Interview with Jeff Macpherson: “I love that my work can be ambiguous or specific.”

I am really excited to present this interview with Jeff Macpherson, also known as Jeff Mac, a 27-year-old artist living in Linwood, New Jersey. Both his Etsy shop and Facebook page are filled with prints and paintings bursting with energy and exuberance (and pretty reasonably priced as well, I might add). Definitely check them out before reading this — they’re great.

What do you enjoy about printmaking as a medium? Printmaking is a relatively new art form for me. I’ve always wanted to keep my work accessible and make a living off of it, printmaking was a way to do that with my drawings. As for what I enjoy about it, I think I like the control of it… being able to walk the line between manipulating my work and staying true to the original vision is sort of a thrill. I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of what I can do with printmaking.

How does your print work differ from your painting? I’d love to be an awesome painter but I get way too impatient with it. I don’t know why, I can sit at a drawing for hours but I can only look at a painting for so long. I always end up working loose and fast on my paintings whereas my ink work tends to be more detailed and intricate.

I’d love to be an awesome painter but I get way too impatient with it. I don’t know why, I can sit at a drawing for hours but I can only look at a painting for so long.

How long have you been creating work like this? Did you previously work with other materials? When I moved to Austin in 2008 I started using ink more frequently. I’ve drawn with pencil my whole life and I’ve always painted, I just have never been so dedicated to ink the way I am now. Something about the way it’s so permanent and bold really appeals to me.

How would you describe your point of view as an artist? Umm… hmm. I think the ideas I tend to gravitate towards are the ones that say “art should be accessible” and “art should communicate what people can’t say”. Even when I do something that I think should be more expensive (a piece that takes me two weeks or so), I try to make prints so that if people want to hang it on their wall, they can. As far as what art should communicate… I really believe that a good piece of art is something you can stand in front of and say “I never knew I felt this way, but this piece really says something that I’ve been feeling and could just never put into words”, you know? It’s easy to make a piece that says “ahhh, I hate the world!”, it’s definitely harder to dig deep in yourself and make work that says something positive and that resonates with peoples dreams.

I really believe that a good piece of art is something you can stand in front of and say “I never knew I felt this way, but this piece really says something that I’ve been feeling and could just never put into words”, you know?

Why do you gravitate towards using text in your prints? I’m a wanabe typographer. I wish I could hand-write awesome fonts and I guess working it into my pieces is a way to get that out for me. The text in my work is usually words that run through my head… I seriously have a drawer full of phrases that I want to work into pieces.

Is Etsy the only place where you sell your artwork or do you also sell it elsewhere? I have some work in cafes here in south Jersey and I do commissioned pieces, but as far as retail goes, Etsy is pretty much it for me.

Where do you get your inspiration? My faith, mainly. The love between my wife and I. Every day life. Music. Old art supplies are a new source of inspiration for me. My Grandpa graduated from art school in the 40’s and my Grandma gives me his old art supplies every now and then. Now, whenever my wife and I go into an antique store I’ve gotta check their old art supply section.

What is your background in art and design? I haven’t had any formal training. My parents bought me my first drafting table when I was ten (I think) after years of reading Norman Rockwell’s biography and drawing for hours at a time. My grandfather was a successful photographer in Pittsburgh, my brother is a photographer in Florida… I’ve just always been encouraged to be creative.

When you’re not designing, how do you spend your free time? Cleaning up after our new puppy mostly. Cooking homemade pasta. Riding my Vespa around, and going to Philadelphia with my wife. (If you’re into mosaics and have never been to “The Magic Gardens” in Philly, you’re really missing out.)

What have been your most popular designs/pieces? What do you think determines their success? By far, the most popular piece on Etsy has been my “Every Day is a Revolution” print. I just shipped one to Norway today, actually. I really believe that it goes back to pulling out of people what they’ve always thought but never could say. I’ve had people think that I made it for the occupy Wall Street movement, or for Ron Paul or whatever they think their revolution is. That’s amazing to me, I love that my work can be ambiguous or specific. Really, I just made the piece after finding a sketch I did when I was into Radiohead’s OK Computer album. There’s a scribble in the liner notes of the album that says “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better”.

I’ve had people think that I made [the “Every Day is a Revolution” print] for the occupy Wall Street movement, or for Ron Paul or whatever they think their revolution is. That’s amazing to me.

What other artists and/or designers do you admire? Milton Glaser, Norman Rockwell, Mike Giant, I just recently saw the work of Aaron Horkey and it’s just incredible. I admire Paul Simon, too… I’ve never seen him draw but I just love the way his music speaks to me.

Can you describe your design process? It depends. Lately, with all these words, it will begin with a phrase that has been going through my head. I’ve got this piece I’m about to start on and all I have is the phrase “Only good news”… I’m not sure if it’ll be an astronaut piece or a paisley piece or maybe just words. Sometimes I don’t know until I sit down and sometimes I have a very specific vision. Sometimes a customer will just say “draw me a page full of that space thing you do”… those are the easy ones.

Your Etsy profile mentions that your designs have been “utilized for non-profit advertising, bands that need album art and writers who need book covers.” Could you explain how you got involved in these types of work? It really comes about just from living in so many places. One of my best friends from North Carolina just wrote a book and asked me to illustrate it. Sometimes a band who I know a member of will need a poster or somebody is doing something for a church and needs a design. Sometimes I’ll just randomly check Craigslist if I’m looking for a change of pace and see that someone needs album artwork. It’s fun, I love creating and my friends know I love it, so they ask me to do it for them or they recommend me.

What is your favorite thing to create? Astronauts. By far.
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