Saturday, September 29, 2007

Interview with Jasun Huerta

Interviewed by Richard Mullins (September 2007)
Your studio is in Austin, Texas, U.S.A. How's the art scene down there?
The art scene down in Austin, Texas is goin’ great, and always growin, with the large influx of folks from around the world moving here yearly to influence all that we see — this I’m sure is attributed to the festivals like South by Southwest & others. I just can’t keep up with all the art shows & scenes, and really I don’t have a lot of time with a family in-tow. I do however, get out as much as I can to see what the new kids are doin’ with graffiti/urbane art, pop art, folk art forms and what not. In the old days in Austin (circa somewhere in the late 60’s to mid 70’s), the art scene was a place was made up of people from Texas. They consisted mostly of dope smokin’ cowboys, and spawned such poster artists mostly & some cartoonists. Some of these greats of the time were Guy Juke, Jim Franklin, and even Gilbert Shelton (creator of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) who lived here for a time. Later a new alternative conscious grew from the mid 70’s as the scene turned from hippy to punk. The art scene torch was handed to other artists like Chris Ware (cartoonist creator of Acme Novelty Library & Jimmy Corrigan comics) and Roy Tompkins who lived in Austin for a time, as well. A lot of these artists I’m mentioning are from other places for the most part, that have migrated to Austin to be near it’s artistic energy & probably to get laid too, but believe it or not I was actually born in Austin. I’m probably one of only handful of folks that can actually say that, unless you are an Austinite under the age of 7.
You seem to be into a wide range of stuff. Give us a bit of background on the man behind Batman63:
Well, it’s a lot like this. I was heavily influenced early on by old Universal monster movies, Alfred Hitchcock’s ghost story children’s books….Anything that was monster based or had the aroma of Halloween…especially Halloween! As I entered my teen years Punk Rock/Rock-a-billy, and chemical abuse (kids don’t try this at home!) led me to more surreal artistic influences like, Salvador Dali, Charles Burns (creator of the comic “El Borbah”) Bill Griffith (Creator of “Zippy the Pinhead”) and Texas guy Gary Panter (set designer for Pee Wee’s Playhouse & comic book writer/illustrator)…These guys were, and still are a big inspiration to me—Gotta love that mustache that Dali sported. Grease monkey folks & Texas livin’ also, gives great muse to me growing up—the politics, food & music of Texas score a big plus to draw inspiration from. I modeled a lot of my drawing style from the likes of Graham Ingles (Tales From the Crypt) and, Antonio Prohias (Spy Vs. Spy: Mad Magazine). I’m really taken by these two on what they did for comics & illustration. Many know about Prohias with what he did for Mad magazine, but few knew about Grahan Ingles (aka “Ghastly”). Mr. Ingles was one of a handful of artist that reined over the EC horror comic book line of the 50’s, and these comics were all the rage of the day. His work was dark & creepy — using extraordinarily long fingers and gaunt faces, which led to a real creepy trip. But, after the comic code was put into place many of the horror comics of the day were either shut down or changed their comic line to comedy. EC did away with their horror comic line, and lost a lot of great talent to the streets — Mr. Ingles was the last to leave when the doors finally closed for EC, and after that he never picked up pen. When I read this, it saddened me, and begs for the reason why? My art training is close to nothing…I’ve had design courses in a local junior college here in town, but nothing substantial. Most of what I learned technically & artistically has been learned on my own.Picking up a book or doodlin’ around with the medium. I’m very much like a folk artist—I create art by just diving in and hopin’ for the best. I still don’t know how to paint technically. Friends come over when I’m working and say things like, “no, no man, don’t hold the brush like that!”…However, this technique of “just dive right in” has had many grooved experimental successes that have turned out for the better. Mistakes can work—they did for me!
Your sticky note series (illustrations done on post-it® notes) is super cool, fun to look at and visually consistent. Lots of neat-o characters pop-up in there. Any plans on taking the series to another format; like maybe a graphic novel or somethin' like that?
I love doin’ those goofy post-it® notes — They’re like doin’ the dishes or raking leaves — kind of mind cleansing. No plans of making a graphic novel but, I would like to do a mini/biggie art comic book of sorts in color of some selected post-it® notes, and lay them on the masses. I just gotta think of a catchy name for that mini comic. It will come to me.
You seem to be drawn to the look of pop culture in the 1960s (Adam West's Batman, Tiki Culture etc...) What is it about that time that fascinates you?
It’s a romantic time period of sorts. That time period is about the time I was growing up as a little snot nosed kid, so a lot of what I took from that has been echoed into my recent work. The first point of artistic consciousness that I had was the mid 60’s (I think I thoroughly dated myself by now) Batman TV show with Adam West & Burt Ward—pow, zing, sploosh!..Man, to most kids back in the day that was the big gig! I was really sent by Batman, because in addition to the great way that slap happy show was put together, it also had the element of car culture. Batman was the only super hero (or one that mattered) with a “car”…In the 60’s cars were everything, with folks like Ed “Big Daddy” Roth & George Barris breaking engineerin’ rules left & right. I also grew up in a grease monkey family, so with all this it surely merged me with my Bat-muse early on. The comics of Batman in the 60’s also were a great. The comics of Batman in the 60’s also were a great inspiration. (Thanks, Bob Kane…for everything!) As a side note—because of all of this it got me into carin’ for the little bat boogers. I actually generate graphic design for educational materials for Bat Conservation International (BCI), and I get to see real bats weekly. Tiki culture comes into play as being something very mysterious to me as a kid. I remember that I was always fascinated by images from magazines of the giant carved Tiki god heads — grimacing and colorful, with colored ghoul lighting coming from some spotlight below them. This was very alien to a Spanish kid growin’ up in Texas. Never actually seeing the California coast, but seeing these tacky images of Tiki culture. The Tiki bars were in some towns out here in Texas, and viewing them from afar was a magical experience, too.
I know you went on a recent trip to San Francisco (my old stompin' grounds.) Did you pick up any visions whilst strolling the dirty streets?
My favorite vision was of the Chairman Mao in mass duplication in a store front window in Chinatown. It was just like takin’ a hit of Moo Shu acid laced in won-ton Soupy Sales.
Beside illustrations you also do a some killer graphic design work. Is the graphic design an extension of illustration or vice versa?
It’s actually an extension of the illustration. I always like to frame an art piece in something (for reasons unknown to me), and a real nice graphic layout would complete the picture. However, a real fancy gold leaf wooden frame might give the same effect.
How about some insight into your plans for future artistic adventures?
I’d like to now try my hand at print making on various stocks and materials, just for art sake, not to sell any advertised commercial product. Also in the works, I’m planning on a show of my weirdy stuff this year in Austin town, if all goes well. Get some more T-shirts happenin’ for the people, just for
good measure.

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