INTERVIEW: Jesse Brown

INTERVIEW: Jesse Brown

Here at Slowdown Studio we love collaborating with emerging and established artists from across the globe. To celebrate the launch of the Jesse Brown x Slowdown Studio capsule collection of knit blankets, we chatted with Brown about his work and process. 

1. What’s one of your earliest memories of creating art?

Well I don’t have a very clear memory of being a kid but I spent a lot of time with my Grandmother who was a working artist her whole life. I remember drawing on the floor of her painting loft, how her paints and linseed oil smelled, and she always had great flowers. So I guess I’ve made art from before I remember, I know it was a great comfort and escape when I was young and it still provides that in many ways for me now.

2. You were born and raised in Seattle but now live and work in LA. How does the art/creative scene differ between the two cities?

It’s sort of difficult for me to gauge that because I’m not really involved in any scene here in LA, I’ve kept pretty much to myself the past 2 years. I stopped making personal work or studio art I guess you’d call it for about 10 years and focused more on design and public art. So it’s a pretty new world for me to be in again and I’m just happy to be exploring what interests me in the studio and out in the world, I spend a lot of time wandering LA and the San Gabriel mountains to the north. I really ought to see more people haha.

Seattle has been dealing with a wealth and tech takeover for some years now and it’s pushed so many creative people out, myself included. I grew up in the city and it’s the place my creative career started so I’ll always have love for Seattle and the scene there, even when I don’t recognize it anymore.

3. Your paintings and graphic art translate beautifully into three dimensional sculptural forms, whether you're working with concrete, wood or metal. What is the importance of working with so many different mediums?

Well thank you, I wasn’t sure if they would, that work is all pretty new to me but I’m hyper focused on it and I’m working on taking it into a large, public scale. I think maybe I work in a lot of mediums because I’m really interested in materials, from the history in them, aesthetic qualities, and my own context with them.

I’m drawn to industrial strength materials like concrete, wood, metals, paints because they appeal to me visually but they also feel like common materials that everyone is familiar with from being used in the built-environment. My work usually ends up living in public spaces so I try to take into consideration what the site materials consist of and what material might compliment that or cause some tension there. Those materials are accessible and fairly affordable, I think that helps in avoiding a feeling of luxury or preciousness, which is important to me. Learning about materials and process is something I can always nerd out on.

4. You're particularly well known as a mural artist. What is it about your style that works so well at a large scale? Is there an aspect of the mural painting process that you really enjoy?

The mural work is the thing I’ve done the longest, I got involved with public art about 20 years ago and have never really left, somehow it always keeps me wanting to do more. The process can be long and annoying in terms of planning and approvals but painting on that scale is really fulfilling, I guess it’s the scale I’ve always worked in so it feels natural to me, painting a 30 foot circle in a lift bucket alone is one of the best places to be. Now I just need someone to let me paint a 300 foot orange oval on a bridge or something, I wander around the LA river a lot so maybe I’ll just make one out there.

5. Is there a set of colors that hold the most significance in your work?

I’ve always worked with a lot of black, there’s a particular cobalt blue and a vermillion color that show up consistently. My openness to color and exploring that definitely increased when I moved to Los Angeles, the landscape is just so much different than the dark Northwest I’m from, and I’ve been inspired by looking closer at what makes color feel like a place.

6. What are you listening to in the studio at the moment?

Boldy James, a rapper out of Detroit. Brian Eno’s album Discreet Music, good studio zone-out tunes or just lay on the floor and worry about the void. Hanged Up, a band of only drums and viola that is somehow heavy and complex.

7. How do you like to slow down?

Can't say that I know how, I really wish I was better at that but I’ve got sort of an unhealthy workaholic mentality that makes it difficult to feel like I can chill. I’m working on it.

There’s this weirdo hidden creek I found recently near my studio off the Arroyo Seco River and I’ve been cleaning years of trash out of there, next I’ll start making some concrete furniture and sculptures for it. I guess that’s a place where I can sit and slow down. I’ve gone full weirdo, outsider art, sculpture garden guy, and I’m not mad at it.

Shop the Jesse Brown x Slowdown Studio collection here!