I'm so into these fantastic paper collages by Denver-based artist Jeremy Grant, who does studies as well as larger-scale constructions (make sure to check out the short time-lapse video of his process below!). I just love how energetic they are, as they seem to swing or skitter across the surface, not in small part due to his amazing color selections! We talk about what inspires his work, a bit about his studio, and changing notions of success.
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I'd love to know a bit about you! Where are you from originally, and where are you based now?
I grew up in Colorado, and live in Denver. I studied graphic design and illustration. I love bourbon. I collect toy robots. I earn (most of) my living as a creative director with a branding agency. I’m married to a writer and we have two young kids.
What first interested you in making art? Have you always been into collage?
Art-making has always been an impulse for me. Drawing is like talking, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw – it’s still a primary way I express and capture ideas. As a kid in school, when I could pick my own classes, every elective course was an art class.
Some of my earliest collages were done at age 16 from a stack of national geographic magazines in a public-school art class. I still have a soft spot for Nat Geos, they’re my primary source of collage material.
You describe your collages as "maximalist." Can you elaborate on that, and why you're drawn to pushing the bounds of collage in that way?
Yeah, so there’s a personal answer and an intellectual answer to that question.
On the intellectual side, I’m interested in creating something that requires a physically difficult process—that is elevated by sheer complexity. Collage tends to be small, and surrealist – it’s a medium that is ripe for juxtaposing odd scenes and elements. With my work, though, I’m trying not to really even reference the source imagery, except for its base elements – the color and impression of texture. I cut up piles of paper to build a palette (as if I’m painting) and then draw from those piles to place my color and texture on the board. Even the negative space is built from massive amounts of cut paper. Some other maximalist collage artists I look up to are Fred Tomaselli and Lola Dupree.
On a personal level, I’ve had a difficult few years and the maximalist idea helps me make sense of it. My artistic practice feels like an emotional and meditative exploration of my circumstances. In a lot of ways I think we all experience personal deconstructions – where our life is upset, our relationships are strained and our limits are tested. I’m deconstructing printed paper- and looking to piece it all back together – can I create something so much more beautiful, grand, intricate, interesting than what it was before it was all torn apart?
What do you like most about collage as a medium?
I love art that I can grow with. That feels like it has a depth of idea and visual. The works of art I love the most are pieces I can come back to again and again and always discover something new.
So, in creating dense, abstract works with collaged images I don’t even totally understand the richness of the visuals I’m creating – I can come back to a piece and discover new things about it in the details.
What is your process like? How much time do you typically spend on a work? Do you do any sort of research?
My sketchbook is where a lot of my ideas begin, I have pages and pages of tiny composition doodles, where I’m looking for compositions that speak to me – that feel like they could carry some emotional weight (not an easy thing to ask from just a composition).
I’m always looking at other people’s art. I look at tons of blogs, the app art.sy, I keep a folder on my computer of imagery that inspires me. I also do a lot of reading: everything from magazines (Wired, Juxtapoz), to comics, to philosophy and religious books.
When I start working in the studio, I might reference some sketches and make a few reference marks on a board, or I might just start sticking down paper. Even though I do a lot of pre-work and thinking, I try to let the process be spontaneous in the moment.
My larger collages have taken months to create. The smaller studies can be mostly done in anywhere from 3-10 hours of work (more if I’m doing a resin coating, or framing the work).
How would you describe your studio or workspace?
It’s a community space. I have a small studio at Jubilee Roasting Co. It’s kind of a crazy place, essentially a warehouse that has been converted to a coffee shop in the front, they roast their own coffee behind the shop. There are about 12 artist studio spaces in the back of the warehouse and a patio/concert venue in the rear of the building. In the daytime it’s a great vibe, smells amazing, and other artists hanging out. I’m usually there in the middle of the night after my day job though. Haha.
What is the best advice you've ever received so far? Any that you're glad you chose to ignore?
Make the work only you can make. Read the book “Art and Fear.” Highly recommend for any artist.
Advice I’ve chosen to ignore is when people say to “take every opportunity.” The shotgun approach works for some artists, but I’d rather take the right opportunities and be strategic than to exhaust myself trying to do everything.
How would you define "success?"
For me it would be to actually earn a living from my art. That’s the dream right? But I’m looking to be a life-long artist, to always be making art – even if it’s the slow burn approach. You know I would love to blow up and be super famous, but also I’ve got a family – I’m married to a writer and we’ve got two young kids, so that’s broadened my definition of what it means to be successful. I want to be recognized for my art, I want to be paid for it, and I also want to be a good partner and good dad.
What do you do if you find yourself at a creative standstill?
Switch projects. I’ve always got a few “experiments” going, a couple of side projects that are just for fun, maybe a little indulgent. Right now I’ve been doing a series of “analog transformers” where I’ll take a vintage car ad, chop it up and tape it together to transform it into a robot. It’s super difficult, but fun – and totally different than the other work I’m doing. If I’m stuck, I can jump into a different project and keep making progress in a different lane.
What do you feel is the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art, either creatively or professionally?
Time. Making the most of my studio time is another reason why I always have multiple projects going. t I don’t have time to waste on sitting around the studio not working, you know? I’m usually in my studio between 8pm and 11pm, after working all day in my office, doing dinner at home and putting my kids to bed.
What are you working on right now? Any upcoming exhibitions?
No big shows lined up right now. I’m focused on making my work, and making connections. I’m relatively new in Denver, I’ve had a couple of group shows and I’m still making connections in the local scene. I’m looking for my next solo show to be a series of large collage works (36”x79”), and it will need a large space to exhibit – so it’s got to be the right opportunity.
Anything else you would like to add?
Great questions - thanks so much!
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