Jul 17, 2014
Interview with Jermaine Rogers on ‘CHOICES’
[On the eve of the release of Jermaine Rogers’ first self-produced vinyl toy, CHOICES, Vinyl Pulse reached out to him to explore the character, the connection to the underlying storyline, and his perspective making art and art toys. Enjoy the interview and be sure to check out the SDCC release info, after the jump.]
Q: Hi Jermaine. You've been making art toy fans really happy over the last year or so. Next up is CHOICES -- a blood red-eyed, knife wielding rabbit with something or someone clearly on his mind. Can you tell us more about the character and his fellow brothers often seen in your various gig posters and art? Do the Dero and these unusual rabbits see eye to eye?
Well, these bunnies belong to a particular patch of woodland very far away. They're involved in a centuries old dispute with a community of raccoons who share the woodland with them. The two sides don't really like each other, but tolerate each other for the most part. From time to time, there are flare-ups. Sometimes violent flare-ups. Every community has it's extremists.
But, every community has it's level-headed, forward thinkers...and they exist among the bunnies and raccoons as well. More stories of the individual players in this story will come out in future figures/prints. This bunny in particular is faced with some sort of decision, as well as an instrument to help him carry it out. His choice is not specified, because that is for the viewer to decide.
As far as the Dero and their relationship to these bunnies, I'm going to 'no comment' on that. It's been pretty well established that the bunnies, raccoons, and Squire (the human-headed pig creature) all exist in the same storyline. Squire is a source of tremendous peer pressure on the bunnies. Meanwhile, the Dero and Veil storyline is a different thing entirely. I will say that, yes, these 2 struggles exist within the same 'universe'.
Q: I've always wondered how you make your character choices. Which comes first, the animal or the concept/feeling you'd like to portray ?
There really is no process that I stick with. I let it happen naturally. Sometime, there is a type of being that I want to artistically portray, and I look for the right way to do that. Sometimes the 'right' way for me is the way that no one else will expect. In any case, I try not to dictate a process in any certain terms. Just let it happen. Often when you feel the ground sort of cracking beneath your feet, you instinctively look for something to grab on to. Artistically speaking, sometimes it's just better to throw your hands up and just fall with it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But it keeps everything 'real', you know? The art is coming from your gut.
Q: Beyond the striking visuals, a big draw of your art are the edgy, thought-provoking, authority challenging proto-stories running just below the surface. It seems that the title of this new piece refers to profound decisions, individual and societal. At the risk of getting this question sent right back at me, what are the choices confronting us all, as you see them ?
Well, yes: the characters in my artwork deal with a variety of issues, both individual and communal. I guess it's similar to what we deal with in our much more advanced, highly evolved (hah!) human world. We're confronted with constant choices: the tendency to rely on what we think we know and what feels 'comfortable' and stand still on our beliefs, our traditions, or whatever...or to really get on with the business of evolving and moving to the next thing. We are ancient cosmic energy, ghosts driving these meat vehicles until they malfunction beyond repair. What's next then? No one knows, no matter how much they or their books tell you they do. The one thing we DO know is that we have 'now'. While we are alert and aware and breathing, we can decide to embrace our connectivity to everything else around us. We can decide to get lucid about what we are and how we take care of ourselves and each other. It's quite a choice. But it's supplemented by a number of smaller choices we make along the way. That's what our little bunny figure here is presented with. What the choices before him are, I'll leave that to the viewer to decide. Is he defending or attacking? Is he an agent of righteousness or deceit? In that sense, it's all about 'choices'...for both the character and the viewer of the piece.
Q: Staying with the topics underpinning your art, are you ever tempted to address concerns or questions people have about your work? Most recently, the perceived ambiguity over 'My Brother was a Hero' and its relationship to 'terrorism' comes to mind.
Well, I'm always happy to talk art with folks and, within reason, give them an insight into what I was thinking when I came up with something. That said, I'm not one for defending anything I've done. The art itself is a language, and I strive to make it say just what I want it to say at the time. You can't please everyone. That's a cliché you hear all the time, but artists whose work is seen by a lot of the public really learn to understand that...or go nuts.
It can sting when your art runs into resistance or is misinterpreted, because the work oftentimes comes from a very tender place. That said, to continually follow a piece of work after you release it, and tend to it and pet it, and verbally defend it and try to justify its creation to scores of folks who don't dig it or have decided that it's no good or whatever...man, no way. I'm not going to do that. I think it really hurts the artwork and turns the whole process into a very cheap thing. Say your thing as hard or as softly as you think you need to. Equip it with all of the tools you think it will need to be 'successful', whatever your definition of that happens to be. Then, let it go. It's almost like letting a child grow up and move on.
When I originally did the artwork for the print that the 'My Brother Was A Hero' figure was based on, I released it with an explanation of what I was feeling. It's out there online for anyone who wants to find it and read it. Or they could look at the thing and decide they hate it and list their reasons why on some forum board. Or they could catch me at some show or event I'm appearing at, and ask me more about my feelings. All that said, the majority of folks 'got it' and dig it. And even if the majority of folks hated it, I couldn't let that change my process. I want to say my thing.
Q: You've worked with first-class companies on your art toys from StrangeCo to Kidrobot, what made you decide to self-produce this one ? And piggy-backing on that, why go the digital route for the sculpting (via Bigshot Toyworks) instead of the traditional approach?
Yeah, I've had the chance to work with lots of really great people, folks I've learned quite a bit from. I think the desire to self-produce is a natural progression in this industry. You start off and you watch and learn and sponge up every bit of know-how you can, then you do your own thing. I tend to desire complete artistic control with absolutely no design-by-committee aspects. I DO encourage people to give me their opinions and ideas and I always let people do what they know how to do. But, I've got a certain vision, and I want to steer that in my own way.
As far as working with Bigshot Toyworks, man those guys are amazing. Klim and I have talked for years about doing something together. I admit, I was a slow mover towards the digital sculpting thing, and it didn't really sink in until I saw another piece that Bigshot did for another artist. Meanwhile, Klim is like, 'Just send me some turnarounds and let me show you what can be done.' So, I did. The result blew me away. It was so precise and exact. It was also a fairly quick turnaround. Corrections were made so very easily, as the digital surface is so malleable. You're left with this creation that is digitally archival, quickly reproduced in various sizes, and useful in getting a real idea of what the finished product will look like. It's like some hardcore black magic from the wasteland. I love it.
Q: At one point, there was talk that Choices would be released in resin rather than vinyl. What's your perspective on choosing one over the other?
Well, I was so pleased with the final result of the original sculpt, I just went with the impulse to go vinyl and have much wider availability, while maintaining a definite limited edition. I did the Dero: Creeping figure in resin last year and it was very successful. I dig the freedom that resin gives artists here domestically, as far as production goes. Still, the more and more I looked at the little bunny, the little man inside of my head kept saying 'vinyl!'.
Q: If you had an unlimited budget and no constraints, what would you have to create?
A fully functional world, like a theme park but so much more tactile. Life sized creations everywhere, interacting with visitors. 7 Foot tall Deros inhabiting underground caverns, Veil Specimens moving through forests and grasslands. Bunnies, raccoons, and other woodland creatures everywhere. Squire and his kind, wandering around the park. A place where you could go and completely lose yourself.
Or a huge miniature golf course, with larger than life creations of all of these beings...where you can buy a hot dog, chili cheese Fritos and a cream soda from a guy in a Dero suit.
Q: Finally, what do you have on the horizon? I'm assuming we'll see additional editions of CHOICES. Any other toy projects churning around in your head ? Will we see a new exhibition soon ?
Yes, there will be some CHOICES surprises on the horizon. Starting at San Diego Comic-Con. the SDCC Exclusice 'CHOICES' bunny [ed: 50 pcs, $60] will be available: a shadow bunny with glow-in-the-dark eyes. Also at Comic-Con, I will finally begin releasing the Aleppin Sane vinyl busts that I created some time back, including the SDCC Exclusive which is a glow-in-the-dark variant [ed: 100 pcs, $60]. I'll also debut some new screen prints there, including a CHOICES themed art print [ed: ‘Family First’, 25x20”, 100 pcs, $40] & my newest piece of work for Nine Inch Nails.
Future toy projects will see a return to the world of the Dero and the Veil, a really cool new project with the Toy Art Gallery in Los Angeles, California, and a new character that will debut sometime later in the year. Also, a new Life-Size Squire. Years ago when we made the original colorway of Life-Size Squire, I held back on the final couple of colorways...specifically because I wanted to do certain production details that weren't at my disposal back then. Now they are. For all of those people who have been searching for a Life-Size Squire over the years and are bummed that they never got one, just wait. Oh yeah, and there's something coming called 'The Dero Queen'.
[Thanks to Jermaine for sharing CHOICES and his perspective with us. For those of you going to SDCC this year, his booth [#4532] will be stocked with plenty of new product. In addition to the SDCC exclusive GID editions of both CHOICES and Aleppin Sane mentioned above, he’ll also be releasing the regular edition Choices ($50) and a limited number of the OG Aleppin Sane ($50).]
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