Freshly Inked Interview with Jeral Tidwell
Photos by Steve Prue
Little intro question, where were you born and raised?
I was born in Orange County, CA and raised in Monroe, LA and now happily terrorizing the mid-west in Louisville, KY.
What started your interest in art?
I’m not sure if it was ever "started" so much as it was always there. I was handed a crayon or other writing tool well before I could even talk. Art is pretty much all I have ever known…it is me.
When did you know you wanted to turn that into a career?
To be honest, I don’t ever remember wanting to do anything else…well, maybe becoming a stuntman but I do that on my own anyway so, yeah…both life goals reached. (Hahaha)
You've worked with a variety of companies, large and small, what's been a favorite experience and why?
I have been very lucky to find myself in way out of my league but somehow it always seems to work out. Working with big companies is almost always easier than working with some individuals and especially easier than with small companies. I guess the big ones just don’t micromanage as much because they don’t have as much on the line so they are usually almost absent from the process, pay on time, and expect only what they paid for… probably one of the reasons they grew to be a big company.
How would you describe your style of artwork?
Handcrafted stupidity. (Hahaha) I’m just having fun and I don’t take myself too seriously, however, I do take my craft very seriously. Really in the end the only thing that matters is the art. I don’t concern myself with labels and genres to attach my work to, it is what it is, call it what you want.
Can you name some of the influences/mentors you've had in your career?
Wow… this question is always hard because with the way information is so easily shared these days, everyone influences everyone. As for mentors, never really had any, I just dive into everything head first and get it done. Sure there have been a few folks that showed me a thing or two but nothing worth mentioning. In fact, most folks who step in to “show you how to do it “ mislead you, bullshit their way through it, and simply aren’t good enough to show you anything. I think we have all encountered those guys. I always think that if you figure it out yourself through trial and error (mostly error) you are better in the end.
What do you enjoy focusing on the most posters, stickers, t-shirts, hot rod paint jobs?
Not to be cheesy but, my family is the main focus, art is just me…there is no separation for me. As for what I like to do most…drawing and painting. I am very analog, I believe real art requires dirty hands and not carpal tunnel from sitting at your computer.
Now let's talk about tattoos: What's your most recent tattoo?
I just received a new tattoo last week from my good friend, Jeana (@jeanajanetattoos ) of a fun little family totem on the back of my left calf. It is of a fox head, a skull, and a light bulb to represent Sarah, myself, and our son, Edison.
Are your tattoos influenced by your own artwork?
My tattoos are a collection of different artist’s work and a few of my own pieces, I like seeing other folks art around me and on me.
What's your next tattoo endeavor?
Our next visit to a tattoo shop will be for Sarah’s new piece. It is a shoulder/ 3/4 sleeve that she and I collaborated on…not sure she could be more beautiful but if it is possible, this tattoo will do it.
What's the next overall project for you?
I am actually working on three separate series of paintings that are not only completely different than each other, but totally different than any work you have ever seen from me in the past. I really had to shake it up a bit because I have been feeling really bored with my normal work. It’s a good idea to throw a creative wrench into your well-oiled machine from time to time. I say all the time, “Grow or Die “ and I mean it. Nothing in life stays the same, nothing. Life is always changing, the world is always moving, we are not in control so we must take control of all we can and rock it with all we have.
When did you start creating art with your wife, Sarah?
Sarah and I have been working creatively in one way or another for 16 years. We met while I was working a gaming convention airbrushing computer cases and life just took over from there. She is my muse, my best friend, the love of my life, and definitely a badass artist with or without me.
Would you say your styles are similar or contrasting?
I would say our styles are very different but the connecting force is our obsession with detail and color. We are both pretty determined to make the world look the way we think it should and that is often totally different but equally as valid.
Together how do you guys come up with ideas or keep each other motivated?
We definitely interject our thoughts but neither of us have much need for motivation from outside forces… we both seem to suffer from having way more ideas than we will ever have time to get them all done.
What's your advice for artists who are just starting out?
Commit 100% and don’t have a backup plan… die trying. Having a backup plan is like a safety net… knowing you can fall without harm, you aren’t going to try nearly as hard. Having options within your creative career aren’t back up plans, they are just more ways to move forward or facilitate your next step. Always look to the next stage of your art/career, don’t dwell on the past… you aren’t there anymore and you will never be there again… know that. While we are on this subject, I would like to address a major piece of bullshit we have all heard… “ If you sell your art to ( insert company, person, etc… here ) then you are a SELLOUT! “ This is like a mental cancer that people with no fucking clue like to tell people who are actually doing it. Selling your art makes you a PROFESSIONAL ARTIST. The “artist” who works some other job and doesn’t make art to sell because they don’t want to be a sellout is the perfect example of someone who knows they can’t sell their art and has actually sold themselves out. When someone tells you “ you can’t “ or “ You shouldn’t “ that just means they can’t or they shouldn’t… you alone decide what you can or should do, fuck them.
Can you tell us about how you got into screenprinting posters? What's the biggest challenge with that and the biggest payoff or benefit?
Screen printing has been part of my art in one way or another since the late ‘80s, but I first noticed screen printed posters in the early ‘90s and I knew that was something for me. I worked with other printers for many years before deciding to print my own posters. So in 2005, Crackhead Press was born with two friends… Justin Kamerer and Bill Green. We printed hundreds of gig posters and art prints all the way up to this year when I sold out my half of the shop to Justin. I really wanted to focus on my paintings and other art. Bill had already moved away about 10 years ago. Screen printing posters is a serious undertaking, very time consuming and generally a huge pain in the ass. The posters themselves are rarely the actual pay off but they are like a super rad, giant business card. Obviously, there is some monetary gain but mostly it’s just the cool factor of working with the bands I like and seeing my art out in the world. Art prints have been a real passion for me, letting the art speak for itself without a band name or event tied to it… a true test of art and artist. I still love making prints but will not likely be printing with my own hands for a while if ever again… I will just hire one of my crazy print ninja friends to do them for me.
Check out more amazing artwork by Jeral by clicking here!