To live and paint in L.A., Jason Macaya '99

For Jason Macaya, making the transition from struggling L.A. actor to starving L.A. artist was nearly seamless. After all, the UPS theater major had already logged the requisite jobs (Waiter? Check. Production assistant? Check. Talent agency peon? Check.), had a built-in loathing for a 9-to-5 office job, and just enough angst and malaise about life in La-La Land to keep him hungry for something better.

“Really, I started painting as a way to deal with living in such a big city,” says Jason, who moved to Los Angeles in 2000, hoping to pursue acting. He ultimately studied at the famed Second City theater company and endured his share of “cattle call” auditions. “Friends and roommates noticed me sketching and doodling a lot and asked ‘Have you ever thought about painting?’ It was then I thought, ‘Huh. Why not? Nothing could be worse than my restaurant job.’”

Today, five years into his incarnation as a working painter, Jason is hardly just another wannabe in a town of dreamers. His signature style is fresh and accessible: swirling, stained-glass like montages of warm colors done in acrylic, inspired he says both by his Pacific Northwest upbringing in Portland and his Chilean heritage. Deep, dark blues and vibrant reds appear plentifully throughout his work.

He has sold 50 pieces out of the 100 or so he’s created and has shown his work at various galleries around L.A. In fact, he enjoyed a very public showing of his work in April—along with that of 40 other artists—on billboards around the city as part of a month-long Earth-Day-meets-public-art project put on by the nonprofit arts organization, Eco-LogicalART.

“I appreciated the opportunity to show my work in such a visible way,” he says. “I like the idea that random strangers are happening upon these artworks while driving or walking by. The unexpectedness of it all was very appealing. It was another way of interacting with the city.”

Jason says Los Angeles life has gotten a bit easier over the years, with UPS connections, whether frequent or fleeting, providing much-needed comfort. He says a group of Loggers who moved to L.A. around the same time has been great for helping with jobs, roommates, and the occasional couch to crash on. “We’re all connected. Sometimes loosely, other times quite closely,” he says. “But we share the unique experience of our education at UPS.”

Lest we think things are all rosy down south these days, Jason says he’s still very much in starving-artist mode when it comes to making a living. In addition to setting up a more official home studio above his carport (“I only have a 20-second commute!”) and planning a new batch of paintings to show this fall, he is also a part-time concierge at the Hollywood Visitor and Information Center and a DJ at L.A.’s famed nightclub The Viper Room.

Oh, and there’s the ongoing challenge of fitting in snooze time. “Really, the hardest part about living here is getting regular sleep. There is so much going on every day,” he says, admitting he can get wistful for the ease of Northwest life. “I miss it and would like to move back there someday. But, L.A. isn’t done with me yet.”

You can see more of Jason’s art at www.jasonmacaya.com.

— Stacey Wilson ’96