A few months ago I sat down with illustrator / graphic designer, artist and all-round good guy Jeroen Huijbregts to interview him about his artistic aspirations. On a terrace in Amsterdam we enjoyed the first sun-rays of the year, some fried eggs (with bacon) and discussed Jeroen’s artistic life. As this was in March and it is now June, you can imagine this interview is long overdue. But like many good things, it only seems to have gotten better with age (something that might also be said for the good man himself).
“My artistic career didn’t start until a couple of months ago” Jeroen drops the bomb right away. I’m surprised as I’ve known Jeroen for a few years now and always thought him to be an artist in every sense of the word. I’ve seen his eye for detail, his design and graphic work and art studies up close. Add an authentic personality and a van Gogh red beard and you’ve got an artist as far as I’m concerned.
“It wasn’t until Peter [Name Gallery] invited me to join their ‘Great & Amazing art on paper’ group exhibition that I started producing my personal work for the outside world” Jeroen explains. The show at the Name gallery was filled with works of renowned artists like BESOK, B-Toy, Mr.Zero and others, yet Jeroen managed to squeeze in between some nice eye-catchers that wouldn’t give away that this was his first time exhibiting. The works were greatly received and show a clear direction Jeroen is moving in at the moment: The remix.
A Black Panthers party logo and the Pink Panther’s head. Horace Horsecollar [Mickey Mouse’s horse in the ’30’s cartoons] with meticulously fitted Playboy bunny ears or Marge Simpson meets Cookie monster, on account that they’ve got the same color hair. The mixes are subtle and clever, showing that the simplest ideas are often the best. “Some of these ideas are so simple I’m amazed that no-one else has created them before, like the Marge Monster or Wu-Man”, Jeroen Explains. “It’s hard to find a good balance between genius and cheesy though. I like to make clever stuff and wouldn’t want to make things that fits into tourist shops next to the ‘stoner’ shirts”.
In Europe we aren’t as familiar with the ‘remix culture’ as in the States. Jeroen: “I’m not sure why the remix culture never caught on here. It might simply be because our modern pop-culture has produced less iconic imagery that lends itself for remixing than in the States”. In any case, Jeroen has always been inspired by American pop-culture, and remixing the figures that he grew up with made perfect sense to him.
Of course Jeroen Huijbregts isn’t the only one who fancy’s a clever remix. In fact, he doesn’t make a secret of his admiration for Greek-American artist Kostas Seremetis, who’s works fill solo-exhibitions. Jeroen: “I’ve been searching for a direction (in art) to follow through for quite a while. When I saw Kostas’ work, things just clicked. I sort of knew which thought process he had to go through to make certain works. And even though I never tried to copy him, I had to go through a similar process.”
Concept is a big part of Jeroen’s work, but certainly not all of it. Jeroen: “I do work concept driven, meaning that the idea is the most important. But after that I try and figure which medium fits my idea the best”. His studio shows boatloads of try-outs: from sketches and pen drawings to screen prints to works with India ink. Every single concept is subjected to lengthy art studies and numerous of try-outs on different kind of media. “Sometimes a tight lined illustrator file is the best medium, but you never know until you’ve tried”.
Quite a lot of artists we’ve come across have a similar story: They lived in a small town before coming to Amsterdam and being inspired by Graffiti, became graffiti writers and either chose to ‘grow up’ and become graphic designers or stay young forever as graffiti artists. Jeroen’s story does resemble this, yet deviates from that path on a critical point: He was inspired by graffiti but he preferred getting into graphic design right away. “Sure, I was heavily inspired by the ‘old-school’ graffiti artists in Amsterdam, but also by record covers, independent magazine layouts and things like that. I Guess I was more drawn to and inspired by the graphic side of it all. Not to say I haven’t tried, but I’ve never had the patience to learn proper can-control”.
Though Jeroen is quite the autodidact, he did attend a year of art academy from which he learned a fine lessons: “I learned how to look (at art), which is the most important lesson they could’ve taught me. I never realised how many ways you can look at art”.
In Amsterdam, Jeroen has worked as a freelancer and for several ad-agencies while always continuing to create his own work. He released some amazing t-shirts and designs with his own company called ‘Kinkerzooi’. Right now Jeroen is still working in the advertising world while trying to give some extra focus on his artwork as well.
As for the future, Jeroen doesn’t have any clear-cut plans for wealth and fame yet. “I don’t think I’ll be doing remixes forever, it’s in my nature to get bored when I do something for too long”. What is certain is that Jeroen has been an artist for years, his artistic career has finally caught up.