Welcome to the tripped-out cartoon world of graphic designer and illustrator Jiro Bevis. His gooey illustrations are cartoonish yet punk; like a psychedelic trip through vintage record sleeves, comic books and anime. With a regular show on NTS and extensive freelance work under his belt, we spoke to the newly crowned Dad about his childhood, creative process, early influences, and more...
How would you describe yourself?
I think I've come to the conclusion that I’m a commercial graphic artist. I studied graphic design at Saint Martin’s, and I didn't fit in. St Martins has a very traditional graphic design course: swiss typography, very conventional forms, things like that. I just wanted to play around, so I took the illustration pathway. It allowed me to have more fun and draw without following rules.
What did they think about your art when you were at St Martins?
I got on with my tutor fine, but in the back of my mind, I was like: ‘I've just spent three years having fun, now I need to think about how I'm going to earn a living'. I remember harassing them to get me commission work - they got me (work) for the Guardian. My tutor at the time was like ‘just go wild, do drugs and have fun’. I think the tutor liked me, but wanted to see me go wild. I guess I'm too sensible for that.
That's interesting, I thought it would be the other way round, like the tutor would want to reign you in...
I get it though, I remember the first day, their motto was ‘We don't teach you a lot, but you’ll learn a hell of a lot’. I got it, you’re in London, you’re going to meet loads of people, so you’re naturally going to take stuff in. It was definitely like that for the first couple of years, but then my sensible side came out, and I thought ‘how am going to do this!?’
How did you find that transition into the whole freelance world?
It was quite tough to begin with. My flatmate at the time James Pearson-Howes was a photographer, we were both trying to get work, and it was a bit of a struggle. When we graduated, Vice had just started in England. He was trying to get work with them and they put me in contact, so I did a few bits. I remember getting odd jobs (for people) and naively thinking I’d get paid when I invoiced them. My old flatmate was teaching at St Martins a few years back, he said the kids are a bit savvier now.
In the early Vice days there wasn't anyone really doing your style, it's really original...
Do you think? I guess it's important to do your own thing, I’m sure I had a lot of influences.
What were you influenced by?
My dad was a massive comic collector, so that was always a pretty big influence. Being half Japanese I’ve was always been pretty obsessed with Japanese culture. Me and my older brother used to have a whole cabinet in his room where we kept all our Japanese stuff. We would come to London once a month and go to the Japan Centre with our Dad. We’d buy Japanese sweets and we used to get our Nan in Japan to record hours of Japanese TV and send it to us.
"WE’D BUY JAPANESE SWEETS AND WE USED TO GET OUR NAN IN JAPAN TO RECORD HOURS OF JAPANESE TV AND SEND IT TO US."
Can you understand it?
Nah, my mum and dad split when I was quite young, so the priority to learn Japanese was quite low after that. The last thing you want to do is sit in a room with your mum for two hours a week learning Japanese.
So your mum’s Japanese?
Yeah, Mum’s Japanese and my Dad's English, I grew up in Bournemouth.
Apart from Dragon Ball Z, what were your early inspirations?
My dad’s an accountant, but he always had a creative outlet, so he’d take us to comic fairs and things like that. Once, when I was about 7 or 8, my dad said to me and my brother we’re going to London to visit some guys house. I didn't know much about it, but I found out later that he was the artist Brian Bolland, who is like one of the main Batman graphic novel artists. He famously did a lot of Judge Dredd and a Batman graphic novel called Killing Joke - which is pretty big. But I remember him just showing us doodles, they were just incredible.
Did you watch Anime too?
That's the thing, it came to England too late for me, so it was really hard to get. The only way I could get Dragon Ball was if my family sent over the VHS - but they were really expensive, like 50 quid.
"MY DAD WOULD TAKE US TO THESE COMIC BOOK FAIRS, AND THEY’D OFTEN HAVE A LOT OF STALLS WHERE NERDY GUYS WOULD SELL BANNED FILMS."
What would you say is your biggest non-art-related inspiration?
Growing up, music and film were probably more accessible forms of art, than (actual) art. My older brother was the typical older brother with a big messy room and loads of records everywhere, posters and shit. He used to have a massive Harvey Keitel, Reservoir Dogs poster. My Dad would take us to these comic book fairs, and they’d often have a lot of stalls where nerdy guys would sell banned films: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Clockwork Orange… I remember me and my brother bought the Exorcist when we were about 12. I just remember being on the train back to Bournemouth, staring at the Exorcist box. I mean it's just a guy looking out the window, but your imagination runs wild when you're that age. I think it scared me more thinking about what it could be.
How would you describe your style?
I guess it's always been quite bold and poppy. I think it's probably evolved quite a bit over the last couple of years, but it doesn't take itself too seriously. Strong lines, bold colours, there's usually a lot of pop references. I guess my early work had a lot of guts and things, but maybe I've refined it a bit now, or I've just grown up.
Do you think being a soon to be Dad might have helped?
Not yet. I think before I knew my partner was pregnant, I started to be more selective with work. Now I guess my focus has changed a bit, I don’t need to be as pretentious, all that matters is making sure the kids are okay.
You said your style has evolved, was that a planned thing?
No, as you grow up you get different influences and stuff, that all has an effect. Personally, I would hate to just stagnate and repeat things. It’s important to keep trying new things, it makes it more interesting for yourself.
You have your own show on NTS, how did that come about?
That was about 6 years ago, when blogs were cool. I had a blog called Voodoo Village with a friend, which just evolved into me uploading songs. Then I had a blog called Ying Yangs, which just ended up being images and music that I'd found. I chatted to (NTS founder) Femi and he offered me a show. I did my last one a couple of weeks ago, not for good, but I've taken a break. I think It's really good having a show, it gives you a focus, it’s a great release,
What are you working on at the moment?
When I'm not working on projects, I try and keep busy by drawing things for myself; every year or so I’d compile them into a nice little book. The last one I got ready for New York book fair, so hopefully that’ll be out soon. It’s called ‘Busy Doing Nothing’ which is a Beach Boys song. I like that sentiment, I feel like that's quite appropriate. I’m also doing an NTS x Sade t-shirt, we just need to figure out text and photos. I’m also doing stuff for John Mayer’s tour, we’ll see what happens.
"MY PROCESS ISN'T TOO LONG. I THINK I HAVE A SHORT ATTENTION SPAN WHEN IT COMES TO CREATING ART."
What are your most passionate about the moment?
The baby. The last 9 months we've known about the baby you just think all about that. I’m excited and obviously nervous.
What's your creative process like?
I usually go on the laptop. I have a folder of internet images and a folder of ideas, and then I see if there’s any relevance to the brief. The other day I just found someone had uploaded every Super Nintendo game cover art. There's always something. Then sometimes, if I just got an idea in my head, I’ll just doodle it and see how it looks, but my process isn't too long. I think I have a short attention span when it comes to creating art.
Do you think you get the respect you deserve as an artist?
I’m not particularly concerned. As long as I'm happy. I'm sure most artists are their own biggest critics. As long as you’re happy with yourself, that's all that matters really.
What makes you happy?
Just drawing, it’s that simple really. Fundamentally, it isn't any different to when I was a kid drawing pictures on pieces of paper. It’s still the same thing. My work isn't that deep - If I get an idea in my head, I’ll draw something that looks cool. There must be loads of drawings that I've half-drawn or they haven't come to fruition, but when it works, it’s great, and that’s all I’m happy with.