Jean-Michel Basquiat was born on December 22, 1960 in Brooklyn, New York. His mother Mathilde was Puerto Rican and his father was an immigrant from Haiti. From an early age, Jean-Michel’s artistic talent was encouraged by his mother and teachers. He was extremely bright, speaking English, Spanish and French fluently by age eleven.

Although his family was middle class and he was highly encouraged, Basquiat faced plenty of adversity. When he was seven years old, he was playing stickball in the street and was hit by a car. He spent several weeks in the hospital recuperating from injuries (including a spleen removal from the damage.) His mom gave him an anatomy book and he spent much of his time drawing and learning about the human form. Many people felt that this is where his passion for art began. Later that year, his parents separated. He and his sisters lived with his father, while his mom spent time in and out of mental hospitals. She was a talented artist in her own right, but battled mental disease.

Jean-Michel was enrolled in a handful of prestigious private schools, but could not conform to the academic environment. At age fifteen he ran away from home and lived on the street, selling handmade postcards and tee shirts for income. His graffiti was recognized for it’s artistic potential and soon he was working with clothing brands, rap labels and t.v. shows. He met Andy Warhol (whom we studied last year) in a restaurant and almost immediately formed a bond. Warhol became and mentor and father figure to Jean-Michel. They collaborated together and ultimately Warhol was the one who was able to talk Basquiat into going to rehab when developed a rapidly growing drug problem. Sadly, he passed away a couple years later at age 28 of a heroine overdose. Jean-Michel’s life and career were tragically short. However, his work greatly influenced the post-modern art world. You can see the incorporation of old masters, impressionists and modern artists which he used to create something completely new. Many said that he wasn’t prepared for the avalanche of fame and money that came so young in his career. Others feel that he may have had emotional or psychological disorders of his own that he treated himself with alcohol and drugs. Even though his contribution to art spanned a short period of time, Jean-Michel was very important.

Today we will mix media (the supplies we are using) to create our own graffiti art.

1. Plan out and lightly sketch what you want to create.

2. Use markers first to create your picture. (You can layer pastel on top of the markers, but can’t draw on top of the pastel with the markers.)

3. Use the pastels to add areas of interest. These are great for creating bold highlights and bringing areas of the picture into the foreground.