Interview with Jeral Tidwell - Gnarly Magazine Issue #2
From Gnarly Magazine Issue #2, here's our interview with creative heavyweight, Jeral Tidwell. You love his art, you love his brushes, and you will love this interview! Be sure to pick up a print copy of issue #2!
Name: Jeral Tidwell / www.humantree.com
Stats: 5' 9", 190 lbs, Hard as coffin nails and soft as homemade biscuits.
Inspiration: Sarah Tidwell
Pro since: 1988
Injuries: 29 broken bones, joints, and teeth. Stitches 52 times, 7 KOs
Belts: World body painting champion
Medium: All (pencil, pen, brush, printing press, wood, metal, computers, etc...)
Hobbies: Bicycles and fishing
Ride: 1989 Mitsubishi Montero (under construction, not currently running)
Edc: Spyderco Endura (serrated)
Current location: Louisville, KY
Life motto: If you don't have time to do it right, when are you gonna have time to fix it?
Gnarly Magazine: How many Mack signature brush sets do you have under your belt now?
Jeral Tidwell: I have four long handled brush sets and three lines of pinstriping brushes with Mack for a total of 26 different brushes. The pinstriping brushes have been limited edition until the latest (Hippie Tripple) which is a permanent part of their line along with all of my long handled brush sets. My wife and I actually designed the last set (Monster Stix) together. She is also an artist with great ideas about brushes and knowledge outside my normal realm of painting. So, we worked together to make a set that would help push other artists into some new directions... So far they have had awesome reviews and feedback. We always try to push it a bit on each set and with my stripers... Never stop learning new tricks.
How did that come about? Did you approach them or did they approach you?
Actually, Chris (Mack) and I have a mutual friend that sort of put us together. Chris and Smitty were talking one day about Mack trying to do more art oriented brushes because a lot of pinstripers are trying new things but, at the time, Mack didn't really have anyone to work with creating new brushes like that. So Smitty told him that he knew exactly who they should talk to... Me. Fortunately for me, Chris already knew about me and had been seeing my work for years in books and magazines. He agreed that it would be a good fit and the rest is history.
Do you have to be a great artist to get a signature brush? What if you’re a shitty artist, but you have a great idea for a brush. For example, my snake-hair long liner idea?
Seriously, have you seen my work? They obviously have low standards. Hahaha. I've been collecting rattlesnake hairs for years now for exactly the same idea. Problem is, the hair is only accessible when the moon is full and the snakes are mating. It's dangerous sneaking up on a pair of full grown rattlesnakes in the throws of passion; real dangerous.
But seriously, what’s that process like and how long did it take from concept to production?
Creating new brushes is actually pretty complicated. I don't just put my name on an existing brush and throw it out there. If a brush has the MACK / TIDWELL name on it, it is our own thing from the handle shape to the hair. First, I think of some brush that I need for whatever the hell stupid thing I want it to do, then I go to the art store, craft store, online, etc. to see how close I can find to that exact thing. Once I have exhausted those options I will modify the hell out of those brushes until I come up with exactly what I want, documenting the entire process with notes, drawings, measurements, etc. Once I have it the way I want, I send the brush and detailed notes to Chris to build a few prototypes. That process so far would be a couple months. Next, he sends me a couple versions to try out, I abuse them and put them through hell, I give feedback and we make adjustments. Usually, it's little details like handle shape (I am REALLY picky about the amount of flex in a long handle), hair configuration (many of my brushes have combinations of hairs for more or less spring, paint flow, flex, etc.), and finally, brush names and handle colors. The whole process can take 6-10 months before we have production brushes ready for sale. So far (knock on wood) we have not had to re-work a single brush once it is in production. I think that is a true sign that we take our time to do it right.
What were you looking for in these new Tidwell brushes that other brushes were not offering?
My fucking name on them... Duh! Hahaha. Seriously, we all have dreams of the perfect set of brushes that you can do anything with. I am trying to build that for myself and fellow artists. I want to demystify artist paint brushes and take all of the highbrow, art school bullshit out of it. I used to feel stupid standing in front of a rack of proper brushes not knowing what all the names and numbers meant. Of course, I could see the shape and extrapolate their purpose, but I didn't have any formal training to confirm my ideas. Asking an art store clerk would get you a snobby response like, "If you're a painter, shouldn't you know what brushes you need to use?" So, back then (late '80s early '90s) I went to the old school paint store and bought what they happened to have in stock. I got by just fine but still hated the snobby way brushes were labeled and sold. That is why none of my long handle brushes have numbers or traditional names and only my striping brushes are marked with size. I didn't even want to do that but I needed to for obvious reasons. Chris was a little unsure at first, but once I explained what I was doing, he loved the idea and allows me to name them however I want. Not to mention, the names are simple, funny and easy to remember.
How would you describe your art to someone just discovering you in Gnarly Magazine?
If they are reading your magazine, they are already beyond help... good luck with that. Hahaha. Honestly, when people ask me to describe my work, I just tell them that I create the shit that makes the cool kids look cool. However, I am not now nor have I ever been one of the cool kids.
Who are three artists that our readers should be checking out right now?
Dude... you are gonna get me beat up for this one! Hahaha. I would say that three of the most creative people on earth at this very moment are James Jean, J.A.W Cooper, and Aaron Horkey. If those three don't heat your grease, you're probably dead.
Is your artwork all done on a digital drawing tablet, or do you draw/paint on paper and canvas as well? Which do you prefer?
Everything starts on paper... pencil, then ink, color sketch, etc. Then I usually scan the finished line work into a computer to color if it is going to be a poster or something like that. If not, it's a drawing and then a painting. I prefer analog art (that's what I call traditional hand made art) to digital art. I use every tool that I can in order to get my vision out there, and while digital is the way the world sees things now, it is still just 1s and 0s. I need paint under my fingernails, graphite smeared across my hands and arms, ink spilled on my pants – real art, not virtual art. If it's not made out of paint, it is NOT A FUCKING PAINTING. Stop calling digital rendering "painting" or I will come to your house and punch you in the gawddamn throat! Uuummm, sorry, did I just say that out loud? ;)
How are you selling and promoting your art and what tips could you give people trying to get their artwork to the masses?
Hustle, grind, HUSTLE... also, use Facebook and Instagram to promote your HUSTLE! Did I mention hustle? Never stop moving. I tell people all the time, "Create so much art that people will either pay you for it or pay you to stop." Make art until you can no longer be ignored and then you are just getting started. Just don't fake it, no one likes a fake fuck.
I checked out the t-shirts on your website - Do you also do your own screenprinting?
I do my own screen printed posters, but I get my shirts and stickers printed by other hard working craftsmen. Support your fellow art nerds, it will make us all better at what we do.
I also saw on your website the Danzig show poster you designed. I imagine you sitting on a couch next to Glenn talking about art and life and the state of music today. That’s true, right?
Actually, Glenn and I were at the gym busting out some serious reps when he reached over, gently caressing my glorious delts and said, "Yo wolf brother, can you rock out a skull poster for my next gig?" I set down the massive stack of iron I was pressing into the air and said, "Yes wolf brother, yes I will." Pretty much just like that. Hahaha. Actually not at all. A local pain in the ass show promoter sent me a show list to pick from. Who doesn't want to make a Danzig poster, right? My wife and I did that one together. She didn't know who Danzig was... perfect, skulls it shall be. That was actually our first poster collaboration, it was dreamy because she is so damn hot and talented. If you want to see more about Sarah, check out www.theinkingdragon.com or @inkydragon on Instagram.
Final words of wisdom?
Have fun, don't take yourself so seriously, loosen up and remember: You're an artist, your job isn't to fix the world's problems, it's to NOT become one of them.
Pick up a copy of Issue #2, featuring this Tidwell interview, as well as many other Gnarly features!