We’ve all had a bad day or been down on our luck and for a Pensacola man, whose bad break made him homeless, things are starting to look up. Jon Masters is in fact now an inspiration for others like him. Masters is a homeless artist, who panhandled on the side of the road with a sign that read “Just Need A Little Help,” in order to gain enough money to buy art supplies and now makes a living selling his spectacular paintings to members of his community.
Masters’ talent and beautiful paintings caught the attention of the Pensacola, Florida, community members and his work is now in high demand. The success that the 56-year-old has found is also making other homeless persons in the community take note and begin thinking of ways to do more to earn a living as well. In a piece that the Pensacola News Journal did on the artist, he spoke of the inquiry they have been making.
“That’s what I enjoy the most. I’ve got other homeless guys coming up to me to check out what’s going on. They’re hearing about my story from other homeless people. They’re seeing the response I’m getting and some of them are trying to figure out what they can do that’s similar. They want to know how I learned to paint. They want to do something on their own. I’m actually able to inspire others. To me, that’s the best part about all of this.”
Jon Masters admitted that he has been homeless on and off for most of his life but was finally able to save enough money to buy a used — very used to be honest — sailboat while he was in New Orleans. He lived on the boat with his service dog, Sheba, who is a medical alert dog trained to warn him about his often occurring seizures, and tried to make a living with his paintings there too. He learned to paint during his New Orleans years by studying the artists in the famed Jackson Square. The homeless artist says that it has been about five years since he had had a “real job,” but the New Orleans competition was fierce and he was not able to earn. Masters made the decision to pack up and sail away, with his eventual destination being Key West and he hoped for better days.
An unfortunate — or perhaps very fortunate, considering the current outcome — stop in Warrington led to the artists’ arrest in August. Jon was caught by police officers in a public place that did not allow animals and Sheba was not wearing her service vest. He was arrested for trespassing and spent two weeks in jail while Sheba was locked up in the County Animal Shelter. Members of the Pensacola Junior Humane Society took her in for the last few days of Jon’s arrest. By this time, the very used sailboat Jon and Sheba had been living in was no more, the vessel was prone to taking on water had sunk since there was no one to bail it out. In USA Today‘s featured piece, it was highlighted that despite the downward spiral, Masters remained positive.
“I was only worried about my dog. Everything else could be replaced. Nothing bad really happens. That’s what I believe. It’s just that not enough time has gone by to find out what the good (that) will come of the situation will be.”
After his panhadling earned him the $40 he needed to buy his art supplies, his sales took off. He sells the paintings as fast as he can create them and they can range from $25 to $45. Many people have also taken to dropping off art supplies and dog food to Jon under the oak tree where he likes to stay at. Masters’ real name is Jon Spiel but he has become much more widely known under his pseudonym and even has a Facebook page dedicated to his works. That good that he never stopped looking for has certainly found him. A local church has offered him and Sheba a place to sleep at night, he was invited to join and given a free booth at a local farmers market, and he also works with local art studio, Driftology Art & Designs, to help organize a weekly barbecue that brings homeless artists together.
Huffington Post wrote that on a professional front, Jon has managed to stock up on a lot of art supplies, thanks to donations, and buyers love his paintings so much that he has received several offers for commission work. Even though he still does not have a permanent place to live, he says he’ll be making Pensacola his home and has discarded his plans to move to Key West.
[Photo Courtesy Of Jon Masters’ Facebook]