We do our best to cover as many bases as we can with artists featured in Now Then, but there’s always the feeling that more traditional forms get less coverage. Jeremy Mann is a great example of a contemporary artist who takes what might be considered traditional techniques and mediums and gives them a fresh, modern twist. Just at home behind a camera as he is in front of an easel, Jeremy’s work has a hazy, dream-like quality, as though it has absorbed some of the fog of his home city, San Francisco. It’s a pleasure to show his work in this issue.

Who or what inspired you to become an artist?

No honest explanation for that one. I think the idea of an ‘artist’ isn’t so much a definition of ‘one who moves paint around on stuff’ as most people perceive it, but rather a creative soul aware of the mystery and pattern of life whose inner child stays alive, yet the adult harnesses and hones the skills needed to convey their thoughts.

Your subjects are quite varied – portraits, cityscapes, wildlife, still life, abstract compositions. Which do you feel most at home with?

All of them. It’s unfortunate that artists are pigeonholed into a genre, and I believe most artists stay in their holes for obvious reasons. Once you feel you are on the path to perfecting one subject, why would you try your hand at something different? When people praise you for a certain subject, why would you disappoint them and do something else? It’s scary to many artists, but I love it. I love the challenge, and to test my mettle across multiple outlets.

Artists should express themselves in all genres. I’m very much into photography, what some might call creative writing, and any other creative outlet to get this shit out of my head. Just like the thrill of travelling the world, it’s nice to place yourself in realms where you don’t feel at home.

Can you describe the process of starting a new painting?

I suppose most people are often interested in the actual step-by-step processes for obvious reasons, which kind of aggravates me because there are no magic clues hidden directly in those moments. The magic is in the shower – those menial moments of your day. Don’t allow menial moments – bathe in them.

Anyway, it depends on how I’m feeling at that time. The first stage is a drawing stage, a reductive process with one mix of pigment, hued in the tone of the envisioned final outcome of the piece. The second stage is simply a technical one, either staining all areas with colour values to bring the overall value down, as I prefer to paint light over dark, or on some paintings I cover the entire piece with a semi-opaque hue of pigment to allow for atmospheric play. The third stage – which also involves stage four, five, six, whatever – is simply to paint the damn thing. It’s the time when paint is applied and moved, scrapped and added, blended or scumbled, thrown, rolled or brushed.

What artistic techniques are important to your practice?

Most important in my philosophies are plein air [painting outdoors], life study and mark making. I’m most often drawn to paintings where the artist has depicted an image with marks impossible to dissect. To me, that is a sign of a knowledgeable artist – controlling symphonies by a wave of the hand and eliciting emotions without the distractions of poor paint handling.

Studying from life, and especially plein air, is the only way to discover where essences exist in painting. When studying anatomy, for instance, you cannot simply stare at a naked body and understand all of nature’s intricate connections and parts. You have to get in there and take it apart, find out how it lives and breathes.

How do you spend your days?

Depressed and drunk.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing this on my phone somewhere over the Atlantic on the way to a workshop in Portugal, plein air painting in Morocco, a solo show in Milan, and some life experiences in Berlin. Having finished two shows recently, I’m off to clear my head and prepare for a massive solo show at the John Pence Gallery [in San Francisco] in the summer of 2015. I’m also considering publishing a small book, entailing mostly passing thoughts, behind the scenes things, my photography work, sketchbook and plein air studies I’ve never shown.

Good advice you wish you’d been told earlier?

Everything will be ok. Or “fuck ‘em”. Not sure which.

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sam walby