Mike Giant Interviews JK5 Part 2Juxtapoz // Sunday, 02 Aug 2009
Mike Giant: How do you use color? Like, do certain colors mean certain things to you? Or do you just go with the flow, and let the needs of the illustration dictate color associations?
JK5: I’m a Gemini to the core man. There's 2 of everything, dualities and pairs everywhairs. Astrological, star reflected blueprints for each one of us is very real, at least to me and my beliefs and understanding of larger, cosmic forces at work and play in all of us. That first pair of things doing the tango for me were words and images. Always, as evident from my first drawings of Jesus, Kiss and Star Wars from 1975 on. When I drew Kiss, as we all did like crazy then, I would render each of their signatures. The Ace one with the star A, was so iconic and impactful at 7 years old. A title, heading, caption, name, complete with new letterforms and logo steez came with every drawing. Writing my own little comics, stories, creating new characters and worlds, always came with writing. As soon as I could write my name, I was practicing 10 different kinds of handwriting. In grammar school, as all my observation, written and drawn practice was a reaction to absorbing the handwriting of boys and girls, teachers, and my parents. Handwriting was a distinct and personal reveal that always intrigued me. Most were unconscious of it, but for the creatively inclined, and to those nerdy kids who loved to copy and mimic (a vital rite of passage for budding draftsmen in my mind) handwriting was super fun, and an amazing personality illuminating exercise. I remember in 2nd grade we all had to do the, create an acronym that says who you are with the letters of your last name. I loved that. Shit like, Awesome Likable Outstanding Incredible! Each letter a different style, texture, what have you. I hated homework, but loved keeping immaculate notebooks. Really making books from that time onward.
Even spacing, equidistant spacing. I was a truly obsessive about how it all looked. I've been wilding out, and playing with words, language, acronyms, mnemonics, etc, ever since. More and more and more. Band logos, record covers, and skate graphics, all of it. Derek Riggs, Roger Dean, Zeppelin, Yankee logos, tons of cartoons. I remember rendering, very carefully, the little story leaflet that came with the Smurfs mushroom houses. I was a freak for the Smurfs. To scale, font accurate, everything. Dungeons and Dragons manuals, fucking Ozzy fonts! Come on man, who didn't practice all of that stuff on their denim binder in the early 80's! So much of what Im saying is about the collective unconscious, the well, the ocean of life, an influence that we all swam in, just channeled and married to a personal lexicon. Very important to note for our experience together as humans, as a generation. A part of my work, and a big part of who I am, is always celebrating and tapping that aspect of it all.
Graffiti was huge for me at that time too, but I remember doing a couple of walls at a schoolyard with a friend and being scared shitless. Getting up wasn't for me, but man was I getting down with letters in my own way in my black books. The book subway art. Huge. Again, being adopted is at the core. Nicknames, aliases, 10 affectionate names for everything and everyone. Deep unknowing and insecurity was internal wildfire for the spastic energy I’ve always created with. Being raised in a small, sleepy, blue collar mixed up, but mostly tacky Italian suburb, it was imperative for me to carve my own identity, to rise above, to excel in a unique way, to prove myself to everyone that made fun of my ways, and especially to my intense, domineering, old school Calabrese father. Essentially, as my path unfolded, writing constantly in my own forms, languages and styles, my love of words, designing them with each beat and stroke, has been as steadfast as the stars, will magnify, and endure forever and ever and beyond. The letterforms in my current vernacular stream come from years of practice and cultivating strong, fluid, and distinct tattoo script, writing JK5, dates, times, and days of the week a different way each day (rad exercise), and my most inherently symbolic and distinct englisified sanskrit, from my 1999 book title design for "SUBCONSCIOTHESAURUSNEX."
Since I’ve been tattooing at Saved in Brooklyn (since 06) with Scott Campbell, a good friend, elegant letterer and teacher, my forms have been improving more and more. When skill levels surround you, visionary, high level artistic approaches, and brilliant technicians, you grow exponentially if you put in the time. You just have to work constantly. I've always loved script, and have always tattooed tons of it, but I feel like I never got it right until I got to Saved with that dopest, incredibly talented crew. John Reardon, Dan Trocchio, thanks homies. Profoundly inspirational and educational. MIKE GIANT LADIES AND GENTELMEN. Jack Rudy, Grime, Henry motherfucking Lewis! Homies cross-pollinating. That's what it's all about. Watch, learn, and do your own goddamn thing. A lot of amazing peeps out there that we all learn from and assimilate. Right now my script is some sort of east LA, cholo, sanskrit, bugged out, future electric, light line, Tolkien elfish shit. Just total form porn or, FORN. What? yep, forn. I’m a fornagrapher. I like to keep it interesting and always moving in new erect directions. All there is is math and spirit. Form and consciousness. Come mad stealth. Crazy, celestial childhood cosmic clown, hyper-creative combinations, and criminal minded, you've been blinded, looking for a style like mine. My minds my 9, my pen, my mack zen from back when.
What are your favorite mediums to work with and why? Are there any mediums you really can't stand?
My favorite mediums are pencil, colored pencil, sharpies, microns, highlighters for fast under drawings, and single pass fluidity and directness.... tattooing. Ill mark a surface with anything, and I’m really excited for my work world to completely enter the third dimension more and more. Aside from the toys, sculpture, fully immersive environments, and animated films. A feature film based on the Flowbot archetypal, mythological world is being developed right now, and I’m so excited that my whole life’s work will be crystallizing in this ultimate symphonic form. A clothing collection for kids is in the works with Barneys, and lots of products and accessories as well. I want to take my work into wholly new categories. Acrylic on wood panel is what a like when I’m painting. Ebony pencils are my favorite graphite pencil; Dan Higgs calls this his "magic pencil." I like what I call " immediums." immediate, direct and graphic results. I very patiently sketch, shade and render, but I’m always drawing and writing in sharpies and markers, for vivid, quick, sharpest results. I find gauche to be very challenging, as well as water color, but I just don't have that much experience with either of those mediums.
Ultimately a medium is a vehicle, so whatever I conceive of, I like the fact that it's just form, and anything can take shape. Technology and light always entices me as far as creative applications with it. I want to make work that looks like it was born on another planet deep into the spiritual, imaginative future. We shall see what dreams may come.
If you had to settle on one medium to work with for the rest of your life, what would it be?
One medium for the rest of my life? Man, what a question! I would have to say markers. If I was on a desert in some nether dimension, all alone forever, I would have to have an endless supply of sketchbooks, a few highlighters, and a handful of varied tipped, trusty, crisp sharpies. Maybe just yellow, pink, light blue, red and black, black, black.
That's the name of my new book that I’m working on. "MAKE IN PINK, BELIEVE IN BLACK." Pink being the soft, feminine, vaginal color of life and love, and black the color of inked intent. Focus, a silken, fluid, meditative, deeply confident line, growing and taking new pathways all the time. I would hope to evolve in light form, over a thousands of years, where in that time, my forearms and hands would adapt, and mutate into constantly flowing, new appendages in the form of drawing tools. I'd become a 7-year-old, kid kreactivader flowvex nexx lifetime species.
When viewing art in a gallery or museum, are there particular kinds of work that always take your breath away? Are there particular styles of art that you'd just walk right past?
I’m attracted to, and moved by a world of art. There are works in every medium, and whole new, individual concept categories that have taken my breath away. As long as there in new life breathed into it, I'll be affected, inspired, thankful for it, and transported. When I go to a gallery, if I’m stoked to make my own work while looking, I know that I’m bored. I know the work is good in my mind, if the work stops me, and demands my full, contemplative attention. That's my visceral way of deciding. I love seeing what I think I’ve never seen before, in any way, on any level. At the same time, there's work I see that disturbs me, or elicits a gut reaction, for its raw, in that moment document and depiction. I think art should be about what is new, and next. I have the greatest appreciation for technique, craft, and skill, but the content has to have a life, an energy, and exploration, something fresh and intelligent sparked and captured. I walk right past a lot of work, all different kinds. I love a good show, and the ones that blow me away fuel my present energy and consciousness of possibilities for my own. There are plenty of artists that rock my world, but even at those shows, I’m antsy to get back to my notes and sketching. It's a real economical exchange of information. I have way too much I want to make real.