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Interview: Jesse Jacobs

Interview: Jesse Jacobs

Jesse Jacobs is a talented Canadian cartoonist whose intricate works are equally inspired by majestic nature and detailed technology. His most recent book Crawl Space explores a psychedelic alternate dimension hidden inside a suburban home's washing machine.

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CYA:  As an artist you seem equally at home drawing detailed nature-inspired landscapes and creatures and technology-heavy robots and cities, where would you say is the strangest place you've ever drawn an inspiration from to sketch an idea out? Did it make it into one of your comics?

Jesse Jacobs: I love nature and am very connected to it, but I think that I receive more inspiration from looking at a unique landscape painting than I do from looking at the actual landscape. Viewing nature does something else to me, which is difficult to articulate, and I’m sure in informs my work in a less direct way. For example, looking at a painting of a forest by Pablo Amaringo makes me want to draw. Looking at a forest in “real life” makes me want to sit and listen and breath.

CYA: . You've stated in the past that most of your characters and ideas stem from sketches in your sketchbook. What about your plots and narratives? Will you sit and write ideas as comfortably as you will sit and draw ideas?

JJ: No, those come to me at random. If I’m lucky and receptive, occasionally a story idea emerges in my mind. A lot of the narrative ideas are deeply informed by the drawings. The drawings come to me more naturally.

CYA: Your animal and other non-human characters are imbued with a lot of life, emotion and personality and often carry full segments of your comics. Do you approach a non-speaking character any differently than those that push forward the narrative with dialogue?

JJ: They’re easier to write, I guess. But I believe all my characters and stories are propelled forward through visual imagery.

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CYA:  Your art is filled with an incredible amount of small details - is it a challenge for you to know definitively when each page is 'done'? Has this changed over your development as an artist from adolescence, art school and beyond?

JJ: I still have a hard time with overworking my drawings. I’m getting better at allowing unused space into the compositions, but my natural tendency is to cram. I think when I was younger I had this attitude that the longer you spend a drawing, the better it will be. I know how foolish that is now. I feel like making successful images, for me, has a lot to do with luck.

CYA:  What were some of your key takeaways from going to art school? Did it push you and your art in the direction you hoped it would?

JJ: Art school is kind of a blur for me. I was pretty immature and didn’t take full advantage of the resources. I could have gotten a lot more out of it. I wish I had waited a few years between high school and college.

 I didn’t enter with any expectations. I may be remembering it wrong, but I feel like my whole approach to making art was something I didn’t even think about. It was just a natural progression. I grew up in a middle class household where the idea of attending university was a given. I was very lucky and privileged.

It’s difficult to say what I took from it. I think the biggest benefit, to both my work and my personality, was the interaction with other young creative people.

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CYA:  How many of your art school peers had similar interests in comics as their medium? Was there anyone in particular who blew you away and motivated or inspired your methods in any way?

JJ: I immediately became friends with a few other students making comics. We used to put out a book together, and just hang out and draw comics all the time. I quickly realized that the only thing I had in common with most of my old high school friends was smoking pot and skateboarding. It was great to be around people who I connected with on a deep level. I’m still friends with many of them, and continue to bounce work off them.

CYA:  Describe to an outsider the independent comics community in Canada. So many key publishers and creators live scattered across the country, but do you still feel like you have a close relationship with other Canadians in the industry? Who are some standouts that might not get enough recognition yet in the US or abroad?

JJ: I live a pretty isolated life at the moment. I’m only about an hour from Toronto, but rarely go visit. I think most comics artists stay in a lot, working. It seems like a lot Canadian cartoonists are concentrated in Southern Ontario. And Montreal has a lot going on.

I don’t hang out with a lot of cartoonists, unless it’s at a comics related event. I’ve been playing a lot of internet chess with Michael DeForge and John Martz. I went to a cottage a few weeks ago with some people who work in comics. One guy, Aaron Costain, has a new book coming out called Entropy from Secret Acres. I have a good friend named Laura Ķeniņa who makes great comics. Her book is called Steam Clean from Retrofit. Both worth checking out.

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You can learn more about Crawl Space via Koyama Press. You can also check out Jesse's personal blog via this link

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