Creative Conversations: Tim Boelaars + Jeremy Fish
To celebrate the YG11 Call for Entries (opening May 1) we are posting excerpts from on ongoing series of conversations between Young Guns and creatives they look up to.
Tim Boelaars: I was wondering about the style of your work. In my own world, I’m kind of going through a struggle where I am doing a certain style that a client has hired me for, but I want to do something more challenging. Have you ever experienced this kind of thing? How do you challenge yourself with your work?
“Take the way that you draw and insist to yourself that you draw different types of things all the time.”
Jeremy Fish: I think that it can be very dangerous when you get
recognized for one specific thing, to have one quality of what you’re doing, or one type of content or subject matter or composition or whatever. When someone comes to you and says “oh, I really love this one thing you did and I would like you to do some more of that for us,” it’s both good and bad. It’s good because it brings people to you and it’s getting you work. At the same time it’s bad because each time you do that, it traps you more and more into a style that people expect from you.
I guess the one thing I always try to do — and my friends gave me a lot
of shit for it when I was younger — is that even though I had a recurring cast of characters and other things I draw a lot, I try hard to force myself to make as many deliberate changes with composition, color and new characters as I can, at least in my personal work. Even when the end result is a mistake, I think the more different things I put out over the years, the less limited and the less likely someone will call and say, “oh I just want a bunny and a skull.” If that is what I was doing all these years, I would have been burnt out and sick of this many years ago.
I would say that half the time I did that I would be successful, and the other half I wasted my time. But I watched a lot of my friends that used to make fun of me for drawing all the different things have their style get really stale. I watched them get really burnt out and really only get a certain type of work.
I’ve looked at your work, and I could see that there’s obviously a
distinctive style to your stuff. I believe you should take that distinctive style and just apply it to as many different things as possible. Try to do landscape drawings in the same style. Draw a big scene. Take the way that you draw and insist to yourself that you draw different types of things all the time. How old are you?
Tim: I’m 22.
Jeremy: Okay, you are 22 years old and you have a very nice style that people start recognizing you for, you’re getting work, but it’s difficult because at that point you’re like, “shit everybody knows me for this thing but I’m already kind of sick of this thing.” I guess I’ve always been fortunate enough to be able to do personal work. I have art shows on top of commercial stuff and back and forth. So if you are stuck getting work based on a specific style, you can take more risks in your personal stuff. You can get known for a different style by doing personal work, and then perhaps you get commercial work from that stuff.
Changing material and media is also a really good way to shake things
up. Maybe you get into certain habits when you sit down and draw on your computer, and you’re just used to taking up a tablet or whatever and drawing in a certain way. Force yourself to take a bunch of crappy paper, hang it on the wall and draw really big with a brush. Force yourself to draw with a pencil in a book. This frees you up from getting stuck in your habits.
Tim: At what age did you think you could make a living off your own work?
Jeremy: I’m 38 now, so… 37? [Laughs] I don’t know, I didn’t really
have any confidence when I was younger. I didn’t know anyone that had done this before and, I really wasn’t all that talented in art school. I had a lot of people around me in San Francisco who were always much better than me.
I moved here to San Fran when I was nineteen, and I was probably around 26 or 27 when I started to get emails. My work had gotten out there, and I was getting offers for little art shows, and I was getting interest from Europe at that time. I finally started to see like, oh whoa, I kind of have a name for myself! It was around then that I realized that this is something I was probably going to be able to do for a while. That’s when I quit my last job, and I have been self-employed ever since.
Tim: I’ve always been curious about music’s effect on an
artist. Do you create to music, and if so, what kind of music do you like to listen to while working?
Jeremy: I’ve listened to hip-hop my whole life. I grew up in New York,
and I was a little kid in the 80s, when hip-hop was really taking off.
If I am trying to get an idea, I tend to listen to more instrumentals,
beats and stuff, or jazz or something like that because it’s really calm and quiet. But if I am outlining things, if I am drawing with a brush or a pen and I have to be really on point and not make any mistakes, I listen to really aggressive hip-hop. It gets my adrenaline going and it wakes me up a bit.
Tim: If you could have any music artist to represent your
work, who would it be?
Jeremy: That’s easy, it’s Aesop Rock. I have seen him perform dozens of
times here in San Francisco, and at some point he got married to a woman who lived here. Another friend of mine knew them and said “hey, I know this artist who is like your biggest fan in the world” and blah blah blah… We were introduced, and the next thing you know, I was working on music videos and album covers. He is my favorite musician ever because I felt like his music was what my stuff looks like. In my mind, his music is playing in the places that I draw or paint.