Sean Jantzi, a 27-year-old Surrey-born painter currently residing in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood, is an easygoing guy. Our initial meet-up spot, Cartems Donuts off Main Street, was closed. In a pinch, he agreed to meet me at The Whip, a restaurant and gallery with an airy atmosphere and decent coffee. Jantzi is attentive, sincere, and believes today, creatives aren’t being talked about in the context of their work, but what they’re wearing to NBA games. He describes his art as cheeky, figurative, colourful and fun. “I don’t see the point of making my art some grandiose statement or profoundly deep,” he said. “I like making art that makes me smile.”
Jantzi grew up drawing, and mentioned that his Dad is colour blind, which is a factor that made him really think about colour. “It made me respect how colours work together and how interesting they can be if you’re lucky to see them all.” Out of high school he applied to Emily Carr University for illustration, and, though he was accepted, declined the invitation. Instead, he attended Simon Fraser University for film, and after one year switched to a communications major where he earned his degree. Shortly after, a nasty case of meningitis had him apartment-bound for two weeks. Struck with boredom, he began canvas painting and uploading his creations on Instagram. Six months later, he was contacted through the app by Paul Becker, the Chief Curator and Founder of Art Rapture—an organization that is focused on “bending the boundaries of the traditional Canadian landscape through art” by “curating artwork and experiences synonymous with global markets like New York, London, Los Angeles, and Madrid.” Becker helped Jantzi set up a solo show. When Jantzi talks about luck in our interview, this is what he’s referring to. “It’s weird, I’ll talk to artists from Emily Carr and they’ll ask me how I did it. But truly, it was just somebody at the right place and the right time seeing my work, and unfortunately, that’s all it can take. That’s how she goes.”
SA: Do you ever have moments where you’re like, ‘Fuck, what am I doing in the arts industry, I should go back to school’?
SJ: Absolutely. Every single day. That’s the fire under your ass though, that’s what keeps you going. In a way, it acts as your motivation. You think to yourself: I hope this works and I need to do everything I can to make this work. Finding a marriage between that is important. So yes, every single day.
SA: What do you think Vancouver’s art community is lacking?
SJ: Initiatives on behalf of the government to provide incentives for artists. I truly believe that art is the main signifier of culture. There needs to be a way for Vancouver to preserve artists and their integrity. If we price artists out of the city, that torch will be passed to the next city, and Vancouver will miss out. There needs to me more initiative.
SA: How can millennial artists in Vancouver be more supportive towards one another?
SJ: Just showing up. Vancouver is flakey as hell—that stereotype is definitely true. To support people is to show yourself. Just go. Even if it’s just a short time. Go to the show.
SA: Does social media impact your art?
SJ: It does, but I try to only let it impact my art in a positive way. I post what I make. And I don’t often check my social media or look at it a lot. The bread and butter of my work comes through connections and commissions. I think that if you put too much weight on your social media, you’re just going to be sad as hell and probably throw in the towel.
SA: What are you inspired by?
SJ: I find a lot of inspiration through other artists because I didn’t have formal training. I trained myself. I can’t point a finger to it, but every piece I make starts with a doodle and then it turns into something. At the moment I’m working on point of view; if I’m sitting down somewhere, I’ll look at my foot and say, ‘I can paint that’.
SA: Favourite musician right now?
SJ: Sam Evian, his album Premium. Also, into Mac Demarco and Tame Impala. At the moment, Orchestra BaoBab too, because Spanish language music makes me feel like I’m on a beach in Mexico.
SA: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
SJ: Doing what I’m doing now because what I’m doing now is great. I really like it, but I would like to be doing a few international exhibits too. International exhibits get you out there.
SA: What’s your dream project or, who is your dream creative partner?
SJ: I’m really interested in Jonas Wood right now, he’s a painter based out of L.A. He’s whimsical, fun, and doesn’t seem like he takes himself too seriously, and that’s so important. When I look up to painters, I think it’d be cool to work with someone like him. My dream project…this sounds corny, but every project seems dreamy. Painting a mural would be a short-term dream project of mine.
SA: If you weren’t living in Vancouver, where would you be living?
SJ: I don’t like urban centers. I only live near one because it’s crucial for survival. So, I would have to say Porto, Portugal. The landscape and architecture there has a je ne sais quoi about it. I’d live there in a heartbeat.
SA: Do you have any advice for millennial artists who are trying to make a name for themselves in Vancouver?
SJ: I know it can be hard. It’s infamously hard. Art and an expensive city don’t mix. But don’t stop. And never feel like you need to cater to an aesthetic or pander to a market because then you’ll just be sad with your work. Just fucking work hard. Networking is very important. I can’t really speak to it because luck was on my side. But I know it’s important, we all know it’s important, so go to galleries and event coordinators and have a business mind about it and know your price. Never let people talk you down from what your price is.
Jantzi’s upcoming solo show, POV, is on from June 13-15 at The Space: An Art Gallery.