Your style, especially in your figures, can appear cartoonish, but it also has this rough realism, like in your depiction of Mickey Mouse, where you humanize him with small eyes and dark circles. How would you describe your style?
No clue. Trying to describe what I do, or even how or why I like something is really hard for me. I’m horrible at expressing myself verbally. That’s why I enjoy painting. I can sit there and spend a week or two on a single image or thought, taking one image I like and then painting it in the colors I think compliment it, tediously painting and repainting it until I feel like it is a coherent thought.
I wish every conversation I ever had could be more like that. The first time I try and express a thought, it always comes out all jumbled and non-sensical, like I’m just stringing together random sentences.
I wish I could go back and layer in new words, sentences, thoughts, ideas until I get something that seems more like a clear expression of myself and my feeling on the subject, ya know?
Your colors are disarming and distinctive. You seem to take familiar, primary colors (blue, red, yellow), and alter them just enough that they become weird and unfamiliar. What role does color play in your compositions?
My style has altered in the last few months, especially in the way I use color, so it’s hard to speak on the way I use composition. I honestly just go with my gut a lot of the time.
Lately, I’ve been starting by painting everything a cool blue then layering warmer colors on top. I usually know what color I want to work around, like in the last cowboy painting I did, I knew I wanted a red shirt and that was it. After that, I just kept changing the colors around until everything seemed balanced. Sometimes in the painting I feel like the color plays a more important role then the image itself.
You paint big and small cats. There’s one painting where a big, gothic black cat is panting over the universe. Do cats hold any sort of totemic significance for you?
Ya, I love cats. I grew up with a lot of animals, dogs, cats, crows, pigeons, snakes, rabbits, lizards, even a possum for a few weeks once; you name it. But I always felt the most connection with my cats. Like when you have a cat as your friend, you know that’s a real friend. That’s your buddy. That cat can be anywhere, do anything it wants. So if it’s hanging out with you it’s because it wants to, because it really loves you. Unlike dogs, I mean I love dogs a lot, but they’re idiots. They just love you because you feed them, and they just need you most of the time. So ya I guess I put cats on a pedestal…they’re cool.
Also they have this vibe like they know something you don’t, Like their third eye is open and they’ve seen through the multi-dimensions stacked ontop of eachother like glass plates playing out every infinite scenario. So they know what could have happened and what’s going to happen and none of it really matters because we’re all just going to be reincarnated as bushes so eat and nap all you like.
Many of your scenes are distinctively American—there’s western scenes with cowboys, and a scene of a woman diving into a motel swimming pool. Do you think about Americana when you paint?
Oh yeah, for sure. I’ve really been leaning into it lately. It’s honestly kinda subliminal to me, not really a cultural criticism or anything. If anything, it’s a critique on the inner workings of my brain. I don’t even realize I’m doing it, like It’s all just so engrained into my brain like some MK ultra shit. I guess that’s a very American thing, being force-fed pop culture, and stories of grandeur. There’s always a single polarized person achieving this hero status through some arbitrary measure of greatness. In that sense, I kind of think the way I usually use a singular image is very American, almost like brand advertising. And what’s more American than advertisement? One singular conglomerate manipulating an image to suit the wants of the consumer to maximize profit. I don’t know what I’m talking about, but yeah, I guess I’m into a type of Americana. Not sure if it’s in the traditional bread and butter sense, but yeah.
Flowers seem to have a tragicomic symbolism in your work, as in the scene where bundles of flowers spill out of a totaled car. Do you see flowers as symbols?
Well, I’ve done flowers before and Im still on the fence about how they look in my paintings. Specifically in the car painting with the flowers spilling out, I wanted to paint these cars being torn inside out. Not really about the car crash itself, but the wreck it leaves behind. I see beauty in the twisted metal. I think a lot of people look at them and think they’re violent, which I didn’t intend for them to be. But yeah, the flowers are kind of symbolic for blood and guts, (haha ok, maybe it is violent), but like if the car was a living creature, as it lay there twisted and broken, the flowers spill out of the passenger side door and pool up under the car.
Watermelons appear in several of your works, and often seem to have a humorous, ironic quality. Water also appears often, although you always paint it abstractly or cartoonishly, or, in the scene with the boat, there’s no water at all. What’s behind your interest in water and watermelons?
I do paint water a lot; that’s kind of an ongoing project. It’s usually not in a fun happy way. I usually associate water with doom and gloom. I think the ocean is the most terrifying thing on the planet. I went in the ocean once and a rip tide started to pull me out then smashed me into a jetty for like 20 minutes. I felt like someone was holding onto my ankles and pulling me down and out. So yeah, I don’t fuck with the ocean anymore.
But when it appears in my paintings it usually has an all-encompassing vibe. There’s no escaping it. It’s rising up and swallowing everything in its path, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at the thing it’s destroying and the how you look at the destroyer. You might think wiping the slate clean is a good thing thing, who knows?
And for the watermelon, I just like the colors and shapes, and how when it’s cut and viewed from different perspectives, it takes completely different forms. I don’t know… it’s a very artistically versatile fruit. You throw a watermelon into any painting and it creates this ambience, I dig it.
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Jacob’s Instagram: @_jacob_gerard
Interview by Christian Prince.