Interview by Nikki Greene
It’s easy to recognize Jay Howell’s unique style and awkwardly funny characters, and with an artist as prolific as Jay, it’s easy to stumble across his work. He is the Co-creator (along with Jim Dirschberger and Andreas Trolf), Executive Producer and Art Director of Nickelodeon’s new show Sanjay and Craig. He designed the characters for Fox’s series Bob’s Burgers. He Co-runs Mt. St. Mtn. – an art and recording project that releases limited edition prints and records – which he routinely releases his own zines through. Not to mention he also illustrates for Vans and other skate companies, collaborates with Eighty Four Films and is consistently included in art shows around the world. I recently had the opportunity to discuss with Jay – who is, not surprisingly, one of my favorite artists -about how in the world he accomplishes so much in so little time and about his upcoming solo show Enthusiastic Person which opens February 1st at Fecal Face Dot Gallery.
So you’re starting off the new year with a solo show at FFDG on Feb 1st and between creating the new Nickelodeon show Sanjay and Craig, co-running Mt. St. Mtn., publishing zines, collaborating with Eighty Four Films and making new art, you have obviously been staying busy. Do you ever have a day off where you don’t feel like making art?
No, I’m possessed. If I take a day off I feel guilty like I’ve failed.
What is a typical day in the life of Jay Howell?
I get up at eight thirty am and walk the dog. Then it’s coffee and head to work at Nickelodeon by 9:30-10am. Drawing, meetings, stress, email, intense collaboration, the best and most amazing opportunity of my life. Then home around 7pm, walk the dog and draw till about 12-1am.
Your work is hilarious but not entirely appropriate for a children’s mainstream television show. How are you censoring your humor for the new Nickelodeon show Sanjay and Craig?
It’s not hard. Nickelodeon contacted Jim and I because we created the web cartoon The Forest City Rockers. It’s about a shitty drug addicted dip shit motorcycle gang with one motorcycle. They said they liked our humor and that we should apply it to a different age group. It was simple and has been super fun. Coming up with stuff you’d think kids would like is rad! Hella butt jokes!
Yeah The Forest City Rockers is funny as hell and butt jokes never really get old. Are there other artists you would like to collaborate with if you got the chance?
I collaborate with Jim Dirschberger everyday. He’s my favorite artist and I’m super fortunate to have such a fun partner.
As a former Bay Area resident now living in Los Angeles, how do you like the change? What are the pros and cons of LA vs. the Bay?
It’s all California to me. I love this state, it’s got it all!
Yeah, having lived in both cities myself, you kinda get sick of the debate surrounding the two. What place do you miss the most in San Francisco?
El Farlito and La Taquria.
Seeing as how we all just got through the holidays, do your family and friends want your artwork for gifts? Do you show the geriatrics in the family your drawings of 69ing skateboarders and other more risqué characters?
When I was younger I used to trip out on my family seeing the sexier and grosser stuff. But like, it’s who I am soooo… deal with it. I give them art work. They always ask for no nudity. I’m always trying to make my friends laugh so they have no probs with it. They know I’m fucked.
Sometimes I’ll be biking around the city and I’ll see a stranger pass me that looks like a character straight out of one of your zines. Long lanky legs with a belly, swaying arms and a funny walk. Who is your inspiration for your characters?
I think I’m kinda funny looking. A too tall lanky spazz with a big nose. Lately I’ve been designing characters for the show based on the writing. It’s fun. Lotsa weirdos.
Come check out the too-tall and lanky spazz Jay and his characters at Enthusiastic Person at FFDG on Friday, February 1st.
And keep up with Jay here: