Studio Session with Tempe Artist Jayarr Steiner

Chris MalloyAugust 27, 2020
Share This

Tempe artist Jayarr Steiner is screaming, but not with his vocal cords – rather, with his “Treeple,” ink portraits of ethereal woman-tree hybrids, bent in wispy mid-yoga poses, and “Humanities,” tiny, emoji-like people of all ages and races who color the frames. His artistic voice finds further, full-throated expression in his YOU ARE AMAZING concept: florid, ebullient, spray-painted boards and facades with the phrase at center, already viral on Instagram and TikTok.

Steiner, who has always made art, went full time last year. Previously, he focused on his print company, Jayarr Customs, and his “renegade, Fight Club”-style, underground yoga studio. He held classes in a 1,000-square-foot room behind his house. Today, canvases, brushes, tunes and ephemera like a drum from his time flirting with hippieism fill the black-walled space where the 38-year-old father of one does his silent screaming.

“There are people out there who are technically way better artists than me, but I’m not afraid to scream,” he says. “I am screaming to the universe right now.”

Steiner’s work has range. By his own description, the “Treeple” are “monochrome, peaceful, earthy.” His YOU ARE AMAZING series is “obnoxious, color-vomit-style.”

Lately, Steiner has been busy with a YOU ARE AMAZING project for Valley Metro; murals, including a 60-footer at Central Avenue and Roosevelt Street; live-crowd painting; and “Treeple” sketching. For the latter, he dons robes and gold jewelry.

Uplifting colors like “pink and magentas and bright yellows” buoy his large-format pieces. Triangles – “the perfect shape” – tend to slash through paintings. Steiner and his “habanero-style” personality aim to become as locally iconic as his hero was in New York City. “My dream is to be the Keith Haring of Phoenix,” he says. “Where, when you associate Phoenix and art, you immediately think of YOU ARE AMAZING or ‘Humanities.’ That’s my dream.” Find his work at

MTN 94 Aerosol Paint
Steiner brushes with acrylic paint and gets surgical with a Micron 01 pen for fine inkwork. But his work’s emotional baseline usually arises from spray paint. MTN 94 is made expressly for artists. “They have very good lastability in the sun,” he says – key for murals.

Colored Tape
Steiner uses blue tape for projects longer than a week. His most theatrical tape is black. Before aerosol painting live, he tapes black triangles to black canvas. With the crowd watching, he sprays the surface then removes the hidden tape, revealing stark lines webbing through.

Projector & Procreate
The artist begins most pieces in the illustration program Procreate. After projecting his digital image onto a surface, he starts to ink and paint.

Shirt & Gym Shorts
He has 10 of the same shirt and five pairs of identical shorts. “I wear the same thing every single day. I’m shaped like a dolphin, so when I find clothes [that fit], I tend to buy a bunch of them.”

For more than 50 years, PHOENIX magazine's experienced writers, editors, and designers have captured all sides of the Valley with award-winning and insightful writing, and groundbreaking report and design. Our expository features, narratives, profiles, and investigative features keep our 385,000 readers in touch with the Valley's latest trends, events, personalities and places.