a deep breath and look up. Just look up and inspire others to do the same.
What one piece of advice would you offer to a newborn infant? Don't ask what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive and do that. The world needs people to come alive. (that was a quote from somewhere)
Where is the line between insanity and creativity? I get this odd rush knowing that I have a show coming up in a week and I am over my head in tasks like finishing my pieces, stretching them, framing them, figuring out how to get these pieces from point A to point B, etc. It's electric to me, but I feel that I have walked this line once or twice. I have the ability to push myself to exhaustion and I do so because I know that this is my passion and livelihood and if I work hard enough and make good work then my reward is more work and with more work, I am one step closer to my goal of being a full time creative. But when that work is getting in the way of the most important things in this world, especially my wife and family, then I have gone insane. Very very insane.
What is true happiness? I can't think of anything greater than knowing that you are loved, encouraged and supported. Also, being able to reciprocate those feelings outward to me is legitimate happiness.
What makes you, you? I am genuine and my objective is to make the world a more beautiful place to live in.
What is the truth? 2+2 absolutely equals 4. And that's the truth Ruth!
What defines you? Grace and mercy.