Everyone has a story to tell and the beauty of it is that these stories are not planned out or scripted. When we look at artists we forget that these are people that offer up their work to express themselves and are storytellers. Here at Rare Norm, we discovered an artist by the name of Brian Bomster- Jabs from Baltimore Maryland. Brian’s work is a reflection of the journey he has gone through, it is honest, bold, and original. We were fortunate enough for Brian to agree to do this interview and open up to you the readers about his personal life experiences and achievements. Not that Brian needs anyone’s approval, but he is truly a one of kind individual that within time more people will see why.
Who are you and where are you from?
“My name is Brian Bomster-Jabs (yes that’s my actual last name) and I’m from Baltimore, MD.”
How did you get started with art? And what was your first ever art piece?
“I was always drawing ever since I could remember. I was the kid at the drawing table whether it was in school or out of school. The first ever art piece that I can remember it was abstract colorful scribble when I was a year old.”
What influences you to make these artworks?
“Life and the experiences that come with it. Whether it’s the music I listen to, the fashion that I wear, or the feelings that I feel towards daily events that occur, I am inspired by all of it.”
Some artists try to convey messages through their work, is there a message you want people to get from looking at your work?
“Nowadays I’m starting to get more specific with what I do. I usually just did art, because I just loved doing it, but now I really see that I have a somewhat big following and I want to use my art to convey my thoughts on certain things that I believe and experiences. I started dabbling in political events now that we have a certain president running our country. Trump makes it pretty easy to make fun of himself by… well, just being himself. I’ve never done political cartoons, but it was something I’ve always wanted to do and put out and now I can say I have and I actually really enjoy it. What I love about art is that it’s universal and you don’t need to speak the same language to get your point across.”
What is your proudest accomplishment? (Career wise or Life)
“Well if you really want to know that I will let you know this, it will not be a short answer to the other questions. If you had asked me this six years ago I wouldn’t know what to say, but now I can easily tell you that finding out my purpose in life, why I exist, at such a young age. I’ve been struggling to find what I can do with my art to not just impact lives but actually literally change them and I can say I have changed eleven lives already so far.”
“I was actually adopted when I was five months old (hence my last name) from South Korea and was raised in Baltimore my whole entire life. I have a brother and sister who are also adopted from Korea but each from different families. I have blessed that my adoptive parents supported and loved me in whatever I chose to do. They didn’t try to force me to become a doctor or a lawyer but sacrificed so I could go to the art schools and programs I needed to go to. The reason why I was put up for adoption was that I was born with a birth defect known as a cleft lip and palate whereas the tissues of my mouth and lip did not form properly when I was in the womb. Therefore I was born with an opening in my mouth and in the roof of my mouth. This made it hard for me to speak, breathe, and to feed. You might have seen ads with kids like this or even know someone. There are more than 200,000 US cases a year but a lot more internationally. If you heard of the corporation Operation Smile they are the biggest company that volunteers to help hundreds of thousands of kids get the surgeries that I needed. I wasn’t able to get the surgery done in Korea since my biological parents had me when I was very young and Korea did not have the level of medical care that I needed. Thank God I came to Baltimore because John Hopkins is the best place to get the surgeries I needed. I’ve had numerous surgeries throughout my life but since the doctors were so good they could knock out three to four surgeries at a time in one session whereas a doctor less experienced would have to do it one at a time. Now you can hardly tell and it just looks like I have a little scar here and there.”
“After I graduated college (Virginia Commonwealth University) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Arts I tried to get a job in DC just to please my parents and make them proud getting one right out college but that fell through. Thing was, I had a last minute backup plan which was to go back to Korea and teach English to kindergartners as well as adults. I never thought I would ever go back but my friend told me about the opportunity while in college so I was like why not apply. I was the last person accepted into this program and had to tell my parents I got to get a passport in less than three weeks because I will be leaving for Korea for a whole year. I was nervous but something told me there was a reason for this and I remember thinking to myself man I didn’t get this job I applied for God has a plan for me. Lay down the bricks to pave my way and I will walk wherever it leads. So I did and I actually ended up staying there way more than I had thought I was going to.”
“While I was there I got back to my roots, learning the language, the customs, and the culture. I lived in the countryside of Yeongcheon which is thirty minutes away from Daegu, the third largest city in South Korea. I was soaking up everything, I was having the time of my life. I made the decision to search for my biological family one night, because why not right? I’m already here and I only had four months left on my contract. Along the way, I met other Korean adoptees who had done the search and told me it usually takes six to twelve months to hear anything back. So in my head, I was like hey might as well take the chance. I filled out my application and emailed it to my adoption agency. I then waited.”
“One morning I got a phone call, it was the lady that I’ve been talking to at the agency. She said that she had some big news. She did the search and she found both my biological father and mother. They were still together and had a son and a daughter which meant I had another brother and sister. That’s not all she went on to tell me that I had ten uncles, eight aunts, two grandmas, and one grandpa. This all happened a week after I submitted my application.”
“The next month I reunited with them and decided to extend my stay another year and a half to get to know them better. Everything went perfectly. I learned so much about myself it’s crazy how my life came full circle. Questions were now answered that I have been wondering my whole life and the void that was lingering was now filled.”
“Throughout my stay, I have been doing my art, but I lived in a small apartment so I was limited. Everything that I did was digital and that is where my work really started to take off. I started combining my two passions which were childhood cartoons and sneakers. The first mash up I did was Pokemon wearing Jordans. This was the time Modern Notoriety was forming and I was friends on Facebook with the creator and he saw my art and wanted to write an article. After that happened Nice Kicks noticed and wrote as well as posted my work on all of their social media. I now have a nice relationship with them where they have written numerous articles on my work since then.”
“After my stay in Korea, I came back to live in Baltimore and again I was back in deciding what I wanted to do with my art. I had to pick up a nine to five job at the mall while trying to figure it out. Then one night I got a Facebook message from a woman who asked me to come paint her husband’s home gym. She said she had gone to school with me and had been following my work and journey through Korea and knew I was the right person for the job. Come to find out her husband was Eugene Monroe, who was traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Baltimore Ravens in the 2014 NFL draft. I ended up doing 5 really large paintings for his home. Now when I wrote up the contract I remember instead of just keeping all the money I could actually do what I’ve always wanted to do which is to change other people’s lives. In this case, it was children like me who needed surgery. I worked out a deal where I would donate close to $3,000 to Operation Smile. But now how would I get it to them?”
“I decided that I wanted to make this personal so I called up Operation Smile and talked to this lady and I told her my story just as I’m telling you now. I told her that I wanted to hand the check to them in person. Thing was that when I was telling it she was so moved that she was already writing an email to the Vice President. I ended up going down to their headquarters located in Virginia Beach and telling my whole story in front of the whole company. I met everybody including the President and Vice President and was able to put my donation into their hands. It takes around $240 to fund each surgery so out of my donation that is how I was able to change eleven lives. Come to think of it I just noticed now that eleven is also my favorite number. I am now actually a spokesperson for them and I am waiting to go on my first mission with them to help change even more lives.”
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
“I see myself as a well-recognized artist who is traveling and changing and inspiring more lives. Doing murals all over the globe, leaving my mark on the world as well as spreading my story while creating more smiles wherever I venture.”
Any words of wisdom to those pursuing their passion?
“I can’t stress it enough. Patience is key. Consistency is key. Don’t overthink. Keep producing work for you never know who may see it. Be yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Love what you do and do what you love. Stay positive and remember to smile for you never know what a smile could do; it could possibly change a life.”