Q&A with MMF 2024 Featured Artist Jimbo Valentine

Each year, the Master Musicians Festival, a 501c3 non-profit organization, commissions a Kentucky artist to create a piece inspired by the festival. The featured artwork is used on the front of MMF’s lineup T-shirt, which can be purchased during the festival at the merchandise tent, and is auctioned to benefit the following year’s festival. The MMF31 art auction of work by featured artist Jimbo Valentine will begin at 8 p.m. Friday, July 19, and continue at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 20, starting with Friday’s closing bid.

1. Tell us about you! Where are you from, what school(s) have you attended, any special training or recognition, where you work, and family.

I am originally from Fairmont, WV, but I have lived in Huntington, WV, for the last 22 years. I spent some time at both Fairmont State and Marshall University, but currently have more debt than I do degrees. My mom retired as a nurse and my dad retired as a coal miner and I grew up with three other siblings.

2. Tell us about your journey becoming an artist. When did you first discover you enjoyed creating and how have you evolved as an artist over the years?

I’ve been making art as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is my mom taking me for kindergarten signups/testing and being asked to draw a picture of myself. I remember giving myself gigantic ears, because my dad and Papaw Valentine used to tease me about them and say “you look like a car with both doors open.” Over the years I’ve evolved from drawing with crayons to creating physical art to using Procreate and Photoshop. Still kinda looks like I draw with crayons at times though. 

art image of old man with beard sitting on vintage pickup truck playing

3. Describe the piece you created for MMF31 and tell us what inspired it.

The piece I created has a group of folks joyously playing music on an old truck in front of a fluorescent sunset. It was inspired by the idea of a family band, representing all the hills and hollers of Appalachia that so much vibrant music has emerged from, and the fellowship and community that can come along with it. Once I got started, I also kept thinking of the Darling family on the Andy Griffith show and their wonderful portrayal by The Dillards. The truck also has one headlight as a nod to the headliners this year, The Wallflowers.

4. What materials and techniques did you use to create this piece?

The image was created by illustrating it digitally in Procreate on an iPad, and then using Photoshop to finish it off. That image is being projected on a round wood panel so I can recreate the drawing as accurately as possible and then it will be painted with acrylic paints.

5. How do you describe your personal artistic style, and how does this complement the atmosphere of MMF?

I’m not really sure how to describe it other than “versatile.” I’ve always admired artists with very distinctive styles, but personally I’ve always tried to steer clear of sticking with one particular thing. The thing about that though is that once you build a body of work, the little choices you make will eventually start to add up and define its own style. I tend to do a lot of dark and psychedelic subject matter, especially in my own personal work. A lot of it also seems to be a bridge between inward self and outward existence. The name of my art endeavors is Amalgam Unlimited. One of the definitions of amalgam is “a mixture or blend of things,” so to me it always just meant that I could be doing any combination of mediums or styles to bring a piece to life and leave all roads open for exploration. The atmosphere of MMF seems to be a bit of an amalgam itself with all the wonderful lineups, artisans, and folks from all walks of life taking it all in and hopefully I can complement that with my wide variety work.

6. What mediums and/or materials are your favorite to use when creating?

I tend to do a lot of digital work and within that I may be doing a combination of illustration, graphic design, photo manipulation, photography, shooting reference pics, and using public domain or stock assets. The journey from idea to final piece can be an interesting ride at times and you never know where inspiration can lead you. I also love creating physical art, paintings, murals, etc., but I never have as much time to work on things like that as I wish I did.

7. Who are some of your biggest influences, and how have they shaped your work?

Some of all-time favorites are David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Alejandro Jodorosky, 

Andrei Tarkovsky, Terrence Malick, Richard Linklater, Jim Jarmusch, Bill Morrison, Mike Judge, Saul Bass, Salvador Dali, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mike Allred, Eric Powell, Tony Moore, Sam Kieth, and Stephen King. They’ve all helped shape my work in their respective mediums by being masters of their crafts and creating things that either awed me, made me feel deeply, raised existential questions, comforted me, or disturbed me in the best ways. People who are not afraid to think outside of the proverbial box and really put themselves out there creatively. I think sometimes the inspiration may be obvious on certain pieces, but most of the time I think we just all take in all of our influences, and they all just kind of hang out under the surface. Always running in the background like some subroutine, directly and indirectly influencing our work in ways we may not always even realize.

portrait of man in shadow except for eyes

8. Who are some of your favorite musicians, and who are you most excited about seeing at MMF31 this year?

Some of my all-time favorite musicians are Pink Floyd, Dolly Parton, Local H, Clutch, All Them Witches, Nine Inch Nails, Pixies, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Melvins, Mudhoney, Beastie Boys, Townes Van Zandt, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Outkast, Wu-Tang Clan, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Boards of Canada. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Mitski, Kacey Musgraves, Local Honeys, Haley, S.G. Goodman, Grandaddy, Shannon & The Clams, and Les Big Byrd. I’m pretty excited to see The Wallflowers, I think that’ll be a great show. I’ve seen a handful of the acts before and I’m excited to see them all again. There’s also several people I’ve never heard before like the Ruen Brothers, Eddie 9V, and July Moon so I’m excited to see them too. There’s also a couple people I’ve worked with before like Spooky Fox and Lucas Wayne who I’ve never seen before, so I’m real excited to check those guys out. I’m excited it for it all lol.

9. Tell us about your favorite album cover that you’ve created and why it’s your favorite. What is it about creating these pieces that you enjoy the most?

I would imagine that’s like a parent trying to pick their favorite kid, so for this purpose I would just have to say Tyler Childers “Purgatory”. That was a real milestone for him and for me too, and it’s led to all kinds of cool experiences. Working on “Country Squire” with him and Tony Moore was also a real special project. I really love all the work I’ve got to do with my bub, Eric Bolander. I’ve also done recent work for Jayce Turley, Aaron Boyd, Daniel Cain, Alex Drasser, Blind Feline, and Hot Brown Smackdown that I’m real proud of. For me the mixture of art and music is really why I ever wanted to be able to do things like this. I can draw so much inspiration from music, so to have the opportunities to represent other people’s art is a very fulfilling process to me. In some ways it’s still all going back to that eternal teenager inside me, gawking at album covers and band T-shirts at the mall or on MTV, and trying to keep that feeling going forever. Being in the process of inspiration and creativity is when I truly feel the most free, because at that point in time anything is possible.

10. What do you hope festival-goers will take away from the artwork you’ve created for MMF?

Above all I hope they can feel my love for art and music, and the joy it brings me to create. I have a feeling though if they’re coming to MMF, they already understand.

11. Are there any upcoming projects or exhibitions you’re particularly excited about?

I’m excited to also be setting up at Laurel Cove again this year, it’s one of the best events and venues I’ve ever been to, and I’m proud to be involved with those fine folks. I’m also working on finishing up a book called “Don’t Worry, This Will Only Hurt Forever,” which is a book of cemetery photos with some bits of writing. I’m also working on a short film to accompany it, so hopefully I can wrap it all up by the end of the year.

portrait of man with beard and baseball cap in golden natural light