Jeremy Fish is a prolific illustrator, product designer and fine artist based in San Francisco for the last 20 years. Born in 1974, the artist is known for his unique presence and aesthetic contributions in North Beach, and is recognized by contemporary galleries and museums worldwide for his originality and clever work. He expresses communication and storytelling through an illustrative library of animals, characters and symbols with an emphasis on finding a balance of imagery between all things cute and creepy. The 18 new pieces featured in Anger Management were produced in the 6 months between two brain surgeries undergone by the artist. After an aneurysm was found in his brain last November, Jeremy has focused on avoiding further agitating the artery through reducing his stress levels. These works are a result of visiting with an anger management specialist and rearranging his lifestyle so as not to threaten his health.
The title and basis of the exhibit relates to your recent battle with a brain aneurysm. Are you willing to share any info about that experience?
Sure. It’s about managing anger, stress and high blood pressure, and how they can affect your health. I made all this work in between two brain surgeries on an aneurism doctors found in my brain last November. After determining that my workaholic lifestyle, constant rage, and Italian temper had probably contributed to cause this aneurism, I needed to learn to control them to move forward in my life and reduce the threats to my health. My neurologist told me if I freak out or get too pissed off, it could rupture and I could have a severe stroke or die. The imagery I painted and drew were a combination of the things that cause anger in my life, stressful and pleasant memories, and also some of the things that help calm me down.
What about that experience will change your approach to creating artwork?
I had to reduce the amount of hours I was working, and spend more time relaxing with my wife and new cat. I have been working nonstop for the last ten years. The most difficult experience was redesigning my life, my studio, and my schedule to live a more relaxed lifestyle with less stress and anger.
Any general insight into your process you want to share?
I try to make work from the heart, that tells simple stories using a cast of animals, vehicles, and fantasy. My biggest inspirations are children’s books, cartoons from the 70’s, and skateboard graphics from the 80’s and 90’s.
Describe your work environment; the music you listen to, things you drink/smoke, time of day etc?
My wife and I are both artists, and we have a studio attached to our apartment in North Beach, Little Italy here in SF. I work mainly in the middle of the night. I had to quit smoking and reduce my heavy caffeine intake when the doctors found my aneurism, which was a huge bummer. I like to listen to rap music and watch odd documentaries when I work.
You do a lot of commercial work, how does that work for and against your fine art?
I enjoy a balance of commercial work and “fine art”. I also try to avoid all those labels as much as possible. I am a hard working, California based, New York born American artist creating artwork to communicate with other human beings, and pay my bills. I enjoy the larger audience that I can speak to through my commercial work. I also enjoy the intimacy of communicating with an audience in a gallery or museum. They are both challenging and the combination of the two makes me happy at this stage in my career.
What is currently influencing you that might surprise people?
My new cat Mrs. Brown and her relaxed approach at life. My wife and I adopted a funny brown British short-haired cat to help me relax. I’m trying to ride my bike more, and spend more time out of the studio.
How long do your pieces generally take to complete?
I try not to make the same piece twice, so some work takes me forever, and some just pours out.
How has your process changed over time?
I change materials, scale, inspiration and subject matter on a fairly regular basis. Over time my library of symbols, characters, and stories have grown and become more diverse.
What are some of the responses you hear in regards to your work?
I have no idea. I stopped listening to critiques after I graduated art school. Love it or hate it, I’m going to make it anyway. I have seen thousands of people wearing my art on their shirts, and hundreds who choose to get my work tattooed. I consider that a very supportive response that makes me proud.
What is more important – content or technique?
Both. It has to be done well and engaging technically to draw me in, and then say something to hold my attention.
You had a large following before social media. How has social media changed your career?
I am able to communicate directly with an audience of nearly half a million people across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This has changed from the days when I was dependent on galleries and brands to spread my work and my projects to the public. I am a little too old to fully
utilize technology to promote my work, but I am super happy and proud that all of these communication tools were developed here in the Bay Area. We are a forward thinking, progressive bunch of Northern Californians, and we change the world.