Jouvon Michael Kingsby is a local artist based out of Santa Ana who goes by the name JOUVON. He made a name for himself in Orange County through his mural and portrait art, as well as his veteran backstory and interest in the spiritual and metaphysical world.
He started his artistic career drawing cartoons but eventually gravitated towards murals and portraits due to the demand that he saw from people that wanted artwork of their dogs. He found great success in painting portraits of people’s pets even to this day.
“I would just watch tutorials on different techniques that I don’t know since I didn’t go to art school,” Kingsby said, as to how he started.
The 35-year-old is a former veteran, serving in Iraq as a gunner for the army for two and a half years. He was once nearly caught in an explosion during an attack on him and his platoon known as The Contraband Kings. He joked that when the explosion went off, his group was on a mission to deliver food and that his number one concern for himself was being hungry and wanting to get to the base.
On one occasion in 2007 his sergeant asked him to paint a mural on a wall in the bunker where he and his platoon were stationed. Kingsby painted a man sitting on a throne, accompanied by his mother on one side and his butler on the other. He titled the painting “Lord of War,” describing it as a way of figuring out “why” or more specifically, why the soldiers were there—to go to war.
The bunker he painted also happened to be Saddam Hussein’s former bomb shelter.
“It was like a video game, and we made it into our base,” Kingsby said. “Most of the soldiers had never seen a mural in person, so I’m glad that I was able to inspire us and give us some sort of artistic reason as to why we were there.”
While Kingsby doesn’t attribute his military experience to his art, he says the experience gave him the resilience to continue creating.
He moved back to the U.S. after being honorably discharged from the military and was commissioned to do his first mural job in 2011, through his friend Mike Ziobrowsky, another Orange County artist who goes by the name XisTheWeapon. The mural called “Something in the Sky” can still be seen today in Santa Ana’s East End.
Kingsby credited a great deal of his success on manifestation and his interest in the metaphysical world. He said that he’s reached a point in his career where he knows what kind of reaction he can get from his viewers based on the colors he uses and the subject matter of his art.
One of Kingsby’s influences in art is Korean American artist David Choe, for his “not so serious” art as he puts it. He also enjoys and takes inspiration from Jean-Michel Basquiat, for his ability to just get his ideas on a canvas.
Despite the pandemic, Kingsby is still able to find hope in his art business.
Kingsby said that COVID-19 affected his art business in a good manner due to the fact that people stayed home more and paid more attention to his art. Another friend of Kingsby, Ryan Chase, who owns several buildings in Santa Ana, even commissioned him to paint more murals during that time.
Recently, he made murals for the 4th Street Market, and two others titled “Andromeda” and “Mount Kilimanjaro.”
He encourages artists that may find themselves struggling, to search online for people with newborn babies or pets, and offer them to have their portraits painted for a commission.
“If you go to The Home Depot, you can get huge slabs of birch, and you can just divide them up and shine them down so you have small canvases,” he advised.
He encouraged using word of mouth, and slowly working prices up slowly from $200 to $600, for example.
“Make yourself look like a brand. The more you describe your work the easier it is for people to want to buy something,” Kingsby said.
Kingsby’s art can be found on his Instagram @jouvonjouvon.