And this is Jay. Jay Howell.
A year ago, Jay and his girlfriend Ruth moved to Los Angeles. Before that, they lived in San Francisco; that’s where they met. Turns out they were also native to a small town in Massachusetts but neither of them realized that ’til later. So they live here now, with their dog Street Dog. They found him as a newborn (umbilical cord and all) clawing to life in the middle of Sunset Blvd. not long after moving to L.A.
In San Francisco, Jay worked at a gallery and drew characters and stuff, while Ruth shot photos. He started a ‘zine that became very popular called Punks Git Cut, but his real launching pad was an animated series, “Forest City Rockers,” that he created with his friend Jim. He was soon recruited to develop the characters for a Fox sitcom you may have heard of called “Bob’s Burgers.” And then he began working with Jim on a proposed kid’s cartoon for Nickelodeon. I guess you can say this all happened very fast but Jay calls himself a “late bloomer.”
Meanwhile, Jay doesn’t consider himself an artist. He likens himself at best an illustrator or cartoonist. The “artist” badge just weighs so heavily, you know? This is his kitchen in his apartment in Silver Lake in Los Angeles.
Every morning Jay wakes up and he commutes ten feet from his bedroom into the living room. He sits at this desk and watches a lot of television and draws. What’s the equivalent of chain-smoking, but Netflixed TV serials instead of cigarettes? That’s what Jay does for hours on end as his characters come to life across loose leaf paper and sketch pads and torn-out pages of silly teenaged romance novels. The figures’ characteristics are not unlike his: elongated with spaghetti for vertebrae, gangly and rattled, plus bearing a prominent schnozz. But!!! friendly and familiar and always open to a fun time.
Jay Howell uses acrylics and spray paint to render his universe.
The book thing started because he was already dreaming up ridiculous, made-up novels as backdrops for his character work. Then he realized that the books existed in real life, so he sourced them and re-appropriated the pages between. You may remember some of the final pieces being featured in the Fecal Face show up north.
Today I got to see the original artwork for our collaboration together. This is one of my favorite artist projects we’ve done with The Hundreds just because I’m such a fan of Jay Howell’s work.
And this is a bike that’s in the process of becoming very cool: a project with GT.
Behind it is one of the series of snowboards he made with Burton.
Like I said, Jay watches a lot of television but he also has fine taste in music.
Jay is constantly apologizing for his “boring life.” (It’s not nearly boring). And then Jay is constantly apologizing for Street Dog. It’s like he already reads your frustration over this hyperactive mutt, so he fires off preemptive strikes like “He’s not usually like this!” or “He’ll warm up (once he bites off your fingers).” But Street Dog is a sweet dog and Jay is a rad host. He’s a little edgy and there’s the nerves.. but when he channels that into his work, the result is a captivating, energetic universe.
I didn’t even realize so many of these collaborations existed. Dream projects with Anti-Hero:
The “Jew-lien Stranger” landed him in a little bit of hot water, but it was worth it. Awesome.
And then there was the Trash Talk x Creature collaboration that also resulted in this epic music video.
Jay takes that photo of Picasso everywhere he moves. The artist, chillin’ like a bawse, his legacy and conquests surrounding him. It’s great motivation.
Silver Lake is home to Los Angeles’ creative community. Northwest of downtown, the hipsters, displaced Lower East Side dilettantes, and SF transplants, chase their passions to this diverse neighborhood.
To accommodate the forward-thinkers, Silver Lake has got some great places to eat, like Local, an organic, locally-sourced restaurant serving delectable fare like this vegan club sandwich and lemonade.
After lunch we walk back in the direction of Jay’s studio and further down the path to Jim’s house. Jim, the dude I mentioned before, the clever animator who mobilizes Jay’s drawings. Jim lives here, facing the noisiest leg of Silver Lake Blvd., in a sterile apartment that looks frozen in time. I ask him if it’s a fake place and he laughs. (I think it’s a fake place)
He keeps Jay’s past ‘zines and books around. He sells some of them, including Jay’s first book Negatron, HERE.
Jim then takes me through the process, from Jay’s illustrations which are scanned into Photoshop and dismantled, then mixed with After Effects. Jim didn’t intend to be an animator, he had always imagined himself a documentarian. But the pay is undeniable and he’s having too much fun, so he’s sticking with it, working on projects with everyone from Neckface to Skinner to Vans. He really wants this Nickelodeon show to take off.
So Jim and Jay are a team. Jim blindly reached out years ago as a fan, and Jay responded to his e-mail in a drunken stupor by asking if he was looking for money and that he didn’t have any. Somehow they made it work, created incredible cartoons, moved to Los Angeles, and are staying insanely busy living the dream. T E A M W O R K !
Of course the greatest work of all isn’t in 2-D, it’s right here in real life. Jay and Street Dog. You couldn’t write a funnier show.