Hands-down, barre-none, Jordan Debney is one of my absolute favorite artists on the planet. His perfect mix of surrealistic imagery with trippy 60s psychedelic-laced pop art has won my heart time and again. He's one of those cats who can pull off making digital work look like painted fine art and, in my book, that's hella.
Like some kinda Buff Monster on acid in the midst of a nightmare, Debney's wit and humor extends to drippy, single-buck-toothed monsters adrift in a sea of grotesquerie and mayhem, sometimes riding waves of melting dope and ice cream. It just doesn't get any better than that.
Read on, PEELUNDSTICK fans, as we go tripping along on a vast ocean of Jordan Debney. Enjoy.
PUS: What's your name and where are you from?
JD: My name is Jordan Debney and I am from New Zealand.
PUS: What's the scene like there?
JD: Well the art scene here is pretty much non-existent. Although I do my best to try and spruce it up. I can’t say that my style of art is widely appreciated in the city where I live, if you came here and looked around you would probably get frustrated trying to figure out how it could possibly be inspiring to a pop-culture artist, because it isn’t haaahah. I figured it leaves more for my imagination to make up. Wellington and Auckland are the cities where I need to focus more of my audience on.
PUS: Your land is for sure a place on my bucketlist. I haven’t been yet, so I’ll have to take your word for it! So, explain a bit about what you do and how you do it.
JD: I like to draw monsters and foods, usually both at the same time forming a bizarre monster/food mess. But I guess people seem to like it, haha! I usually work with digital media (photoshop) and dabble in traditional painting.
PUS: Yeah, your finished work appears both painted as well as hand-drawn. It’s a nice balance of all worlds. You must hand-draw the linework I’m guessing. It’s interesting that you use Photoshop. So your final pieces aren’t vectors at all? Explain your working process for us a bit more.
JD: I tried vectors when I was first starting out but it didn’t give me the sense of freedom I wanted with my lines. Vectors can be very limiting to the amount of detail you put in them. With photoshop I can just run through with a tablet and directly draw the lines in where they are needed. Yes I do always sketch out the drawing first on paper. Nothing beats holding a physical drawing in your hand that you can say you have done haha.
PUS: For sure. How would you describe your style and your genre?
JD: My art has been considered as ‘pop-surrealism’ and contemporary. Personally I just do what I do. If I were to explain my style to someone who hasn’t seen it I would use the words ‘bright and repulsive’, almost a contradiction in itself.
PUS: I saw once on maybe your Twitter bio you described yourself thematically as “I like to draw things that drip and melt”, or something like that. That still seems to apply. How did you arrive at such subject matter? Were you always interested in this sort of theme or did you happen upon it one day and discover lots of people liked it and just stuck to it?
JD: I actually would like to know the answer to that question myself haha. I don’t really know where it comes from. I have always had a slight fascination with water and how it moves. Or maybe watching too many horror movies?
PUS: Did you go to school for art? What’s your history there?
JD: I can’t say I went to school or that I was taught. Everything I do is what I have taught myself to do. I started from a young age of drawing scenes that sparked my interest in comics and trading cards. That moved up to drawing things that I saw in my head, mainly, monsters. I guess from there it has just progressed to where it is now, sourcing inspirations from what I see around me and what kind of mind set I am in at that current time.
PUS: Give us a rundown of a typical day for you.
It would begin with a very rough wake up and a strong coffee. Depending on the day I would hang out with the housemates or fluff around on the internet until I am ready to begin some work. Eventually when I am I will chuck on a good drum and bass mix from BBC and draw right on through till 1am. Rarely I will stop for a food break, skipping meals is a bad habit I am desperately trying to get myself out of, it’s not that I can’t be bothered eating, it’s that I just plain ‘ole forget. I try not to spend too long on a job in one day, usually try to mix it up with some quick doodles or another job that I would be working on. I try to get out of the house as much as I can, sometimes even by working from a coffee shop just down the road can be refreshing.
PUS: So, do you not have the frustrating interruption of a steady dayjob? Are you doing your art as a means of income alone?
JD: Aha yes occasionally I do. But I do consider my art job my real job, it is where I base all my thinking and effort.
PUS: Hmmm. Okay. Vague, but adequate. What other things are you doing besides what you're mostly known for?
JD: I actually used to draw comic strips, no one knows this, or where to find them, but they are out there haha. I like to dabble in cooking, as working in the kitchen of a restaurant has given me a good sense of confidence in the kitchen, people also don’t know that about me, but I like to cook, a lot.
PUS: They say artists make the best cooks. Of course that’s not true in my case, but…lol
JD: Haha, well, I didn’t exactly say my food was good either haahahaaaaah.
PUS: What and/or who are some of the biggest influences on you, what you do, how you do and your style?
JD: Believe it or not but one of my biggest influences would be music. When I first started to take drawing seriously I was very much influenced by The music of Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails). It’s somewhat hard to explain but it gave me that push for me to pursue what I really loved and to make a career from it. Four years later, here we are! Artistically I get my inspiration from the work of H.R Giger, Ron English, Alex Pardee, James Jean (I could go on forever). I surround myself with artworks from all of my greats everyday.
PUS: That’s great. I definitely get music as a muse to draw or create visually by. I implement that always when I’m working as well.
JD: Haha yes, I consider is vital part of the process.
PUS: What is the coolest three things that happened to/for you last year?
Probably being featured on the cover of multiple magazines is pretty rad. Painting for charity infront of a crowd of over 500 people at expos around the country. And meeting all of these rad new friends I have! These days I only really talk to artists, because they are all I know, and I am so incredible thankful for all of them. An artists is pretty much the best type of person you could meet.
PUS: Awesome! So, you speak about your painting work, which I don’t necessarily know you for. Tell us more about that side of your art.
JD: Well I try to paint as often as I can, which these days is hardly ever. I mostly paint on really big canvases and mainly for something to hang up in my house. I tend to paint little food monsters on A4(ish) canvases for family and friends’ gifts for birthdays and such. I don’t often post those online, so people don’t really get to see them. I have been painting for a long time but for some reason I am still not very confident with it. So this year I told myself I was going to focus more on my traditional acrylic painting; so far I have done none. haaaha. But yes, there will definitely be some more painting ahead of me this year, I will make sure of it.
PUS: What are some cool things on the horizon for you this year that you're anticipating or working towards?
JD:I have a piece for the ‘Color Ink Book’ exhibition in California in a month or so, so that is something I am REALLY looking forward to doing. Also a piece for a toy exhibition across the ditch in Australia. I haven’t painted a toy for an exhibition before so it will be a learning experience.
PUS: I’m pretty into what you do and your drive. I’m very curious where you see your career headed, in your mind’s eye, you know. What’s Jordan Debney’s five-year plan if he were a business?
JD: Well first thing is to move to Wellington (the capitol of New Zealand). Their art scene there is much more existent than here. I’ll just be working hard as often as I can. I would like to get into doing murals, so that is a must-do! Maybe an exhibition or two before I decide to pack up and leave for LA. Moving to LA for me is inevitable; it’s just a matter of when. I don’t exactly have a ‘set plan’; I just know where I want to be and what I will do to get there.
PUS: Well, we’ve tons of family out there, and visit often ourselves. So, meeting up will be much easier once you make that move! Haha. So, we all know that getting the hustle on and networking and all that are a vital part of making our careers move forward. What are your efforts in that regard? What's your take on the business end of art and what are some ways you market yourself and further your own personal career?
JD: Social Networks. Social networks can make a career really sky rocket, it’s just a matter of branching out to the crowd. When it gets to the point where people are just finding your artwork from your website and blogging them on tumblr, they are pretty much doing all the work for you. I always try to talk to as many fans as possible on the networks, I am always happy to answer questions or even talk some rubbish with them. It helps me get a better understanding of how my art is perceived from an completely outside point of view and also gives them a bit of a thrill.
PUS: That’s very cool. It’s hard most times for all of us to be able to stay seriously engaged with our crowds. Good to hear your finding the time. I think it makes all the difference in the world.
JD: I believe so to. You see all these artists write complete jibberish on their twitters and everything everyday, yet the struggle to find the time to talk to their fans? It’s nonsense.
PUS: Well, it’s what I’ve learned as the most beneficial way to engage people, anyone, on social media. It’s meant to be a dialogue; a conversation. Not a platform for constant self-promotion, right?!?
Okay, I ask everybody this…If a genie gave you one wish, what would you use it on?
JD: For all of my family and friends in my hometown to move with me to LA. Nothing would change except the landscape. I have a bizarre attachment to cities and the business of them, and I just want to be in the middle of it.
PUS: Interesting. Why LA? Have you been there before or do you hold some fantasy vision of it?
JD: Merely a fantasy vision of it. I believe it is where me and my art belong. If you could witness the lack of pop surreal art here in NZ you would know what I mean haha.
PUS: Unfortunately, I’ll have to take your word for that. So, What advice would you give to an up-and-comer who's either just starting out or looking to try to up their game?
JD: Just to not give up. We all have our days where it seems like we aren’t getting anywhere and that we are destined for failure. It’s just a natural fear that we get from uncertainty. The more you draw the harder it is to give up. I have seen far too many artists just quit on their work because they felt it was too hard to get people to see it. It’s frustrating as hell. The art industry isn’t easy at all, there are so many people out there that there is BOUND to be a few that won’t agree or like what it is that you are doing. Just keep on, the right people will see it, and eventually you will make a career out of doing what you simply just love to do.
PUS: You are obviously an inspiration to lots of people out there. What parting words of wisdom would you like to leave your fans?
There are no rules to art. There is no right or wrong. Just make your art as much as possible and enjoy every second of it.
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