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Artist Study: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Part 1 of the Artist Study article/virtual art gallery series. This article includes some of my Jean-Michel Basquiat inspired art pieces!

By Talia DevoraPublished about a year ago 8 min read
Jean-Michel Basquiat. Photo retrieved from via Google Images.

"I am not a Black artist, I am an artist."- Jean-Michel Basquiat

Who was Jean-Michel Basquiat?

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a successful African-American artist. He was born on December 22, 1960 in the neighbourhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York, USA. He had three siblings, one tragically passed away before he was born. His father Gerard Basquiat was from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and his mother Matilde Basquiat (nee Andrades) was born in Brooklyn to Puerto Rican parents. Jean-Michel Basquiat was raised in a Catholic household.

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a self-taught artist who began drawing at an early age. He would draw on sheets of paper his father, an accountant, brought home from his workplace. As he started embracing his creative personality, his mother supported his artistic pursuits.

In 1977, he put a halt to his high school career a year before he was expected to graduate.

Jean-Michel Basquiat as a child. This photograph was retrieved from via Google Images.

The start of his art career and his sources of inspiration

In the late 1970‘s, Jean-Michel sparked attention for his graffiti in Manhattan, under the name “SAMO”. Collaborating with a close friend, he labelled subway stations and different local building with cryptic aphorisms.

In lieu of graduating high school in 1977, he sold sweatshirts and postcards with his artwork on them on the streets of Manhattan.

In Basquiat's earlier works, he was known for the use of the crown motif, which depicted the recognition of Black people as majestic royalty or saints.

The crown has three peaks, for his three royal origins: the poet, the musician, and the great boxing champion. Basquiat measured his talent against all he considered strong, without judgement as to their preference or age.

After three years of struggle, Basquiat became a famous Neo-expressionist artist in 1980 when his artwork was featured in a group show. His work and style got significant acclaim for the consolidation of words, symbols, stick figures, and animals. Soon, his paintings came to be admired by an art-loving community that had no issue paying as much as $50, 000.00 for a Basquiat original.

"Fishing", painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. This photograph was retrieved from via Google Images.

During his career

His rise coexisted with the unfolding of a new art movement, Neo-Expressionism, leading the way into a group of new, young, and experimential visual artists that included Julian Schnabel and Susan Rothenberg.

In the mid-1980's, Basquiat worked with notable pop-artist Andy Warhol, which resulted in an exhibition of their artwork that featured a series of business logos and cartoon characters.

Autonomously, Basquiat continued to showcase his artwork nationally and internationally. In 1986, he travelled to Africa for an art show in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. That same year, the 25-year-old painter displayed approximately 60 paintings at the Kestner-Gesellschaft Gallery in Hanover, Germany. He became the youngest artist to ever display his work there!

"Warrior" painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. This photograph was retrieved from via Google Images.

How did Jean-Michel Basquiat pass away?

Prior to his tragic death, he grappled with drug addiction. As his popularity increased, his mental health became worse. He became paranoid and withdrew himself from the world for long periods of time. Wanting to recover from heroin addiction, he left Manhattan for Hawaii in 1988, returning home a few months later admitting he was clean.

Sadly, his sobriety didn't last very long.

On August 12, 1988, he passed away from a drug overdose in New York City, New York, USA. He was only 27 years old.

Jean Michel-Basquiat was buried on November 3rd, 1988 in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Manhattan, New York, USA.

"Trumpet", painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. This photograph was retrieved from via Google Images.

Why does he inspire me to continue making art?

Since I was a teenager, I've been passionate about creating abstract art masterpieces. I was never a fond of art styles that were too detailed and complex, because I'd never have the patience and the attention span for it. Practicing art styles like still life and realism would force me to concentrate on complex details to make a certain object, person, or animal look real. After attempting to draw realistic fruits, animals, and people as a teenager, I'd give up, because I never liked the outcome.

As a result of my impatience with realism, I was determined to find another art style that was simpler and less challenging.

In my high school visual art class, I discovered Jean-Michel Basquiat, and immediately fell in love with his art style. My discovery of his art was how I became fascinated by abstract and graffiti art. Since abstract and graffiti art is all about your own interpretations and style, I wouldn't have to worry about detail and making a certain object, person, or animal look exact. I'd get to freely paint using my own shapes, words, symbols, colours, and/or lines.

I became a lover or abstract and graffiti art since I was in my late teens/early adulthood. I began to practice abstract and graffiti art not just as a hobby, but as a form of self-administered recreation therapy. During both my lightest and darkest moments, abstract and graffiti art has been my best friend. It would give me the chance to communicate my emotions, thoughts, opinions, and dreams in a constructive way. As someone who thrives with self-expression, abstract and graffiti art has become one of my most effective methods to combat anger, stress, alienation, jealously, and sadness.

"Riddle Me This, Batman", painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. This photograph was retrieved from via Google Images

Finally, a mini virtual gallery of my Basquiat- style art pieces!

1. Sweet ‘n’ Sour

Painting done on March 16th, 2023. Photo was taken on my iPhone.


An abstract/graffiti style acrylic painting done on an 12x16" canvas.

This painting depicts the mental health struggles, confusions, and the positive moments I've had during my childhood. As time progressed, I started believing the things that were said to me. I also received positive comments about myself over the years. The words written all over the painting represent the words that were said to me, and the ones I've believed to be true about myself. The x's represent the mistakes and the wrongs. The squiggly lines represent the rights. The circles represent the 'maybes'.

The colours orange, red, blush pink, hot pink, and peach represent the brain, the heart, and the gut. They also depict the emotions I've had over the years: nervousness, frustration, confusion, anxiety, fury, sadness, desolation, bitterness, merriment, joy, excitement, and gratitude.

As a child, I was sweet and sour. Some days, I'd be happy, sweet, and playful. On other days, I'd be upset, withdrawn, reserved, aggressive, and miserable. My mood and personality always changed depending on the days and circumstances.

2. Drama King

This drawing was done and photographed on my iPhone yesterday.


An abstract/graffiti drawing done in my 9x12” sketchbook.

This drawing depicts one of the “drama kings” I’ve encountered in my life. We’ve known each other since we were young children, but weren’t really close until later on. At one point in our lives, we were really close. Due to personal reasons, we are no longer friends, and I’ve decided to disengage with him.

The crown represents his manipulative character. The double triangles represent time and energy. The figure 8’s represent the mental exhaustion I’ve had in dealing with the certain challenges I’ve had in the friendship. The colours yellow, red, and orange represent the anger, stress, frustration, and psychological anguish I felt in the friendship. The colour blue represents the sadness I felt in the friendship. The colours grey and brown represent the “verbal filth and goop” I was caked in.

3. Traumatized

This drawing was completed and photographed on my iPhone yesterday.


An abstract/graffiti drawing I did in my 9x12” sketchbook.

This drawing depicts the traumatic experiences I had and have to recover from as a result of the pandemic. The symbols included in the drawing all represent bacteria and germs. The colours red, orange, and darkish pink represent the fury, confusion, shock, fright, stress, and uncertainty I felt and dealt with during pandemic and lockdowns. The colours dark blue, turquoise, and green represent the disappointment, loneliness, sadness, and simplicity.

As I’ve mentioned in previous COVID-19 related stories, I’ve experienced both the positives and negatives of the pandemic. I’m trying to recover from the traumas and move past the negative experiences I’ve had during the pandemic.

Making art helps me express my feelings and thoughts freely. I did this drawing to help me communicate the negatives of the pandemic.

4. Grieving

A photo of this painting was than taken on my iPhone.


This acrylic abstract/graffiti painting was done on an 11x16” canvas.

This painting depicts the traumatic experiences I had in 2016. After I found out that one of my best friends in her 60’s passed away from stomach cancer, I was devastated. I was away at sleepover camp when she succumbed to her illness, but I didn’t find out until three months after her passing.

2016 was one of the worst years of my life. Her death ruined me completely, and my mental health issues worsened. I became depressed, angry, stressed, and my binge eating issues became problematic. I gained more weight than ever before, and I lost interest in many of my hobbies except for reading, listening to music, walking, being with my friends/family, going to the gym, and dining out. I became vindictive towards certain teachers, peers, and family members. My amazing memory diminished.

The squiggles represent the wind and coldness. The drops represent the tears and despondence. The door-shaped symbols represent tombstones. The treasure box-resembling symbols represent the coffin. The colours red and dark purple represent the agony, fear, bitterness, and anger I felt. The colours turquoise and dark blue represent the moodiness, despondence, quietude, and disappointment.

5. Witch

This photograph was taking on my iPhone, and then edited on CanvaPro.


This drawing was done in my 9x12” sketchbook.

This drawing depicts some of the horrendous elementary school experiences I had with a young girl I had an unstable friendship with. Sometimes, she’d be an all-Canadian dream. On most days, she’d be a witch. She struggled with multiple learning and behavioural health issues, which made a huge impact on our friendship. I also struggled with multiple learning and behavioural health issues, which was a recipe for “double trouble”. She would manipulate me, gaslight me, guilt-trip me, isolate me, verbally abuse me, and we’d get into massive fights im the lunchroom and playground. All the fights were physical and verbal. She may look like a beautiful flower on the outside, but on the outside, she was a witch!

The scars and bruises on the skulls face represent her mean-spirited, egocentric, and abominable nature. The open mouths represent her bossiness and inability to not mind her business and keep her mouth shut. The brooms represent her manipulation and power. The circles represent the bruises we gave each other. The colours lime-green, orange, and purple represent the disgust and hate I have towards her. The colours turquoise and dark blue represent the sadness I have when I think about her.

By Tbel Abuseridze on Unsplash

Thank you for taking the time to read my first artist study, and see some of my artwork! Your support truly makes my heart sing! If you enjoyed this piece, please give it a ❤️, share it with others, comment, and please send me a tip/pledge to show your appreciation and support. To find and read more exciting content, please consider subscribing and visiting my public profile. Stay tuned for more stories, articles, recipes, poems, and much more!

Please feel free to stay in touch with me!

IG: @tdwrites24 (where you’ll find my poems, quotes, and other literary creations) and @taliascreations331 (where you’ll find my visual artwork, photography, digital creations, etc.)

By Alexander Rotker on Unsplash



About the Creator

Talia Devora

Poetess, visual artist and lifestyle/quiz writer! My pastimes include reading, sleeping, gaming, music, fitness, etc! Be yourselves, be kind and value life! Let's connect and be friends!

My IG accounts: @tdwrites24 & @tdcreates97

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Comments (5)

  • Daphsam6 months ago

    It was great to learn about the very talented Jean-Michel Basquiat!

  • It was very fascinating learning about Jean-Michel Basquiat! Your artwork was fantastic!

  • Heather Hublerabout a year ago

    I really enjoyed reading about this amazing artist and how work and style have influenced your own. I love self-expression to work out emotions. It can be so freeing. My favorite part was reading your descriptions of your own work and how everything was so carefully chosen with meaning. Great work!

  • Love you mixing yours with his art, a sad loss to the world but we still have his art

  • Nice 💖✨

Talia DevoraWritten by Talia Devora

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