How has the response been to the new ‘Sessions’ book and is there anything more you want to tell us about it? The response has been much greater than expected. I’ve had to order more books, and it seems to have hit a chord with designers who want another perspective of the processes involved in collaborating, and especially commercial projects, such as with MTV or with overseas artists. There are also essays on the pitfalls of t-shirt production, and an essay on the collaborative process. The DVD also has a lot of toy templates by various toy producers, for designers to play around with to create their own 3D toy. Plus a poster and stickers, so the feedback has been that it’s a very dense and complete package.
People have commented on the amount of work involved in producing it, and co-producer Megan Mair and I are proud of that, because I believe a design book should be a lot more than just a series of seductive graphics. Those books leave me feeling a bit hollow, like my eyes have just eaten fast food. I think substance is important in a design book, and lots of essays and interviews. And, of course, seductive images. ‘Jeremyville Sessions’ has 304 pages of all of this, plus a DVD, fold out poster, and die cut stickers.
I think a successful design book should be dense enough to be revisited for years, not just consumed in one sitting, but something you can get more and more out of with each reading, and one that instigates thought and discussion.
For those who want an overview of it, ‘Jeremyville Sessions’ is about the process of collaborations, with over 300 artists and companies, like Beck, Genevieve Gauckler, Geoff McFetridge, Baseman, Lego, MTV, Adidas, Jim Woodring, Bigfoot, Tristan Eaton, Biskup, Miss Van, Converse, Devilrobots, Deanne Cheuk, STRANGEco, many many more, plus many essays, articles and interviews.
You come across mainly as an illustrator, but also as a persistent networker and promoter of yourself and creativity in general… Has this affable attitude been an important factor in your success? I see myself as an artist and writer first. Then a producer of projects. An artist who also collaborates with lots of other artists. I try and be the first at something; for example I wrote and produced the first book in the world on designer toys called Vinyl Will Kill, published by IdN. I also created Sketchel with Megan Mair, the first customisable art bag project based on our own satchel bag design. We’ve collaborated with over 500 Sketchel artists so far, like Beck, Genevieve Gauckler, Miss Van, Baseman, Biskup, Furi Furi, Friends with you, STRANGEco, Bigfoot, Marc Atlan, Saiman Chow, Jaime Hayon, Tim Tsui, some of the best around.
If you’re from Sydney, Australia and want recognition on the world stage, you need to make yourself known, and go out and get it. No one came knocking on my door. But of course any successful artist has networked and self promoted to some extent to get there.
You are a very thoughtful person making somewhat rudimentary looking things… How do you see your style evolving? It’s taken me a long time to get it that rudimentary! There’s power in simplicity and paring back, as long as the message is maintained, the image has a soul, and possesses a unique style. I see my style as very much evolved; I remove lines in my mind until just the essence of the mood remains. I can put a few marks down on a page and to me they are instantly Jeremyville. It takes years to get it that sparse. I’ve worked hard at developing my own voice, which I guess is, yes, deceptively simple and restrained.
You often mention some more cerebral historical art movements and individuals… Do you see a connection between these and the kind of contemporary cartoonish stuff you’re involved in? I personally think a cartoon can be very cerebral. Something complex expressed as a haiku. I try and wrestle the big issues like loss, death, love, longing, in a few seemingly simple lines, that hopefully evoke feelings in the reader, and resonate on a deeper level. Cartoons are my shorthand, and my shortcut to the essence of an idea. Of course I produce a lot of other work too: murals, toys, large canvasses, clothing, Sketchels, animation, books, snowboards, many products; I also work in many mediums, and feel equally at home in them. Cartooning is just one instrument in my orchestra. I love exploring a medium I’ve never tried before.
I started cartooning at the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s leading newspaper, at the age of 19, while finishing my architecture degree. I don’t like the conventions of cartoons- I’ve invented my own style- for example I just did a comic story on Geoff McFetridge, and he drew me. Each frame of the comic reads like a scene from a film, and Geoff commented on that too. I think there can be power and great meaning behind what is at first just a humble cartoon, or a cartoon style.
That’s just some background. To get back to the main point of your question, I think the art movement of our time is not a stylistic one such as cubism or pop (which both essentially sprung from a particular geographical place and were championed by an art cognescenti), but rather, the new movement is international, happens mainly online, and is not owned by a few galleries. The new movement is collaboration. A project between 2 artists, between a company and an artist, between a publisher and a group of artists. It’s a conceptual movement which has seen the artist reclaim his or her freedom from the client or patron or gallery. The artist can now choose who they work with, how much money they can make. How many shows they have a year. Direct their own destiny. Shape the marketing of their career. Create products from their art. Dictate what in fact is art. Reach their audience online. The 20th century model of the artist as indentured servant in a gallery’s stable has been superseded, or at the least, relegated to a creative cul de sac.
We are in a creative revolution, and only some are aware of it. Who are some players in this new movement? KAWS. Murakami. Banksy. Gauckler. Mike Mills. Baseman. Fairey. Fafi. Barry McGee. Maya Hayuk. Kinsey. Michael Lau. James Jarvis. McFetridge. All artists who create within that nexus where the gallery meets the street, which meets collaborations and commercial projects. They are redefining the parameters of fine art, and of important art.
My book ‘Jeremyville Sessions’ is all about this collaboration process, seen from the context of the Jeremyville studio working on 300 collaborative projects over the last year or so. It looks at the redefinition of these parameters of art and creativity, and has an introductory essay about the collaboration movement.
Are you concerned with your contribution to the world, and what would you like it to be? Would you use your status to be more altruistic? The Jeremyville and DESIGN Lab studio contributes regularly to several charities, Jeans for Genes being a particular emphasis each year. We also donate our time and expertise to other charities who do great things for the community. I’m definitely a believer in giving back to the world. I also don’t drive a car, I ride a bicycle and walk. I think the fossil fuel industry has wreaked havoc on the natural world. Let’s start the electric car revolution! Let’s reinvent the whole notion of energy. It is achievable, and it can start with just one thought, in one person.
Even with the DESIGN Lab team in place, do you enjoy the business side of your lifestyle or does it infringe on the energy you can devote to being artistic? I love the business side. We’ve constructed a business engine to help us make projects happen. We have a great team which covers all areas of expertise needed for a successful business. The business side doesn’t really impact on my time to create, indeed, it helps me tackle a creative problem from a different perspective.
Your background includes an architecture degree, as well as film education… Since you already maneuver in so many different mediums, will these fields ever connect with Jeremyville? I believe the methodologies I learned in those fields help me daily. Architecture is all about an initial concept, tempered by a set of constraints, which finally results in the built form. You take into account various constraints, such as client input, budgets, other disciplines such as engineering, and tweak your idea to realise that built form. It can take a year or two of arduous work to unfold this process, and compared to that, my projects such as producing a book, are relatively simple.
So with that architectural education in mind, I always try and see a project, such as a book, from a linear perspective; that is, starting from the original notion of the final ‘built form’, but one which will be tempered by various factors along the way. It’s a daily exercise in problem solving, lateral thinking, and a series of small changes, while still maintaining that vision. The aim being to end up with something as true to the original idea as possible.
Jeremyville graduated from Sydney University with an architecture degree, began his art career by cartooning at the Sydney Morning Herald at age 19, and now designs toys, books, paints murals, designs his Jeremy clothing label, and runs his online store at www.jeremyville.com. He works with Neil Venkataramiah, co-director of the company, (a UTS Communications graduate) and Megan Mair, Associate Creative Director (Dip. Graphic Design from KVB.) Jeremyville and Megan Mair have produced the first book in the world on designer toys called Vinyl Will Kill!, published by IdN.