Inside the Brain of Jeff Proctor: Exclusive InterviewJuxtapoz // Saturday, 17 Apr 2010
Jeff Proctor’s style spans many mediums but his aesthetic is always recognizably his own. Translating his gory, graphic imagery into approachable work that speaks to a wide audience, Proctor tells us his secrets and how he alone “sort of figured out a way” and why “we all need to get our Walden Pond on” in our exclusive interview.
Your career spans many years and many mediums. As a well-known illustrator, typography designer, muralist, and graphic designer, you've definitely gotten to work with a wide range of people and companies. How do you approach commercial versus fine versus personal work?
Although commercial work can be boring it's actually easier to tackle most times. You have an idea you need to communicate, you figure out the best way to do so for the particular job and you do it, done.
With personal work it's harder because the first thing you need to do is figure out what and why you want to communicate anything in the first place, if you even want to at all. Sometimes when you can do anything at all you want with no restrictions it's a lot harder.
Stepping back a bit, can you briefly give us some background info on who you are, your choice of medium, and how you ended up where you are now?
I'm from New England and went to art school in Maine. I've worked at design studios and large corporations and now I'm just doing freelance design and illustration. I'm trying really hard to move away from strict design and more into illustration and art. Lately I've moved mostly back and forth between drawing in a tablet on the computer to drawing with pencils brush and ink and watercolors. Ink is probably my medium of choice, but I think every medium informs the next, and helps your hand and style develop faster.
Your typography design is excellent: clean lines, bold lettering. Did you teach yourself the trade or did you attend art school? What is your goal in typographic work?
I just try to absorb from anything I see that I like. I went to art school for graphic design and painting, but don't have formal training in calligraphy or anything. I mostly just draw type like I'd draw anything else. I'm sure there are lots of trade secrets that would help me but I just don't know them. I sort of figured out a way on my own.
I'm sure if a talented sign painter saw how I made type I'd just get laughed at. I steal a lot when I do type. I see something I like and try to emulate it. I wish there was a more grand answer to that, but there isn't. Or at least I'd have to spend more time thinking about it but I can't because I’m thinking about breakfast too much right now.
Your piece created for Gatorade involves various green hues with more subtle characters enmeshed in cartoonish splendor. Please tell us about the process and inspiration for this logo?
I started painting these weird abstract cartoony blobs a few years ago. Actually it's probably been almost 7 years since I started these things. It is what I do when I'm doodling and talking on the phone basically. It's also kind of a go to when I do a mural because I can just freestyle this stuff without much of a plan which makes it super fun to do. I just start with large random flat shapes in and then with the outlines find my way around the piece. It's kinda like a game; like fill in the blanks.
What was it like working with Gatorade? Have you worked with them in them past?
I work with Gatorade every time I'm blasting my lats in the gym! No, I don't think I've worked with Gatorade in the past. It's cool. I got to make a huge painting pretty much exactly how I wanted to from the comfort of my room. That's a pretty awesome project to work on.
Where do you see illustration, graphic design, and typography heading in the next decade? What makes a successful fine and commercial artist?
I just don't even want to speculate on something that broad. Truthfully, I spend more time thinking about skateboarding and eating more than the state of art and design. I'm really trying to focus more on why I'm doing what I'm doing. The connectedness that we have today with internet and other media outlets is crazy. There are aspects of it that are awesome, but I think everyone is way too distracted. I think people are consuming culture, commenting, and re-contextualizing way too much and not actually making anything.
We all need to take a bit more time alone with ourselves to figure out why we are doing what we are doing as artists and designers. Take some time away from the media barrage, referencing, cool hunting, fashion, trends, blogs, and see what emerges from inside us. We all need to get our Walden Pond on and leave the internet at home.
Anything else lined up for the rest of the year we should be on the lookout for?
Hopefully lots of stuff. I don't know what yet but something is building up inside me and I'm hoping to have an explosion of art happen this year. We'll see. I gotta get off the couch first.
Actually I'm thinking about trying to make some comics. And look out for lots more zombies and portraits ... and zombie portraits.
For more information on Jeff Proctor, visit www.makenonsense.com