Asa "HoneyBoy" Jessup, a local artist in Bowling Green, creates artwork inside of Spencer’s Coffee shop, located at Fountain Square Park. Jessup has been creating art for 25 years. (Photos by Rhiannon Johnston)

Demystifying art: Local artist shares work at Spencer’s

At Spencer’s Coffee shop, located at Fountain Square, an artist spends his free time practicing his art and handing out free clippings of his artwork. He often sets a sign up that reads, “Free Art,” which catches the eye of many customers, as well as Spencer’s workers who happily take his free clippings.

This artist, Asa “HoneyBoy” Jessup from Greenville, said he mainly gives out free drawings but also paints and dabbles in photography.


Jessup said that he used to keep his art for his own enjoyment but that changed when he saw how giving people his art made people happy. 

“Giving people my art is a good way for me to spread love, so I like to give my art away for free,” he said.

Asa “HoneyBoy” Jessup does not believe in selling his artwork. “I have a weird relationship with money,” Jessup says. Instead of charging people for his work, he carries a “Free Art” box with him to different places in Bowling Green. He places the box next to him while he works. If someone is interested in what he is doing, they can ask for a free piece of art, and Jessup will curate that piece of art right in front of them before giving it to them for free.

Jessup, a former art major and philosophy minor at Murray State University, said he doesn’t like how art is taught in academic settings. He said people learn how to judge others’ art as well as their own.

“Schools often give you a formula in your head of what you think art should be like. I spent all of my time outside of college deconstructing that formula,” Jessup said. “I believe there isn’t any incorrect or correct way to do art.” 

Inside Jessup’s “Free Art Box” are marker or pen drawings of fun characters on small pieces of cardboard. Jessup places these small pieces into the box as free artwork. Anyone who likes the clippings may take them.

Jessup said as a student he became captivated by philosophy and constantly wanted to learn more. 

He said philosophy changed the way he thought about himself as well as how he thought about his art. He often uses himself as a subject when creating art. He specializes in self-portraiture and hands, which he said is his favorite thing to draw. 

Renne Rhodes, a barista at Spencer’s, said she has received drawings from Jessup that she was impressed with.

“He has given me a drawing of a dog that says, ‘Every Doggy Day,’” she said, “I have that drawing taped up, and it makes me happy to see it every day.”

Asa “HoneyBoy” Jessup holds up a pen drawing piece he recently created. “Almost all my artwork is based off either hands or self-portraits, and this is because my old art teacher said those were the two hardest things to draw. I took it as a challenge,” Jessup explains. Along with pen, pencils and markers, Jessup also sometimes works with oil paint.

Rhodes said she is also a part-time artist who considers herself a good friend of Jessup. She said he is very talkative, personable and has a strong passion for art.

Leo Rowley, Rhodes’ coworker at Spencer’s, says he often sees Jessup drawing at the coffee bar while he works.

“He never runs out of things to say,” Rowley said. “He has a certain air of confidence I admire and aspire to have.” 


Rowley said that the particular art style Jessup has is individualistic, which is a good quality to have as an artist.

Jessup said that Keith Haring, an LGBTQ artist, was one of his biggest inspirations. He said that Haring was openly gay, and he used his art to benefit the LGBTQ rights movement.

Jessup’s work is a way for him to not only express himself but also to work through his own mental struggles. “I tend to use paint when I’m in a darker headspace in my life. However, when I’m in a stable headspace, I use pen,” Jessup says.

Just like Haring, Jessup said that he expresses issues in his art that he feels are not talked about enough, such as disabilities and mental illnesses. 

Jessup said his advice for aspiring artists is to never give up.

“I’m tired of the mysticism in art where people think that art has to be a beautiful scene. Art is what you make it to be,” he said.

Asa Jessup signs the back of one of his larger pen and charcoal drawings. “I never sign the front of my artwork; I feel like it takes away from the meaning of a piece,” Jessup says. In the next year or so, Jessup plans to move out of the country to teach English. “Once I move, it will be hard to transport my larger pieces,” Jessup says. Because of this, Jessup has been giving away tons of his larger pieces of artwork for free.