Daydream as we may, the images the artist seeks do not require us tooffer them more than a loving pursuit and the ability to continue theirdance. Long Beach resident and fine artist extraordinaire Jeff McMillanknows this point of fact all too well, choosing to put in the hours tochase his imaginings to their fantastic visual results. Join us andtreat your eyes to Jeff’s detailed narratives, as well as a glimpseinto his work as he gives Hi Fructose an exclusive interview and peeksat his latest paintings.
So Jeff, how did you begin pursuing the arts, whence did the journey truly begin? We seek enlightenment.
Yeah, in the eighties (the whole decade), I would watch tons of cartoons and draw what I watched from memory. Of course dinosaurs, animals, monsters and tractors had a lot to do with my drawings as well. That’s what I’d do for fun when I was a kid. I was kind of a daydreamer and wasn’t really interested in sports. I had a pretty active imagination. But I wasn’t a dork as far as you know.
Did you grow up in an artistic or art-supportive environment? Were art classes or art schools involved?
No, not really, well maybe kind of. My mom was a kindergarten teacher and my dad was in the tech field. I grew up in San Jose, CA. We often went up to San Francisco to museums. I think my Parents appreciated art; they were always very supportive in what I was doing. They always had paintings and pictures around the house that were cool. But as far as being artistic, I don’t know where that came from. I went to Art Center up in Pasadena and graduated with a BFA in Illustration in 2004.
Have you had a consistent or favorite theme that you’ve gravitated toward, or are your inspirations less specific or understated?
I always liked the abominable snowman; he has showed up in several paintings. I guess people with blue skin too, Other than that I try to stay pretty open. There are many subjects that interest me and I’m always getting into new stuff. I love symbols/ insignias/crests/ patches/ grids/ maps/ secret groups/ odd still lives and ultra violence/ big fight sequences (kind of like the brawl scene in anchorman). I get into a subject and kind of obsess over it for a while, and then I’m done with it. I try to take a little bit from everything I do and put it in the arsenal. So I guess you’ll see a reoccurring element now and then.
What’s your take on being an artist in the Southern California bible-belt of lowbrow culture?
Not sure, I always felt like an outsider looking in. I’ve always enjoyed it but never felt that I was really a part of it, maybe I am and don’t know it. I remember being a student at Art Center going to La Luz De Jesus once a month for a show. I remember looking up to a lot of artists that showed there. That was always a good time. So if anything the Low Brow culture influenced me.
Do you find yourself working toward a greater narrative, or does each piece speak for its own unique moment?
Always, I love story telling. I like having pieces lead into another and having people follow the paintings around the room. I had a couple solo shows where I’ve developed a whole story line. I’ve done several group shows where I’d do a piece or two but I try to tell a story even with a single piece. The mockingbird piano for Joe Hahn was a unique piece in that it was one piece but had several paintings in it, but it was all one cohesive story.
Do you have any interests that allow you to step away from the creative process to re-energize, or is a part of you always painting?
Just the normal stuff, I guess. I like searching out good music and movies. I watch cooking shows and then try to recreate the dishes (theirs always turn out better). Searching Southern California for the best fish tacos. Other than those 4 things, art pretty much takes up the rest of my time. Oh yeah, and my wife. I hang out with her, she’s great!
What are you working on right now or preparing for art-wise?
I’ve been busy with a couple projects. I work with RVCA, doing shirt designs for them regularly. I’ve been doing posters for the Greek Theatre’s shows this summer. I’m working on a couple commissions and doing a job for Nike at the moment. I have plans to start some of my own work soon. I have some stuff planned out for the future. Just need to find right gallery for it.
Do you have a dream creative piece that you’d like to pursue someday, or a place that you’d always wanted to be inspired by as a creative location?
It might sound kind of dumb, but I’ve always wanted to work at Disneyland working on the rides. Maybe I’m shooting right to the middle on this one, but I’d like to give a try. Mainly because I want to see how everything looks like when the lights are on. I always have been amazed with the architecture, material and technology used in the rides. Once I do that and learn all the secrets of the rides then I’ll quit and do the next thing on my list. The list keeps growing. I want to paint large, maybe the side of a building. Get a crew of guys appointed by me and storm several buildings, legally of course.
What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned as an artist or individual thus far?
Everything takes longer than what you expect. I’ve become a lot more humble and patient. I think also never losing your sense of fascination is important. Getting jazzed about your work is the best!