Renown Skate Artist Andy Jenkins Tells us the Secret to Pursuing Creativity
For those in the know, Andy Jenkins is an artist best known within the skate-meets-art realm for being the creator of the much-loved Wrench Pilot comics, as well as his musical endeavors as a member of the band Milk, who’s hit track “Knife Song” found its way on to Jason Lee’s bit in Blind’s Video Days. And then there’s the generally aware, who may recognize the name from his position as Art Director at iconic brand Girl Skateboards, and for being an integral member of its legendary Art Dump group–a collective of like-minded creatives that operated under the same roof in California’s Torrence. Included in the creatively minded bunch is streetwear brand The Quiet Life‘s Andy Meuller, who Jenkins has recently collaborative with for a collection of short stories, or “pieces” as Jenkins puts it, that stems from his time writing under the column entitled “Bender” at Monster Children magazine.
Dubbed “What Happened,” the project lives as a magazine, a fitting medium given Jenkins’ affection towards printed matter, having founded publishing company BEND PRESS. Following the magazine’s launch event which also served as a Bend + Quiet Life collection, we were able to sit down with the iconic figure in skateboarding to ask him about the notion of pursuing creativity as a career, about the aforementioned collaboration project, and where the future lies in independently printed publication, according to one of the few OG bastions still shaping its culture today.
To begin, you started off on a more visually oriented vocation, with being an art director, multi-media artist, creative director and the like, and now you’ve moved on to editorial having written essays for your book. Why the transition, and was it an easy one?
I started off as a graphic artist. But the Crazy thing is, my first “real” job was as an editor and writer. I graduated art school in Denver and, in a strange twist of fate, I wound up in LA working as an editor for an up-start BMX magazine, Freestylin’. Eventually, I was able to slip into illustration, design and publishing. I never stopped writing, though. My first published short stories were for Level Magazine in the mid ‘90s. I had a regular column called “Glimpses.” I went on write stories for Monster Children and I’ve had pieces published in a few anthologies.
What was the allure in editorial/text for you?
People. I’m really drawn to creative people from any medium. I’ve always, in one way or another, worked in publishing — mags, zines or books. I was lucky, through mags and zines, to travel a lot, which is a rad way to meet people. A couple of long skate/couch tours were life changers for me.
What about with creative/art directing in the first place?
I trace that back to my dad, He was an artist. He’d come home from work as a chief mechanic, kick off his shoes, take a nap, eat, and head to his drawing board. Mostly he did pen & ink drawings and painted Western scenes. He had tons of books on art, and I’d sit around copying the photos and drawings.
Can you summarize how you got into the creative field in the first place? As in what it was that made you decide that this is a career you wanted to pursue.
In 5th grade, we did linoleum prints. Which seems weird now, giving kids sharp, slippery tools. The teacher really liked mine and pinned it on the board. I think that was the spark. That and drawing in my dad’s studio.
For any creative person, the urge to… create (for lack of a better word) is constantly prevalent and forever nagging. How would you describe your creative itch?
I’m not really sure, but I always feel better when I’m making things. When I was really little, I would draw small, abstract shapes, one right after the other, left to right, on note paper, as though it was something kind of writing — hieroglyphics? I didn’t think about it, I just did it. I still do the same thing now, draw compulsively with ink and words. It has a calming effect. Not sure what that says about me, haha…
Could there ever be too much creative “stuff” in the world? Do you find yourself getting lost in all the projects you do?
There can never be enough art in the world. Among other things, it’s a form of education. Learning how to think and work out problems in a different way. This is especially true of music. We need the arts in schools more than ever these days. Hell we need it everywhere. God bless the satirists.
I do get lost in the variety of projects I work on. I’ve never been able to focus on one thing. I can’t decide if this is the best way to go about creating. Best is probably the wrong word. I gotta admit though, I love the variety — maybe to a fault. Who knows, but it is a conversation I’ve had with friends many times over. No resolution yet, haha.
Speaking of projects, how did the concept of What Happened. come about?
“What Happened” is a collection of short stories — I call them pieces, since some of the chapters are just lists. The pieces were selected from “Bender,” a regular column I write in Monster Children magazine. I’ve been writing these for about 10 years. I just chose my favorites and put them together. I liked the idea of publishing them together. Magazines have a tendency to become kind of disposable after a few months, so a book seemed a bit more permanent form of documentation.
With both you and A Quiet Life’s Andy Meuller being in Art Dump, we can image collaborations are bound to pop up. Can you take us back to that first discussion between you two (and whoever else was present) when the idea for the Bed Press x The Quiet Life project was first put on the table?
I’ve know Mueller for a long time. He’s a good friend and we’ve been lucky to do a bunch of work together, both in and out of the Art Dump, for many years. I’ve alway been a huge fan of his work. When I published “What Happened,” I immediately thought of the Quiet Life Store for a release event. The more Andy and I talked about it, the more he kept honing the ideas… he and Jennifer (his wife and partner in QL) have a real focus with Quiet Life and they work hard. I owe them both a lot for their support. I am really happy with the way things turned out.
You recently had the launch event, how did it all go?
The launch event was great! Travis Millard, the amazing dude who does all the Bender illustrations, both for the magazine and the book, showed a lot of the original drawings. We had the Bend + Quiet Life collection there as well as previous Bend Press projects and product. It was a sort of Bend Press pop-up store for a day. The best part of the day was seeing old friends and shooting the shit. I loved it.
Moving on to Bend Press and print in general, many people have their own reasons for liking print. You’re in the industry yourself, having started of with a labor of love zine. What is it about print that you like?
I love touching paper, holding it. Smelling it… a freshly printed book smells amazing, by the way, haha. Try it. I like the documentation aspect of books. It’s more permanent than the interwebs, where things quickly disappear in the depths behind all the immediate and ever changing content. Reading online is geared towards the quick, not the substantial. Pop culture sites/blogs are notorious for regurgitating short press releases almost word for word. There’s not much in terms of in depth editorial. Tom Waits says there is a “deficit of wonder”. The world wide web may be partially responsible for that. But to be fair, there are exceptions, of course.
Art publications in physical form are special. You can really see the work. Nothing beats seeing art in person, but books give you a sense of actually holding the art.
The one way I do appreciate web content, is when it’s designed to really stretch the medium and make use of all the digital possibilities. Do things you can’t do in print. But you don’t see much experimention. Presenting creative in a plug and play template is just boring.
Where do you see Bend Press going in the future? And where print is going in the future for that matter.
I’ve been discussing this with a friend recently. I’d love it to be a sort of artists’ community, a collaborative funny farm… I say that because I want to keep it fun and approachable. It’s always been important for me to never take things too seriously. That’s not a very good business plan, haha. But that’s the overall goal. We’ve been talking about moving that direction by creating a quarterly or bi-annual magazine — in the form of a book. The McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern is a rad model of this, but for writers. We want to broaden by using it as a vehicle to bring all sorts of artistic collaborations to life. The quarterly would be an awesome jumping off point for cool projects.
Lastly, are there any other mediums or interests that you’ve been dabbling/interested outside of what you do?
I’d love to get a motorcycle again.
The real lastly, what can we expect from Andy Jenkins in the near future?
The Jenkins Family’s gotta eat! So, illustrating, designing, writing, consulting — or working for the postoffice. There’s always work at the postoffice.