Today I am happy to present an interview with fellow creative, designer and an Austin based illustrator, Jeremy Martinez, best known simply by his moniker “Jeremy the Artist”. We go way back to my earlier blogging days (3 years ago!) and I was instantly impressed by his talent and hard work. This guy is probably the most passionate person that I know of when it comes to design and has sacrificed 15+ hour work days, double shifts, and crazy work hours to realize his dreams and just do the work. That’s dedication and one of the most dedicated people that I know to his craft and with a great attitude to boot! He’s definitely going places!
Tell me a little about yourself and your journey to being an illustrator. Why do you do what you do?
Well, I’ve been doodling for as long as I can remember. My parents still have my old drawings I think, from when I was like, 2 years old..maybe around 5ish-6 years old those doodlings formed shapes- bunch of monster and dinosaur drawings..both of which I still draw to this day, haha.
I remember quite distinctly at the age of 10 thinking to myself I wanted to be a comic book artist. Ever since that time I’ve been working quite hard to reach that goal.
I moved to the big, little city of Austin, Texas, a little over 2 years ago. Austin’s been a city I’ve been wanting to move to since I was 19 because of the artistic culture and musical talent it prides itself on. It took me 4 years, but I finally arrived and have been trying to “make my mark” since here.
Currently, I run my own webcomic site, co-created and am presently managing a “Daily Draw” art blog, working on two comics which are going to print in the next month and just recently started managing a new “support the artists” group, which is based in Austin, Texas.
I work as a freelance graphic designer, illustrator, caricaturist, cartoonist and comic artist while maintaining a steady day job.
I also just started doing some research/drawings for a personal Kickstarter project I’m working on…my very first graphic novel! Aiming to start the actual campaign in December, really excited, going to be putting a facebook group for the Kickstarter campaign very soon to generate some excitement and get people talking, can’t wait to get that going.
I know you’ve weathered through some tough times to get to where you’re at now. Can you tell me a bit about your “rock bottom”? What did that feel like, and how did you push through?
Well, you know its funny- as you get older, everything gets more complicated- all the aspects of life: 10 year old Jeremy could’ve never seen the economical hardships or personal demons he’d have to endure along the way to achieving his dreams…even 26 year old Jeremy is still somewhat blind to all the “x factors”, but I like to think at this point in time I can brave the storm a little better.
That first year, or rather chapter, of my life here in Austin I like to call “Surviving”. In the course of saving money for the initial move to finding a job when I got to the city to finding a better job to get me an apartment, I was hired and quit about 5 jobs- that was in a 6 month period of time, after which I landed another couple of jobs which one I still work at, totally 7 jobs in about an 8 month period of time.
I was always applying for jobs and the first few jobs I got in Austin weren’t stable or were “shady”, as nicely as I can put it.
The first 3 months I lived in Austin I stayed at a good friend’s uncle’s house, my friend and his uncle of whom I’ll owe for the rest of my life for their extreme generosity. I didn’t outstay (or rather I don’t think I did) my welcome, but I wanted to move out to my own apartment as soon as I could, and in hindsight I think I moved a little earlier than I should have.
I started a lease on an apartment and moved out…and as soon as I did, that’s when the job I was working at started lying to all of its employees about steady contracts and stable work…so right off the bat moving into that apartment was quite the adventure.
For about 2 months there, I had no idea where rent was coming from, or money for my bills. And, to top that off, the car I was driving at the time was having some really awesome problems – those problems that keep it from running- again, I was very blessed in having a friend’s dad who is this awesome mechanic, come to my aid and keep that car alive with a steady heart beat…but trust me when I say there were plenty of times where I was stuck around town..or even at home.
For about 2-3 months, I had 2 ramens a day. One for lunch, one for dinner. Those who haven’t seen me in person, lemme fill you in..i’m a pretty decent sized guy who can eat like a college football player..needless to say, I lost a lot of weight in that time, ha. There was also the shady job to consider, where I was working with druggies, ex convicts and just really not nice people. Not anyone that I really wanted to know any better outside the job anyways.
Those were horrible times- really the only time I can remember in recent years losing complete faith in my own abilities as well as life in itself. I also was going through some other personal stuff that only added to the huge pile of frustration and depression that I was attempting to carry on my shoulders…
I was pretty close to calling it quits, to moving back to my hometown and restarting life there…but through the support of some of my best friends and family, and a stable job offer that came at the very last minute…I stayed, and I haven’t regretted it since.
Anyone that meets me will tell you I’m very personable and very friendly- but spiritually, mentally, I’ve always been a fighter. My life is run by this phrase, quoted from Emiliano Zapata: “Es mejor morir de pie que vivir de rodillas” – “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees”.
I found that in my darkest moments, at my very weakest..there was a part of me that wanted to fight, and keep going…at the time I could not have done it without support, but since then that fighting spirit has only grown a thousand fold…
Not to say things have done a complete 180 or anything- I live the life of a “struggling artist”, which has its ups and downs all the time…but…I am, lets say, better equipped, to handle all the aspects of such a life.
Since that dark time, “the hunger” to “make it” as an illustrator/designer has become a constant in my life. There is not a day, a moment really anymore, where I’m not thinking of a drawing or planning a drawing…or simply just drawing. In a day’s amount of time, usually, I’ll sketch 10 pieces, with 2 or 3 of those pieces becoming “finished works” , which I then post on my blog or facebook for show that day.
That “rock bottom” helped to push and define me- it helped to cut the vein of art in me and let creativity endlessly gush from it…its not a struggle I’d like to go through again but knowing my luck I don’t necessarily expect it not to happen….but this time around, I’ll do my best to keep a smile through it all.
I heard you just had some sweet success with a billboard design. How did that come about and what else is in store for you?
As with everything I’ve done here in the 5-1-2 (Austin phone area code), it was through a friend of a friend I met that had a friend that needed some work done.
Austin’s creative community is a huge web of people and once you’re in, you’re gonna eventually meet everyone in the community at some point in time.
That particular gig is for a concert happening in College Station, TX- I was initially hired to make a caricature poster of the musicians involved, but then a few weeks into the project my main contact’s e-mail went something like “Oh and we are gonna need a facebook banner and a billboard too”. I remember sitting there and just rereading the e-mail a couple times.
I work mainly digital these days, drawing with a tablet on Corel Painter and editing in Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator- I had no earthly idea how to get started on a billboard as I’ve never been commissioned to make anything that big (roughly 24ft wide by 10ft high), so figuring out the process to go about this was half the fun but as you know the project was completed successfully and is currently on display in College Station. It was one of my more recent accomplishments and something I hold great pride in creating.
Someone had taken a picture of it in College Station and posted it on facebook, and one of the client team members had tagged my facebook name so that I could see..so it was a nice surprise to see the actual billboard…I reposted it on my facebook and enjoyed the congratulatory support I was receiving on it…and went straight back to work.
At the moment, there’s so many things I want to accomplish, that billboard served as good motivation, but I know there are still so many more projects to come that I can be proud of as well…just have to keep pushing and working hard.
Currently, I’m preparing for a couple of local comic conventions coming up and also scheduling some local “zombie caricaturing” events in which I’ll be hosting booths, drawing people as zombies for the upcoming Halloween holiday here in Austin.
What’s the “local art scene” like in Austin, TX? How do you participate?
So anyone that is familiar with Austin will know it by its nickname, the “Live Music Capital of the World”. There is, however, a flourishing community of visual artists, designers, theater and dance here as well. I like to group all of us together with the musicians, to say there is a great community of “creatives” here.
When I first arrived, I had a little background as a caricaturist and started caricaturing at some of the artisan markets we have in Austin, primarily at the ones located down South Congress, near the intersection of Gibson Street (known as the “SoCo Drag” to the locals).
I have since made a lot of musician friends and I caricature at various venues throughout Austin, primarily east side and downtown. I caricatured at a few venues this past march during the SXSW festival, and even designed some posters for the event.
I also have caricatured and will be caricaturing again at the famous, very awesome Austin Books & Comics, Austin’s biggest comic bookstore where celebs such as Robert Rodriguez have been spotted.
I’ve designed a shirt for Austin Books which is currently on sale as well as have had an art show there with my prints and am currently selling a comic there.
I also work as a local designer for a lot of the band posters for some of the local venues here.
Asides all that stuff, I actively participate in local art groups and art group events, throughout various times of the year.
Do you have a particular message that you want to share with the world through your art? Is there any unified thing to it?
I wear a lot of different hats, both figuratively and quite literally- and with those hats come different philosophical views and beliefs.
I think generally though, I’d like to tell the world this:
Never, ever, ever give up.
It’s all a struggle: love, work, life- we all have our demons to contend with and to that extent, find comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone. We are “the” collective of life, our individual passions and desires unified in the emotion that these chords strike when played by our hearts- we are told by those in the media, by those in our personal lives, sometimes, to give up, to settle…and not settling in the sense of contentment but in the sense of “quitting”- pay no attention to these people, they have lost their way.
We are more than we can ever understand, and it should be considered in all our lives a goal to accomplish..the true understanding that no matter what happens, everything will be alright. And if that’s true…then there should never be a fear of failing…and failing I do NOT define as the inability to reach an idealistic dream…rather, I define it as the stopping in pursuit of such…for the most important part, in all of this, is the chase, and how we contend with all the obstacles in our path.
Keep the hunger alive, no matter what…stay hungry for life and nothing will ever be able to stop you.
What inspires you?
Loaded question there, haha. Inspiration can come from anything for me these days, really. Mainly from different aspects of my personal life and people I meet, which I use in my comics for my web comic site and a lot of my art.
This morning I had a…”ghostly experience”, and, after recovering from being scared sh*tless, I thought of a neat idea for a comic. Such is my life.
Who inspires you?
I have a lot of people who influence my life, but true inspiration I draw from a lot of my fellow creatives here, meeting people in your similar situation and seeing them work “right beside you” is encouraging and motivating.
Asides them, definitely my family, primarily my dad, who is a far superior artist than I, and taught me the basics of everything I know today. I work very hard for him and my family, as well as all my friends from South Texas, where I’m from.
How are you remarkable and unique? What makes you stand out from the rest? Do you do creative ‘guerilla’ marketing tactics?
There are many Jeremys out there…and some of them are artists- but none of them are, or ever will be, “Jeremy The Artist”, for all the heavens and hells that come with that alias.
I like to think of myself as a guerillas marketing tactic, haha, as everything I do is a branch of what I want people to see and know about the tree of my artistic life…currently though, yes, I am working on some very exciting “guerilla” marking strategies that I hope to implement very, very soon…
Do you have any cool offers right now that people can purchase?
Glad you asked! I am currently offering a special on my digitally drawn zombie caricatures, all of which can be viewed on: www.facebook.com/zombeezgalore
$20/person for a digital copy, and $10 extra for an actual print shipped out to you! I usually charge about 10 times that amount per illustration piece, so very excited to offer this special, in celebration of my favorite holiday, Halloween!
Thanks, Jeremy! You can email him at email@example.com if you’re interested in getting Zombified. $20 for original digital art work.. can’t beat that! I love featuring creative entrepreneurs who are making their mark and marching to their own beat. They may be ‘unknown’ to the blogosphere which I think is even better. There’s definitely life outside of blogging and to feature other people’s voice outside of the noise of e-fame is one of the things I’d love to focus on. If you think you’d be a good fit for a future interview, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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