Andy Jenkins, Artist and Designer
Andy Jenkins Interview
Andy Jenkins. Where do I even begin? In 2002 I was living Arizona and I had a little record shop and art gallery named Frequency. I had been working on the idea of Left Field Project for almost a year and everyone on my list had been either a graffiti artist or professional skateboarder turned business owner. That was until I stumbled upon a beautiful magazine called Anthem. I found it at a little newsstand that was down the street from my space. I’d walk down there every afternoon and get a bottle of water and check out their periodicals. I remember seeing the magazine for the first time- it was incredible, the cover was made out of a special paper and folded out to make a piece of art. I spent the next few months pouring over the pages of this magazine. It was a special issue that featured several creatives from Los Angeles. It was the first time I had heard of Andy Jenkins, but it was not the first time I had seen his work. He turned out to be one of the artful geniuses at Girl, a brand I was very familiar with. If you’re a creative person and you are not familiar with Girl, you should take a moment [after reading this interview] and look at everything they have contributed to graphic design, fashion, street art, print and movies.
In the Anthem interview, they asked “who are you and what do you do?” His response:
“Andy Jenkins. I’m part of a self-centered species that somehow thinks it runs this planet. I consume and create and try very hard to locate grace among all the bullshit.”
Andy has been featured in plenty of magazines, books such as Beautiful Losers and documentaries, including my favorite, Dithers. He’s been making zines since before Return of the Jedi. Andy is not only a talented designer, artist and creator, he’s also a genuinely nice guy.
Did you always want to create?
My dad was a painter, among other things. He created detailed western watercolor narratives. So basically, I spent a lot of time in his studio as a kid, picking up books, leafing through his sketches and making my own drawings. I didn’t really pick the field I’m in as much as I was just surrounded by it and interested – open to it. I didn’t like math, so art worked. There was I time, though, in fifth grade that I did a linoleum block print of a rabbit and the teacher really liked it. That seemed to strike a chord – I think I knew right there what I was going to be doing all my life.
How do you define success?
Having the freedom to express yourself in whatever means you choose. Not being restricted by circumstance, or the people around you. Marking your own path. Having great friends and being able to spend time with them and your family without stress. Good sleep. When my son does something unexpected and positive- that’s the real success, knowing I had something to do with that, no matter how small my contribution.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in the strangest places sometimes. I don’t ever expect to find inspiration, it just sort of happens at odd moments (but understand that it also happens at predictable times as well- in books, at a museum, music, a film, etc). I’m moved when I’m lucky enough to witness a moment in time that seems insignificant and random, yet somehow beautiful. A glimpse. Maybe it’s the way a certain bird looks on a wire, or an old lady at a bus stop talking to herself. The motions of a man walking and looking back over his shoulder. It’s hard to explain – they are just moments between myself and an action happening in the world, an action that ends as quickly as it began – and one that, seemingly, only I see.
My work varies so much that those random inspirations tend to be a general fuel. But I also like to save things I find during my day-to-day living – scraps of paper, notes, twisted up wire, rusty bits – those are physical things which wind up in my work eventually. I also save a lot of my own scraps – receipts, lists, labels, shoe laces, old skate hardware and wheels, etc. I’ve come to figure out that, besides the odd aesthetic beauty I see in this crap, it’s a sort of guilt that drives my hoarding; I call it my post-consumer guilt. I am not good at throwing things away. That’s driven much of my work over the last decade and I don’t see it ending. Not as long as I keep bending over to pick shit up.
How long have you been doing what you are doing?
Basically, ever since I can remember. As a child I had a spiral notebook that I would fill up, line by line, page by page, with odd 3D geometric shapes. Being around my father’s work just seemed so natural that I somehow just went that way.
Is there anything you had to learn the hard way?
Of course. Usually it had to do with professional person-to-person relations, or, artist to client. I learned the hard way that every dollar you are paid by a client has a string attached to it. The larger the client, the more dollars, the more strings. When I was younger I used to put too much ego into my commercial work. I’ve learned that there’s really no use in that. Some clients understand you and what you do, others just need a monkey to convey their own – often limp – ideas. Either way is fine if you are looking to make money to survive – you just have to keep a sort of personal distance from commercial work. A job is work.
Best part of your job?
The people I work with. At this point in my career, I’m lucky enough to work with people I really like, or people I really respect. I can pick and choose to some extent, because I’m not so worried about the paycheck any more. I’m lucky to have a great, steady and creative job with the Girl Skateboard Company, and that allows me a lot of personal creative freedom. My financial survival is not contingent on my personal work – but my mental health survival is.
Advice for those trying to emerge into your field?
Work hard. Work a lot. Let the work go once you create it. Don’t let any of it get too precious. Work harder. Make good friends and stick with them. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
How can we change the world, what can we do as a society or as individuals?
Nurture children. Treat them with the utmost of respect. Pay teachers more and make the criteria for becoming one tougher. Bring back all the creative classes to schools… there’s too much emphasis on academics and test scores.
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Featured photograph by: Duane Fernandez
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