(interview originally published at UrbanVancouver.com)
Jeremy Crowle is an up-and-coming Canadian painter, illustrator, photographer, and all-purpose lunatic. I recently had the chance to interview him and we got to talking about art, politics, environmental sustainability, and relationships. He currently works at a Vancouver graphic design studio and his work can be seen at the Alibi Room in Vancouver starting August 22, 2004 or online at Fragile Lifestyle.
kk001 – Weâ€™ve seen you shoot photos, paint with oils, draw, build websites, design typefaces, and write on trains and walls, among other things. Tell me about your progression as an artist. Did you go to art school? What is your inspiration?
I went to a high school that really promoted the arts and had a great instructor. My folks have always been really supportive, as well, encouraging me to do [art] as much as I can. Aside from that, I went to art college for a week before I decided it wasn’t for me. Itâ€™s a great resource and there were some amazing, talented people who I met there, but my focus has always been a bit more grass roots. I’ve spent a lot of time learning [by myself] and from other artists I know on more of a progressive, intimate level.
My inspiration has always been the people around me, and I evolve as an artist naturally, I thinkâ€”as we do physically. I started painting graffiti when I was 14, and became interested in graphic design after the paintings I was doing began taking on a really graphic look. I had first applied that with spray paint. It seems like any art form I try influences the rest of them.
kk002 – What is your favorite medium? How do these different media interact for you as an artist?
I think over the years Iâ€™ve grown to understand how a marketable form of art directly influences its environment. All forms of art are marketable to a degree, but the least adaptable to the media, I think, is where I fit perfectly. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s the medium, specifically, that gets me going; itâ€™s the message.
I believeâ€”and Iâ€™ve said this beforeâ€” that a mediumâ€”whether it be a paintbrush, a computer, or spray canâ€”is just another kind of hammer you beat the nail into the wood with. Itâ€™s really about how you use the medium â€“ especially these days when a message may be more relevant to its audience than a medium. Of course, then you have to address the fact that some may come specifically to see â€œthatâ€ medium and, in some ways, you have to cater to that if you want your point to be taken.
A medium, to me, is just a way to reach a different group with the same messageâ€”or possibly choosing a medium that would more definitely communicate something than another medium would. Having said all that, I think my guitar is the best medium for me, because I know the least about it.
kk003 – How do you see the difference between the projects you’d categorize as applied art versus those you’d consider fine art?
The only difference to me is the criteria. Fine art is based (most of the time) on my own criteria, where most design (applied art) needs to address the clientâ€™s needs or vision.
In some ways, you need to think about response in all cases; but fine art is definitely more open- ended. Thereâ€™s much more room for someone to react after having applied a twist of their own imagination or perspective, whereas design on a marketing scale is often really specific to the product. Fine art is used within media, but I think it really has a life and purpose of its own.
kk004 – You’ve had some commercial success with your paintings in Europe. Tell me about that. Who collects your work? How were they exposed to you?
Iâ€™ve has some really strange experiences in the past with the work Iâ€™ve done there. Some punk bands were really into some portraits Iâ€™d done. I had taken a photograph of myself in the men’s room at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, sent it to [the gallery] a week later, and heard from a friend theyâ€™d hung it.
It was shortly after a visit to Ireland that I had received interest in some other paintings from a gallery, and it started there. Years ago I had met a girl from London â€“ a relative of a friend hereâ€” and did a group of portraits of her in a photo booth.
Those paintings did really well and sort of started the whole theme of relationship for me. That theme has obviously evolved into more specific categories, but, for the most part, still embraces that sense of randomness in personal observation. Recently, Iâ€™ve been involved with a group in Italy, and some work has been commissioned, but, for the most part, it seems to be word of mouth or pure luck that sells paintings for me.
kk005 – Do you consider yourself political? How does that manifest itself in your work?
I definitely think there is political context in the work I do, but I am often quite bored with the redundancy of government. Itâ€™s a whole lot of drama and half the time the things we hear are not the things that matter most. Even if they had a wrap on things, the majority of the public within that government doesnâ€™t get to hear about it, or [is] conditioned not to care.
Maybe thatâ€™s a bit harsh. There are a lot of things in government that have a great potential to influence the way we represent our country, but I think a country that says represent us before you represent yourself is total shit.
A lot of people find a sense of identity in patriotism or in political movements, and thatâ€™s good. But I think the real government is not really here to help us know that; its here to offer whatever order it can muster. Thatâ€™s its job.
Recently, I have been overcome with a desire to talk about environmental sustainability with my work. I think the next step to interacting with the environment you see as an individual is to respect yourself as a part of it. That knowledge really influences the way you approach communicationâ€”not to mention lifestyle.
I think any political relevance I have as an artist is to inform people that they are still people. They can still make choicesâ€”whether itâ€™s voting, or choosing a better loaf of bread. I think we need to be concerned with the lifestyle we choose before we apply that choice to a population of humans around us. On an organized level, there are groups I support like Market Trade Fair or Doctors Without Borders.
kk006 – What’s the concept behind Fragile Lifestyle? Do you live a fragile lifestyle?
This week has been somewhat fragile (laugh) … The concept of fragile lifestyle is about relationship. On a large scale, it comes back to the individual, but there is a bit of vulnerability in genuine, honest interaction and you see a lot of people guard themselves from that. I try my hardest to offer a genuine response to anything I see.
kk007 – How do you balance being creative at your day job as a designer with the creativity expressed in the rest of your life as an artist? Do you feel like you use your best ideas at work? Do you ever feel that you are â€œused upâ€ when you try produce paintings on your own time? Or does work and being around other creative people inspire you more?
Itâ€™s hard to compare the two because there is such a dramatic difference between the concept of fine art and design for me. I think my job helps me find more obscure ways of communicating an idea while maintaining a little legibility. But creativity is part of my lifestyle and it keeps me on point, I guess.
Itâ€™s the execution of an idea that makes it original, and I feel bringing that balance to Burnkitâ€™s table helps the creative flow in our office. The guys here are really good. Weâ€™re a great team who lend skills to each other in an unusually fluid way and Iâ€™m inspired by how we communicate about our work internally. Painting is more of a voice; design is a resource. In terms of incentive, my day job motivates me to raise the stakes at the studio and visa versa.
kk008 – Are you currently painting? What are you working on?
I recently took a trip to Alaska, visiting a friend who was working there. About halfway into the trip, I got really inspired to change my thinking about the arts. She-my friendâ€”introduced me to a new world of political issues, as well as deepening my interest in the environment. I am currently working on a series of drawings that explain our relationship with a completely natural habitat, from a totally urban perspective.
kk009 – Tell me ‘the two things’ about Jeremy Crowle.
1. love everything you do
2. love everything you donâ€™t do
Minutia: At the moment, what is you favorite…
RGB color: 100% green
Spray paint color: Montana Gold raspberry
Photoshop tool: the clone stamp
Software application: MSN Messenger
Hip-hop album: ATLien
Author/writer: Stan Allen
Designer: Adam Neilson
Physical activity: walking
Video game: Siren
Clothing color: white
Food/Restaurant: grilled cheese sandwich and the Alibi Room
Beer: Raven Cream Ale
Movie/DVD/Show: The Blind Swordsman
Fictional character: Jesus
Quotation: â€œYou are the company you keepâ€
Artist: Chuck Close
Place to hang out: The Trestle
Other: Alysha said she was meeting me for lunch today