Jewel Ham is a painter from Charlotte, North Carolina. She is currently studying art with a concentration in painting at the Slade School of Fine Art in London.
Ham has been drawing her whole life, but found her passion in painting specifically in middle school. From there, she started experimenting with different techniques and even taught herself oil painting before going to college.
“Painting for me feels kind of like home. It’s something I’ve always done and it always surprises me. It has always managed my mental health, and is something that eases me, but in the second vain, it’s like this is just what I’m good at so I continue to do it because I don’t know what else I would be doing, ” explained Ham.
Ham utilizes a realistic style in her works. She is heavily influenced by artist Barkley Hendricks, but also by everything around her. Often times, Ham will visit galleries and then go back to create a mashup of all that she has seen in her own style.
“I used to not have a concrete message,” said Ham, “but with the more work that I develop, I want people to see that it has an attitude. I paint a lot of women and place them in narrative scenes with something going around them that is hectic, but the focus is really all on their expressions. I feel people can really pull from that, especially when you have a strong female presence in a work. I feel like I just have a thing for creating powerful images, or things I think are powerful, not necessarily in some giant sense but still powerful.”
As a student, Ham was initially painting to meet deadlines, but since her time at Slade, she has had to push herself to create without the force of professors demanding her work. She has had to learn to paint for her own sake.
“When I went to Howard, you got assignments and you got deadlines, so painting within the deadline was really how long things took me. But here it’s been an adjustment because you have to force yourself under the gun. I would always tell my painter friend ‘I could paint so much better than this but I had a deadline,’ but now, here I am deadline free, and I’m taking my sweet time. Really, it can take me 4 days, it can take me 3 weeks, who knows.”
However, Ham understands that the process is not about the time spent, but the effort given.
To other aspiring artists she says, “I think right now it's really trendy and popular to be an artist and that's great, but a lot of those people aren’t putting everything they have into their art and it's holding them back. Just come at it full speed because that's really how you make it...I hope.”
Ham is currently working on obtaining her masters so that she can become an art professor. Her hope is to inspire those who really have a love for the arts, while also inspiring those who may not know that art is possible for them.
“For the short-term future, I am going to get my masters so I can be a professor potentially because I want to teach people who are fully interested in art. I also really want to make art more accessible to everyone, because I think a lot of people are sleep on how dominant the profession is and how art is really everywhere. I would love to be in galleries and museums, but more importantly, I think I want to work on intersecting fine art with pop culture because thats stuff that can be consumed on any budget level.”
You can watch Jewel Ham’s progress by following her @whateverjewel on Instagram.
View some of her recent works below.