Jon Stich is a California based painter/illustrator who is currently being featured at the Revolver gallery as part of the HeartBreake Shoppe!
We had a chance to sit down and chat with him about his work, and inspirations.
When did you know you where an artist?
I used to draw all over the menus at places like IHOP or Red Lobster when I was maybe nine years old, and my parents never threw any of them away. These were normally depictions of grotesque, anatomically impossible people that would be riding a skateboard or sticking their tongue way out or would be eating brains or something, but they were always really detailed. I was kind of inspired by all those close ups on Ren and Stimpy where they would show all the boogers under a table or a really detailed hairy nipple, and I thought that was so cool that somebody could do that for a living. My parents were pretty supportive of me and my bizarro art, so I kept at it.
What do you think an artist is now that you have been one for many years?
I don't support myself entirely on my art, and although I do one day hope to get to that point, I like having somewhere to be once in a while where I don't have to be in my own little art world. I like all the hustles that come with art-making, and I like the business and marketing side of things too. I think most artists are jealous of one another, and I'm not excluded from that, but I've just realized that its okay to feel that way. It's all the ego and shit-talking that really bothers me, because it's so easy to get caught up in all the negativity of the art world instead of working on your actual art. I'm such a fan of artists though. I love how weird and passionate and unorganized and awkward we all are.
Some elements and figures in your work seem photographic? How does the use of photography, and the classic "photographic eye" affect your work?
I use photography for reference in every single painting. If you're a friend or acquaintance of mine, I'll probably ask you to pose for an illustration I'm working on, and you might end up in my living room walking back and forth for a half hour in your underwear, or running in place and freezing while dressed in jogging clothes. I've always been a major fan of Norman Rockwell, so the whole idea of capturing a facial expression or conversation or emotion as realistically as possible means that I end up working largely from photos I've taken.
How has your work evolved over the years from when you where beginning?
I'm really into painting things quicker. Part of that is the nature of the illustration world, whereas if someone needs a painting done by tomorrow, I can basically only do so much in terms of detail, composition, etc. I used to be a lot more into making tons of epic over the top paintings, and I still want to do work like that. But I also like to challenge myself by just frantically working on something and finishing it in the same day.
How do conceptualize your images? Do you draw on memories or something else?
I usually think of the title first and then go from there. If there's something absurd happening in the news (which in the past few years has been remarkably easy to find) then I like to think of a way to present my take on the subject in a way that's satirical and sarcastic. I've also been really into making paintings that are very aware of the internet and technology in general, and that's mostly because of how enslaved we all our to the little devices we so desperately want. I'm pretty sure that one of the top causes of death in five years will be pedestrians who got hit by a flying car while texting on their iPhone 11G. I'll probably end up doing a painting to illustrate this point.
You have a lot of 80s/90s pop references? How and why do you use cultural references?
I've always felt that people are hilarious because we are the only species that is uncomfortable in our own skin, and this communal insecurity is always at play. I think that in the 80's and 90's, ever since we had a celebrity president in Ronald Reagan who gave us credit cards and told Russia to go fuck itself, we as Americans had this completely unrealistic worldview, where we can just spend money like crazy and that being famous or well known in any regard is the greatest accomplishment. And now we are all just these broke little attention whores who tell our computer what we're doing because we think it's cool to see our photo on the internet. I've always felt that pop culture is usually the best way to summarize any contemporary era, so involving those aspects of celebrity and money and insecurity into my art is almost second nature, especially since the 1980's and 90's are the decades of my youth.
What upcoming series, projects, shows etc do you have coming up?
I'm always working on illustration projects and looking for new work, and aside from that I'm working on a project with the 'Lectric Collective in Oakland. It's a poetry / art collaboration installation type thing. Other than that I always write down painting ideas in a book I keep, so I'm not sure which will happen next. I'll probably do a painting of Sammy Hagar partying in Sudan or something.