Name: Brett Stenson
Location: Portland OR (Originally Milwaukee WI)
Job: Art Director, Jolby & Friends
Brett, please introduce you to the readers.
My name is Brett and I am an artist and art director living in Portland, and grew up mostly in the great state of Wisconsin.
As a motorcycle enthusiast and hoarder of antiques and oddities, my work reflects my interest in both folklore and motorcycle culture. I grew up in somewhat of a hillbilly farmer family on my mom’s side, so going to tractor pulls and car shows was definitely a highlight for me as a kid.
That level of interest in something so powerful and mysterious (I didn’t understand how engines worked until maybe a few years ago) stuck with me for a long time and has continued to be a muse for me. My dad was a military man, so I traveled quite a bit with him all around the U.S. getting to know many facets of this wild country we live in.
After living in the Midwest for the better part of 15 years, I decided to take a leap of faith and moved out west, which has turned out to be a great move. Love it out here!
How did you get started as an illustrator?
Illustration was a weird, ignored aspect in my life as a kid. I drew a lot, and was pretty good at it, but never liked to really sit down and draw. I never felt that I was very good at it, and preferred being outside riding my bike in the woods.
Despite the encouragement from my parents, I gravitated more to bikes and essentially spent all my time riding BMX in high school. Right around junior year, my teachers were hounding me to try pushing myself and go to art school, which I legitimately didn’t realize existed.
After looking into it, I decided I wanted to be an industrial designer – which ended up being changed to illustration the day of enrollment because my friend Micah convinced me to switch majors. The rest is history!
Is your style changed over time and how do you define it today?
My style has changed a lot in the last 5 years.
I used to be far more into the Ed Roth vibe of drawing, with thick-to-thin linework and hideous monsters as a subject matter whenever possible.
Slowly, I started moving more into a rougher, more crude look after discovering Sister Corita Kent and Emory Douglas, which I would say are my biggest influences.
At this point, because I draw so often, I like to change up my style on a daily basis even if it’s just color or mark-making, subject matter. Variety is the spice of life, and I feel like I would rather try something new than be known for the one thing I do all the time.
What are the artistic projects for you most exciting and what are the themes you love to represent?
My favorite projects are working with people I genuinely care about and know they trust me to make work that will serve them well. Because I work both as an art director and an artist, I serve others at times, and serve myself at other times – which I feel is a perfect balance in problem solving and creativity.
Working with people in my hometown of Milwaukee is probably the most rewarding because I love the vibe of that place more than any other town. It’s old and rough around the edges and shamelessly blue collar. I feel like that theme is something I try to carry inside of me whenever I make work.
On the flip side, I am heavily influenced by the wildly imaginative and creative people I surround myself with here in Portland, and I feel like ancient history has been a big factor in what appeals to me.
Oh, and I am a late-blooming nerd that plays Magic the Gathering and D&D, so that plays into it too…
What about the artistic process and the techniques and mediums you use?
Working digitally with a tactile, real feel is my balance.
I draw almost exclusively on the computer in Photoshop, but I create textures on paper, scan them in, and apply them digitally.
However, with my last big show at See See Motorcycles in Portland, I used bleach, cotton, wood, leather and a soldering iron to make a lot of my work, so it can change entirely based on what I am making.
Painted helmet for @mkeflag raffled off at @brewtownrumble Sunday, proceeds go to @buildmoto program, a very rad high school motorcycle building / race in Milwaukee. 🏁 #mkeflag #buildmoto #brewtownrumble
Un post condiviso da Brett Stenson (@brettpstenson) in data:
What’s your relationshiop with the Two Wheels? Are you inspired by the Moto Culture?
I ride almost everyday of the year, so I am pretty heavily connected to motorcycles.
Currently have two Triumph Tigers, one thats a new ADV bike, and a 1967 Triumph Tiger that I found in a shed that was converted to a chopper in 1969.
I am restoring that ’67 from the ground up back to its chopper glory at the moment. Never rebuilt a motor before (or built a motorcycle for that matter), and if you know anything about British engineering, it’s pretty damn weird – so it’s been a labor of love and learning for the last year or so. I would say it creeps into a lot of my work – but like I said before, I like to change stuff up here and there.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your work and what is the most difficult one?
Most enjoyable would be making something that feels new to me and maybe other people. If I can push the boundaries a little and make something people feel is interesting and not played out, that makes me stoked.
The most difficult part is usually the same thing… making new things takes time and deep introspective thinking, and can drive you insane. The process can be tough, and sometimes you swing for the fences and miss, but that’s ok!
Failure is how you learn not to fail next time.
What are yor current projects? What are you working on?
A lot of them I can’t really embellish on because of NDAs, but I would say that the next few months are going to be pretty surreal. Let’s just say that I will be working with people I idolized as a kid, so I am very excited!
Otherwise, I have been actually trying to get back to making music again, so that is something to look forward to.
Always trying to make time for myself too to make new work and continue writing stories in my head.
Any future plans or artistic dreams you can share with us?
I think my plans have just been to keep on trying new things and attempt to make work that pushes me in a more interesting, new direction.
I have plans to get that chopper done in the next few months, but we shall see. Otherwise, I just take it day by day, don’t overstretch myself and make time for my family.
Sometimes artists only think about themselves and their careers (I do it a lot, admittedly), but as my mom always tells me, work can wait sometimes, you’ve got to be there for people because they’re not always going to be around.
Portrait by @travbarron for his photography show at Beacon Sound on October 14. The way he made our artwork transcend a flat plane by projecting it on our bodies is amazingly simple in concept but totally transforms the way the work feels in relation to the human form. Couldn’t be more stoked to be apart of this show, thank you Travis for the inclusion, I am honored!
ART for you is?
Art is just my way of sharing what’s bouncing around in my head.
It’s honestly the only thing I feel like I am knowledgable about, so I use that as a way to make a living. Lucky for me, people are willing to pay me money to make whatever pops into my head, and I feel truly lucky to be in that position.
Without art, I have no idea what the hell I would be doing…