How Self-taught Portait Artist and Muralist Jamie Bonfiglio is Making an Impact on the Culture

It’s Women’s History Month and we’re celebrating Black women who are making an impact on the culture. First up is artist, Jamie Bonfiglio.

Born in New York, Jamie lived in Queens for the first two years of her life before her mother moved them down to Mobile, Alabama, where she was raised.

It was around the age of 9 when she realized her talent to draw what she saw, and was often the one classmates picked to handle the artistic part of group projects in school.

It wasn’t until she was in her early 20s while living in San Diego, California that Jamie realized art was becoming a passion for her.

She moved away from all of her family and friends to have an early life adventure on her own. While there, she worked multiple jobs that she hated. So as an outlet, she went to Art Blick and asked one of the associates what paint is best for beginners. Although she could draw, she’d never really tried paint at all. They told her acrylic. She picked up some canvases, paint, brushes, and dove right in. It became her creative release, which eventually turned into sales.

When I asked Jamie how it felt the first time she sold one of her paintings, she said: “Oh the feeling was phenomenal! Once anyone bought something, it felt like, Whaaaat??! I created something with my hands and someone loved it enough to buy it.”

When she started getting commissioned from people asking her to paint their family members, she said their reactions made her feel even better.

“I’ve seen people come to tears and be in awe. It’s rewarding.”

Jamie’s work is distinct in that her use of colors, particularly in faces aren’t quite like any other artists that I’ve seen… Once you’ve become familiar with her work, you don’t have to be told who did it when you see it. You just know JB did that.

Jamie Bonfiglio, Credit: PRIDE Photography

It took a while for Jamie to figure out a style. Originally, she didn’t aim for the style you see today. As a beginner painter, realism was intimidating to her. Then she would see work from Kevin WAK Williams and was amazed that he could make paint do that.

She knew she wanted to paint people, but blending was hard for her, and not a skill she started out with, so she approached it in a more abstract way.

Jamie has always followed several artists. YouTube brought her into the world of VOKA, an artist who creates large, colorful abstract portraits in a style that he coined “Spontaneous Realism.” He painted several celebrity portraits and used tons of colors in a way that still gave dimensions and highlights. In the end you could distinctly tell who was the portrait.

Jamie tried this approach because there was no blending. Her earlier pieces were all vibrant, contrasting colors. “I don’t know if it’s my perfectionism or what, but ironically I learned blending through that abstract approach.” Although she would paint a face with blues, reds, yellows, purples, etc. Jamie started blending one color into the next. From there, it was, “Well lemme just try some real skin tones.” She began painting realistic brown skin tones and now she manages to merge the two styles in a way that is very specific to her. Some of the portrait is realism, while other parts are abstract colors.

When I asked about her seeming to lean on the color blue more than other colors she said it’s accidentally intentional. “I’m not sure why I lean towards blue. Before painting, I would’ve never given blue as a favorite color if anyone asked. I think because it’s a cool, calming color. We all start out in water so it may be a subconscious connection to roots and tranquility. On the material side, I think you can do a lot of decorating around blue, using it as an accent color.

Jamie’s main subject is Black women. She says there are always ties to African spirituality and ancient practices because she has channeled people to help her bring their own portraits to life. To her, the creative process is connected to Spirit.

“I’ve often stepped back at a finished piece and stared in awe at how my lil ol hands could’ve accomplished it. I know the creative nudges, and internal voices giving me guidance are bigger than me. And there have been several cocktails poured and placed on altars to celebrate with my people’s on the other side because I know they’re on this journey with me.

“As far as Black women as subjects, I don’t have to tell you of all people, how Spirit is already intertwined. I’m grateful that I can bring energy through via paintings because we need to see more of it.”

People have taken notice of Jamie’s incredible talent, and eye for detail. Including the current Mayor of Birmingham, Randall Woodfin, who has a portrait of himself hanging in his office at City Hall right now.

Ruben Studdard is another among the influential people Jamie has painted a portrait of. He performed at a music and arts festival in Birmingham. She painted him live just below the main stage as he performed. She even presented the painting to him.

My daughters were there, which made it even better because they got to witness it and be a direct part of the photography/videography process. We got some really good footage and memories out of it. Ruben is a really cool dude, very down to earth and humble. He gave me an idea for a jazz artists series of work”

When asked if there were any of her ancestors who carried her artistic talent before her, she said she had no idea who her artistically creative ancestors were but she wishes she did.

I know several on my maternal side, specifically my grandma, had beautiful voices. Even my brother has a beautiful voice, but no one that I know of made any of that a profession or career. I’ve only heard singing for fun or just playing around. My brother sang Luther Vandross at his own wedding years ago. I wish I had more stories of those beyond my great grandma. She and my great grandaddy had 16 children. There was bound to be talent even if unrecognized.

To follow Jamie and purchase her artwork, visit the following links:

Online store:



This feature was riginally published October 30, 2020.

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