TUCSON, AZ — When COVID hit many artists struggled to make a living. Not so for one Arizona man.
A shout-out on national TV has completely changed his life, and the trajectory of his career.
"Obviously he's wearing it so this is about to be game changer," recalled J. Pierce.
The game changer for Pierce was Samuel L. Jackson's appearance on ABCs Jimmy Kimmel Live, 11 months ago.
Months earlier, the actor befriended J. Pierce on Instagram.
Pierce sent him a t-shirt he painted. Jackson wore it on Kimmel.
"This guy J. Pierce, he's an artist," Sammuel L. Jackson said in response to a question about where he got the shirt. "He lives in Arizona. He does really cool renditions of me and other things."
Thanks to Samuel L. -- J. Pierce was literally an overnight sensation.
"When that happened I was just like wow," J. Pierce said in a Zoom interview. "Then everybody was hitting me up like "Yo I just seen your stuff, Samuel's wearing your stuff.' So, it was dope man, it was very awesome."
Samuel L. Jackson has now become a mentor to J. Pierce.
But that was just the beginning.
During the NBA's postseason tournament in the bubble back in August, Lebron James sported one of his face masks.
"Man is he really wearing a mask? He is."
J. Pierce had arrived. The sale of his artwork exploded.
His paintings sell for hundreds of dollars apiece, often through direct messages on Instagram.
This huge success as an Arizona-based artist is a far cry from his days as a homeless teen in the Bay Area.
"I was pretty much homeless at 16," said Pierce. "I was originally from San Jose, so that's pretty much where it all started for me. I'm 32 now, it was a real life learning lesson. Being on my own at 16 and just growing and just doing my own business."
He began painting on t-shirts for his friends.
That led to painting on canvas and a way to make a living.
He says his unique style definitely has its roots in his skateboarding background.
"It falls in between pop art, modern art, street art, but I would say I always go by urban art. Just because real urban, colorful, loud, positive."
With that positive Urban Art, J. Pierce is taking the Arizona art scene by storm. He is in very high demand.
"Now I'm doing paintings and murals and artwork for big companies, celebrities and athletes. So it's like really awesome to see how everything's like blowing up."
Just how much is J. Pierce blowing up?
Look no further than his new rolling artwork, a Corvette wrapped with one of his designs.
But he remains focused on creating his art.
He says military veterans have told him the color and busy patterns help with their PTSD.
And people struggling through COVID have thanked him as well.
"Man, your art really makes me happy and it brings me happiness and just makes me smile."
J. Pierce is using his platform to share his message with homeless and low income youth.
He does painting workshops and speaks to them about his experience of being homeless at 16, and now a rising star in the world of pop art.