Jerome is an American artist and illustrator based in Phoenix, Arizona. His passion for art stems from his upbringing and his musical and cultural environment. Jerome shares some of his artistic ideas with us and sheds light on his career and aspirations.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how/when you got into art?
I was born in the San Francisco Bay Area during the mid 70’s just a few years removed from the CounterCulture Decade of the 60’s, and a few years prior to the PopCulture Decade of the 80’s. More on this later. Major contributor to my overall skills with working with my hands belongs to the genes I inherited from my father! We both have similar interest in art we just go about creating it in very different ways. I use mostly traditional media whereas he creates his works with Stained Glass.
Where are you based, and what is the art scene like there?
After graduating high school in 1993, I moved from California to Arizona to study Graphic Design. At that time it was a niche market unless you lived and worked in bigger markets such as NY or CA. Fresh out of college, independent, and with no concrete plans to return home, nor to relocate to the big cities… I decided to stay in Arizona to see what the future might bring.
Phoenix’s [Arizona] art scene is so much better now than it was when I first moved here in ’93. I would say it’s thriving and outstanding now! I was made aware of First Friday’s in the Roosevelt Row Art District from a friend years ago, and I always wanted to know how I could be a part of it. Back then it was a handful of galleries (mostly attached to living quarters for the artist), dirt parking lots, and shady alley ways that you dare not venture into. Now, this artists district has transformed the downtown Phoenix landscape.
What were your earliest creative influences?
My earliest memories and interest came around the age 9. I was sitting at a dining room table watching my uncle draw this really cool multi-armed, multi-eyed alien. In fact, my uncle, a practicing DJ around the same time would be the one to introduce me to breakdancing and rap music which now, looking back, was the earliest days of the HipHop Culture.
So, you must have been confronted by the 80’s street art craze as well…
Undoubtedly graffiti and music have a profound influence on my artwork today. I remember as a kid growing up seeing all the cool, spray painted words and cartoon characters on the walls, always trying to figure out what it spelled, or what message the artist was trying to convey. From alley ways, to abandoned buildings, to even schools. Always amazed at the colors and styles… from bubble letters to Wild-Style, but completely oblivious to the fact that it was unpopular, unwanted and illegal. All I knew at the time is that I loved it all. My mom kept me and my sister quite ‘in check’ so there was no way in the world I was crazy enough to ‘step out of line’ to even attempt to partake in this new art craze.
However, during my High School years, I found another way to apply my passion for this style. Fellow students noticed that I would draw graffiti lettering, on paper that is, for just about everything. So, one year I had a buddy who approached me and asked if I could draw some lettering for his girlfriend as a Valentine’s Day gift. I did and he even paid me for it. From that point on, for the rest of my HS days people paid me to do this, especially for Valentine’s day and Birthdays. Looking back, I really enjoyed it all, from creating the artwork to the joy on the recipients faces when they received a finished piece… man, those were the days!
You are clearly passionate about portraiture. Tell us a bit about that…
During my schooling for Graphic Designer I still maintained a healthy passion for Freehand illustration. It didn’t really matter what the subject was or tools used, as long as I was creating freely… I was in my happy place! Some areas I explored where Tattoo designs, apparel, greeting cards, and portraiture. I’ve always found drawing faces interesting. Initially I wasn’t very good at it but I continued to try nonetheless. Eventually I became comfortable enough with my progression with portraits that I looked into to going back to school to study and train for Forensic Art. However a healthy wait list, and tuition fees derailed that plan. I would spend the next few years working odd jobs.
What forms of fine/visual art do you dabble in?
Currently my focus is Illustration… both Traditional and Digital. I do not do much Graphic Design these days, but from time to time I will hammer out a logo or shirt design. When working digitally the iPad is my go to device. It’s streamlined design, portability, and ease of use has helped me to create some amazing designs for clients. Although I have an appreciation for both forms of art… i’m most fulfilled with the challenge of “figuring it all out” with traditional media. I love getting messy, the textures of different papers, the holds needed for different brushes/pens, the smell of inks and paints, and the pure jubilation you get when you finish a project that you fought tooth and nail with. Some other areas I explored where Tattoo designs, apparel, greeting cards, and portraiture. I’ve always found drawing faces interesting. Initially I wasn’t very good at it but I continued to try nonetheless.
We enjoy your somewhat cubist technique, what inspired this approach?
The style that most people identify me with now is a play on Cubism… an abstract form that I never saw coming. If you were to ask me what style I mostly identified with in my earlier days… any form of Abstract would not appear on that list. Admittedly I just didn’t get it because being literal and realistic with art was what I understood and strived for.
What is your take on Inktober? Tell us about you Muppet Series…
I absolutely love the Inktober Challenge. I came across this one day while debating to start my first online blog. Ink is my one of my favorite mediums to work with so naturally I was intrigued and wanted to know more about this challenge. The concept is simple: for the month of October, draw daily only using ink as your medium. The 1st year I attempted the challenge I made it to day 20. The 2nd year I was able to complete the daily challenge. Forcing yourself to use only one tool really challenges you to think outside of the box for everything. Generally a ballpoint is my weapon of choice, but the last 2 years I have included markers and ink washes as other forms to complete the challenge. There is an official daily prompt list you can follow but I tend to have a list of subjects every year I want to draw specifically. Since Inktober is the entire month of October, I tend to use colors or themes that coincide with Halloween. However, this year that all fell apart when I realized time was going to be factor… hence The Muppet series was born
I’ve always loved watching The Muppets as a child, and I had had The Count on my personal Inktober list for about a year so I thought… why not draw him next for the 4th entry. From here I would complete a full series of re-imagined Muppet characters for the duration of the challenge. For the last 3 years. now I have made Inktober a priority, using this time of year to draw subjects I wouldn’t normally have time to draw down to practicing certain techniques I want to learn.
You have quite a few film and music inspired subjects, tell us a bit about this passion.
I have a rather extensive collection of DVD movies, cartoons and music videos, but it all pales in comparison to my music collection. I’m constantly listening to music and would prefer this over most types of entertainment media. There are subtle hints of movies, songs, cartoons, characters, or movie lingo that I tend reference throughout my artwork from time to time. 80’s music is my absolute favorite, but 90’s HipHop, the 60’s and 70’s are all contributing influences. When it comes to artist, styles and influence Prince, & Michael Jackson (rest their souls) top that list. As for movies… Disney animations, Beat Street, Breakin’, Krush Groove, Wild Style, The Star Wars Collection, Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory and most 80’s movies would be on top followed closely by Drama’s such as Silence of The Lambs and Scarface.
Speaking of Scarface, I’ve made reference to the main character Tony Montana a couple of times in my artwork. Being an artist he’s a great character to reference from. Not from what he ultimately depicted in the movie but the fact that theirs both a dark and light side to choose focal points from when drawing this character. The poster for the movie is iconic, simple and powerful all at once… it’s always resonated with me since the first time seeing it. Other highly influential characters that stand out as inspiration would be Willy Wonka and just about every Star Wars character. I mentioned these because I love sci-fi/fantasy movies… they allow the artist to bend, stretch the creativity/imagination muscles beyond the edges of reality!
What are your aspirations going forward?
My artwork has evolved quite a bit since I moved to Phoenix, so I am no longer considering Forensic Art. My plans are to continue expanding on my style through other mediums such as acrylic and wood. Exploring everything from architecture, pop culture, to religion. In the near future I have plans on collaborations with other artist. In particular… bringing my style into the digital era as well as further exploration and collaborating into old world techniques such as stained glass. I’m looking forward to making my work more tangible through apparel and other goods/textiles.