Interview with Jeff Meadows

Posted by Nate Williams

Jeff Meadows was born and raised in Richmond, California and has been skateboarding and creating art since he was young. He first exposed his art on the city streets, and later studied digital arts and animation. For the past five years, he has been showing his art throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and around the country. Jeff gets his inspiration from retro illustration, hand-painted signs, and classic cartoons.

More about JEFF MEADOWS at: Profile / Spotlight Website / RSS / Facebook / Flickr

 What were the first illustrations/graphics that inspired you?

Skateboarding and comic strips definitely inspired me when I was young. I remember my first wood board had a graphic of Humphrey Bogart on it! I also remember the series of Rob Roskopp and John Lucero boards, along with the Block Head decks I skated a ton of, like the Sam Cunningham one. Those graphics had me stoked on art and skateboarding from the start. Not to mention the inspiration I got from Neil Blender, Andy Howell, and Mark Gonzales with respect to my skateboarding and creating art.

How has skateboarding culture affected your art?

I think skateboarding has affected my life and art in such a huge way. I actually think that skateboarding taught me all I know about creating art. My first board, with the graphic of Humphrey Bogart on it – whenever it got scratched, I would touch it up. So I basically learned how to work a brush and do detailed line work just from doing that. When I was 12 or so, I got a silkscreen kit and learned how to print my own graphics on the decks and t-shirts. Later on, I remember how grip tape art got to be the big whoop. So I got into that, which in turn taught me how to do cut-out art and stencils. I’m sure the first time I ever used a spray can was to paint a Rat Bones logo on our ramp! So really, the entire time I was skateboarding, I was creating arts of some kind.

When we were growing up skateboarding, punk, graffiti were somewhat “underground” .. or we’d like to think …now a days soccer moms take their kids to skateparks while listening to hip / hop … do you think there is still an “underground”? or is the idea of “underground” just a rite of passage of kids trying to create their identity?

I’m not sure. Whether you are becoming a skater or an artist, you are doing what you love to do, and creating your identity at the same time. Skateboarding has gone from a small hobby to a world-recognized sport, and multi-million dollar industry. There are skateboard parks everywhere for people to legally skate now. On the other hand, real graffiti lives on the street and is done illegally and when most people are asleep. Some of those artists are amazingly talented, and move their art into galleries for the normal people that don’t get to see the art in the tunnels, or the train yards, or onto rooftops to see what graffiti art really is. I had friends who spent every night skateboarding and painting the streets, and because I was an artist and skater, I would go out with them and put up my own art. I guess, like you say, I was trying to create my own identity. I just don’t think that graffiti will ever live anywhere else other than underground.

What is your attraction to hand lettering?

I love doing words and lettering for so many reasons. I think the process of coming up with a great image to match an even better word or phrase is so much fun. It’s like picking out new clothes at the store. There are so many different things to choose from, so many ways to dress those things up, and so many more variations on how to put them on.
I really enjoy creating art in traditional mediums rather than on a computer and, ironically, when I finished school and studying digital art and animation, I decided to do all my art by hand instead.

I also get a ton of inspiration from hand-painted signs, and have a new dream of becoming a badass sign painter. I’ve had a couple gigs so far. Signs are everywhere, and now that I am getting older, I have slowed down enough to appreciate them more. I can lose my mind over a great meat pie sign, or Slurpee cup.

What is more important to you? good concepts? or how a piece of art impacts you on a visual/emotional level ?

For me, the most important thing is to evoke some sort of emotional response from my art. I have a hard time reading into the concept of a piece of art if I don’t immediately experience some type of emotion when I first look at it. Whether it’s the use of color or composition or content, whenever something catches my eye I tend to spend more time looking into it and figuring out what the message or concept is.

Do you think there is a Bay Area “style”? or because of globalization and easy access of information … Artists in a particular genre of art share the majority of the same influences?

I think both are absolutely true. There is no denying that the Mission School artists like Margaret Kilgallen, Clare Rojas, Barry McGee and Chris Johanson created a style for the Bay Area. My all-time favorite artist, and biggest influence is Maraget Kilgallen. But it’s true, with the internet, we get to see so much art, and so many artists with a click of a button. I got super inspired the other day checking out my contacts’ uploads on Flickr. Boom! Inspiration through the click of a button. It just depends on what genre of art you’re interested in, and what inspiration you get from that art and artist.

Top 5 Influences/Inspiration

My girlfriend, inky pants, gallons of paint, the past and the future, Vintage signs, graffiti art, cartoons, skateboarding.

Woops, that’s ten. If I got into names of artists I like, I would start with M.K.

Top 5 favorite things in life

  • Wow I am boring! I probably only do about four things in my life. Really.
  • Paint with my awesome girlfriend in the studio.
  • Hang out with my friends on the weekend.
  • Ride my skateboard or look at my dirt bike.
  • Cook food and eat it, and try to be happy.

Top 5 bands/singers

Johnny Cash, Peggy Honeywell, Metallica, KRS One, Public Enemy

Favorite web sites

  • Juxtapoz
  • You Tube
  • Pandora

Please describe a typical day?

Aside from when there are no emergencies (I am accident prone), a normal day is always the same: I get up super early and drive to the print shop I work at. Usually I put in almost a full day, and then bomb home as fast I can. Once I am home, I jam on the computer answering emails and watching random YouTube videos until my girlfriend gets home. Once Kristin gets home, I ditch the computer and we figure out the eats. After inhaling our food, we move on to the studio and start up whatever project we are working on. With good luck we are in bed before the rooster starts cracking and our work is done! Easy as pie, and what a life!

What is working environment like?

I actually just moved into a new house with a separate studio downstairs with my girlfriend, so the work environment awesome. She is also a working artist, so our studio is pretty much covered with art. We have prints and art from all kinds of great artists (which really inspires me to work) like Matt Furie, Joe Scarano, you (N8 Williams), John Hersey, Porous Walker, Mel Kadel, and a bunch more. We are planning to paint the walls too, but for now I am working on plastering the walls with our art. Aside from numerous paints, jars of pencils, and papers of all kinds, it is a fairly clean environment to work in so far. Music is a must, so there are usually a few ipods to choose your listening from.

What is your process for coming up with new ideas?

I usually tend to reach a certain point where even new ideas seem boring. Usually I just do horrible scribbles. I waste so much paper doing doodles and unrecognizable objects that are supposed to be something cool. That always seemed to be the way of stumbling onto an idea that I would like to pursue. I also still love cartoons. I am 38 and probably watch more cartoons than your average 5-year-old. I will sit down and start watching a classic, and before the few minutes are up, I will be shutting down the computer and running to the studio. Because I love letters and words as much as I do characters, the possibilities of rendering one idea can be endless. If I feel like a sucker and can’t get anything stirring in the brain, I will just try to do a different version of one of my old favorites, and that usually gets me going and turns the light on to a new idea.

Your work is a mix of art + ___________?

art & skateboarding crocodiles

What is something new you have noticed or learned recently?

I am a firm believer that you learn something new every day. Today I just learned that if you kiss an opossum on the lips, it tastes like bacon. I also have noticed that if you own a raccoon, you can get free butter from your friends and neighbors.

Can you suggest 3 artists or illustrators we should check out?

Kristin Farr

Shawn Whisenant

Joe Scarano