Staying Creative with Jesse Feinman
This week we catch up with frequent collaborator and eclectic Graphic Designer Jesse Feinman about his background, process and visual language.
Check out out interview with Jesse below and give him a follow on Instagram here.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Jesse, can you let us know about your creative background?
I was always into drawing and doodling throughout elementary and middle school—I think partially due to my uncle always encouraging me to draw and paint and whatever. I always gravitated toward visual things as a kid, whether it be crude illustrations in books, designs of cars, comic panels, etc. As I got older, I started to make some stuff for my friends’ bands every and now then, which was, unsurprisingly, pretty bad. I mean, really bad. But somehow I guess the requests just never stopped coming, even when they probably should have, hahaha.
I don’t think there was ever a singular moment where I decided “this is what I wanted to do.” I mean, I went to college for writing, so this was never exactly the plan, but it’d be silly for me to complain, you know? After all, I’m just having fun.
What would you consider is your ‘field’, or title, as an artist? What are the best/worst parts about your title, or about the industry in general?
I haven’t nor do I ever really plan on giving myself any title. I guess I’d call myself a publisher first and foremost, but even that formality feels wrong. I don’t know, titles have always felt empty and pigeon-hole-y to me, anyway.
There are a lot of beautiful things about the “industry” / art world. You know, you develop a lot of meaningful, longstanding connections and meet a lot of wonderful people. Plus, you get to see your work enjoyed, understood, and in the hands of countless people, which will always be, at least to some degree, exciting to me. Having my hands in different parts of the art world has also provided me with the opportunity to be in a constant state of learning, and I’m always experiencing new perspectives and being shown new ways of looking at things. That’s really invaluable, I think. I sometimes need to take a step back and appreciate all I’ve been given, like all of my lifelong friendships and memories. The worst parts are probably what you expect—you know, difficult clients, people who don’t value your time, disagreements, the feeling of losing autonomy over your work. But overall it’s okay. I think it’s usually worth it in the end.
How do you go about choosing themes in your work?
I tend to just explore the themes that I feel the most personally connected to. My work, more often than not, revolves around connection, feeling, and experiences in one way or another, and that’s just because those things matter to me. In my opinion, the best exploration comes when the interest is sincere, you know? I think the really cool part is trying to convey these messages and ideas thru, like, stock images of butterflies or a ballerina or whatever. Taking something that already exists and completely re-molding it and breathing new life into it.
Your work is very textural and layered, can you tell us a bit about your process?
I won’t go into any detail about how I make my shit, but I think the balance of skillsets & processes has come from my gruellingly gradual refinement as an “artist” as time has gone by. I can balance and interweave themes and ideas and text and image because I’ve practiced and spent a long time trying to make sense of everything. I’ve stared at the typefaces on bullshit $3 records for hours, you know, like everyone else. I don’t know, I don’t want to treat my processes or opinions like they’re anything precious, so to put it simply, I think I’ve just gotten better at understanding what I want do and how to actualise that into something tangible.
Any new approaches you’ve been trying for your work?
A lot of the time, my compositions sometimes depend too heavily on balance, so I’ve been trying to make things that are less rigid and freer flowing and whatever. This approach has come about from a desire to change and push myself. Didn’t someone once say the best innovation comes from necessity? In any case, let’s go with that.
I’ve also been trying to create pieces that lean upon typography more than anything else. Type possesses an incredible capacity to be the driving force of a message—both visually and linguistically.
SCRT is all for the idea of demystifying the creative process - do you have any thoughts on this?
I don’t think I necessarily have anything particularly insightful to offer in terms of new ways to approach visual work and what have you, but I think it’s important to ask yourself why you’re making what you’re making and what you hope to achieve in adding something to the ether. This isn’t to say I’m necessarily even goal oriented or anything like that—I’m horrible at setting goals for myself—but I think a sense of self-driven purpose will always breathe life into what you create. And you know, your purpose/reason/whatever for making something can be something as simple as “because I wanted to.” I think that’s as good of a reason as any.
Any advice for an upcoming creative?
It’s okay to walk away from things that no longer feel fun or personally rewarding and it’s also okay to say “no” from time to time. I think understatements and restraint can be a lot more powerful than being heavy handed or overcomplicating something—I’d advise keeping that in mind. And, as with everything, try your best to have empathy and understanding, as long as you’re not giving too much of yourself away.
My friend Tara showed me Paris, Texas when I was 18 and had just moved away from home. It taught me a lot, and I think most people who have seen it feel the same way. It’s kind of one of those “Once in a Lifetime” movies, I think. C’mon, the “Every man has your voice,” line? You’d have to be pretty heartless not to feel something from that. Not to mention, Harry Dean Stanton (RIP) was just such a perfect pick for that role. I’ve read that the film broke his heart a little bit. I can see why.
Lastly, any dream client/collab?
I had the opportunity to work on a few designs with Peter De Potter earlier this year and that felt pretty special to me. I grew up watching LeBron James play every night, so making something for him, or the NBA in general, would be the epitome of a dream realized, as silly as that probably sounds. I don’t know—I’m really such a fanboy of everything… there are so many collaborations that I’d be elated over. Fortunately, a lot of my bucket list shit has kind of inexplicably worked out, regardless of how underserving I feel, hahah.
As a publisher, I’d love to make a book for any of the photographers I’ve talked about in this interview. Wolfgang Tillmans might be on the top of the list, though. He’s had a big impact on me.