Jeremy Hansen Interview
by Matthew J
Who is Jeremy Hansen? Where are you from? How did you get caught up with art?
I’m from Halifax NS, although I grew up around the Maritimes. My mother is an artist as well as her father, so along with my siblings I was exposed to art at a very young age, you could say there wasn’t really a time in my life where I wasn’t drawing.
Like my mother, I attended NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art & Design), graduating in 2012. I experimented with a lot of different mediums, but lately it seems as though I’m going back to my roots and true passion of illustration and comics. I also attended the University of Brighton in England for a semester (on exchange through NSCAD) where I mostly did screen-printing.
Since graduating University I’ve worked in a couple screen-printing shops, took part in a few of gallery shows including one solo show, and I’m always doing commission work. I also worked as a freelance artist for The Coast (a weekly newspaper in Halifax) briefly, primarily writing and illustrating my first published comic, Lynch The Human. More recently I’ve started working for BOOM! Studios, and am currently writing/illustrating shorts with them.
What are your thoughts on the art scene in Halifax?
Most of my work I’ve done around Halifax has been heavily illustrative which seems somewhat detached from the art-scene; I’ve done a lot of artwork for punk bands in the area so I almost feel closer to that scene than the actual art scene. There are a lot of amazing artists in the city and some great opportunities if you dig deep. I don’t really know how to answer that question.
What can you tell me about the work you’re doing for the animated series, Uncle Grandpa on the Cartoon Network? How did that opportunity come about and how would you describe the experience thus far?
Recently I sent BOOM! Studios some samples of my comics on their submissions page and they contacted me shortly afterward about the Uncle Grandpa comics.
So far, I’ve done a handful of shorts for them which should be out in early 2015. All the shorts center around the TV show Uncle Grandpa on CN, it’s an all-ages cartoon that reminds me a lot of the weird and colorful 90s cartoons I grew up watching, so it’s a lot of fun to work on for sure. From the get-go they told me they wanted my shorts drawn in the style of my old comic Lynch The Human, and gave me basically complete freedom with the stories I write, so it’s been almost a liberating experience artistically.
Sticking with the subject of comics and animation, you’re working on your very own science-fiction comic. What can you tell us about this project and when will it be released?
Right now I’m working on project currently titled “The Passenger”; it’s not so much one comic but rather a long term project I plan to use as a vessel to showcase my science-fiction ideas. It’s more of a style and universe I’m developing that stories will take place in. It’s also in the early stages but I’ve already dedicated a couple of sketchbooks to it, so far everything is influenced by surrealism and Moebius, among other things. The work features a lot of weird landscapes, futuristic alien cities, biotechnological space-ships, robotics, etc.
As for when it will be released; it’s still a work in progress and no comics really exist so nothing’s set in stone.
How would you describe your art, and what does it mean to you?
I could probably best describe my artwork as varied, I can be pretty versatile which I think has its pros and cons, but I would definitely consider myself an illustrator first and foremost. I think art is just part of who I am. I can’t think of a single day where I haven’t drawn something.
Who inspires you artistically?
A lot of things inspire me, and I’m constantly finding new artists that trigger something. The first few illustrators and comic artists that come to mind are R.Crumb, Katsuhiro Otomo, and Jean Giraud (Moebius). When I think of painters I think of Francis Bacon, Caravaggio, Andreas Golder (a younger German painter), I’ve been obsessed with Zdzis?aw Beksi?ski lately as well. I also feel like music is a big influence on my work. I always listen to music when I’m drawing or painting, usually hardcore, hip-hop, classical music, or something in between.
Why do you create?
I feel like I don’t have much of a choice, not to sound melodramatic but if I don’t draw for a while I start to feel anxious, it’s like I’m dependent on it to function properly. I try to give my works some kind of meaning, although I feel like any piece of artwork holds meaning, at the very least I want to entertain people and ignite their curiosity. I also think it’s as simple as a love for art, there’s just something satisfying about problem-solving while creating images.
In a previous answer you mentioned being able to write the type of stories you wanted to make in your comics. What are those particular stories you want to tell? What kind of things do you want to create?
I’m very interested in stories of transition or metamorphosis; those seem to be the themes of my work lately. Things changing – be it figuratively or literally – has always fascinated me; be it character development or some sort of mutation, I find it all amusing.
Every day it seems as though I have a new idea for a project. That new idea could be anything from the most mundane story to a futuristic space epic. I have a couple serious projects in mind I want to pursue eventually in the graphic novel format; one would be sort of The Lord of the Flies meets Akira. And I’ve also done some genealogy research into my own background that might make for an interesting story; I have a lot of ideas for that project. All my ideas span different genres; I definitely don’t want to limit myself to sci-fi or one specific style.
Where do you see your work going in future? Are there certain artistic areas or styles you hope to delve into in the future?
Right now, I’m focusing mainly on illustration and comics. I’ve done some painting in the past, I’d like to get back into that someday and do some larger scale oils. More recently I’ve gone digital my painting in Photoshop, though, that’s something I’m really trying to push at the moment and develop a style in. I think there are a lot of benefits to working digital these days, especially if you’re working for web-based stuff or for clients abroad.
Halifax is thought to be an art friendly city, but at the same time has the reputation for being a place where connections are needed to get noticed. Sometimes it’s hard to get opportunities but you did mention they are here, if one digs. How do you stay motivated? How do you keep yourself going forward during those times where it doesn’t look as if opportunities are available?
I stay motivated by surrounding myself with art, going to galleries, reading, traveling, watching the news, walking my dog even. I’d like to say I’m influenced and motivated by pretty much everything, it’s all fuel in the fire so to speak. Paying the bills keeps me pretty motivated too, coffee and music keep me pretty focused.
Generally, I try to seek out opportunities both locally and online, maybe even more-so online. I think it’s important as an artist to have a strong online presence these days, some people shy away from that. I suppose it all depends on what you want to do, but I would recommend people don’t limit themselves to opportunities in their community if possible.
Where can people find your work, online?
What advice would you give to anyone who may be in an arts field, but is struggling creatively? What advice would you share with them?
Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. And as I mentioned previously, an online presence seems key these days especially for seeking out opportunities if there aren’t many in your community. Take jobs and commissions that aren’t exactly what you’re into, everything is a stepping stone and a learning experience, don’t let your ego get in the way.
If you’re struggling creatively, you just have to find your own inspiration. Don’t be stubborn and stick to one medium or way of working, experiment and find your voice. And talk to other artists and soak up as much art as you can.