Design, Employees, Featured Artist

J.Gilman | Work Clean

Simplicity & the Fundamentals

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J.Gilman Work Clean

J.Gilman’s passion for typographical design has served as the main source of inspiration for his creative work. As an artist, J strives to create work that is strong in all the basic fundamentals of art-making. Perhaps what is most impressive about J is his discipline and work ethic as an artist who prioritizes making and creating something on the daily.

J co-owns Danger Press and is Creative Director of the company. As a business owner, J finds value in running a business that caters to artists and designers.

What you'll find in this article is an abundance of art, illustration, and design. Most importantly, solid advice for anybody interested in pursuing a creative career.

Simplicity
Balance handheld
Dark Was The Night handheld
Discipline handheld

Could you describe your work
and what you take inspiration from?

 
Most of what I do is letter writing or typography. My background is in design, so I tend to view everything through that problem-solving lens. I'm a big fan of the design fundamentals like concept, communication, contrast, and composition.  I prefer analog processes over digital because I can see more of the human hand in them. I like to "work clean", meaning without a computer and without color.  There's a purity to black and white form and for me, color just isn't a fundamental of visual art. If a layout or drawing needs color to be compelling, then it's not a strong image. It should work as black and white first, then you can add color for more emotional impact or cultural relevance.
Lammergeier Zwei
Lammergeier Zwei Beak Detail
Lammergeier Zwei Eye Detail

Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture) Study

Max Ernst was a big early influence for me. He was one of the first cut and paste designers in the 1930s. The Beggerstaff Brothers, Lucian Bernhard, and Ludwig Hohlwein were illustrators who helped me see the simplicity of form that makes screenprinted posters so appealing. Record covers from the 80s and 90s gave me a love for analog letters. Work by Vaughan Oliver and Neville Brody had a lot of influence on me early in my career. For typography, American sign lettering from the 1930s – 1980s is also a big influence. Mike Stevens and sign painters from his generation were amazing typography designers and knew how to put practical before pretty.
 
Designers and illustrators follow the same basic rules. One just knows how to use a pencil better and the other focuses on problem-solving.
Marrakech Express Logo

Marrakech Express Logo Sketch

SIMPLE Pencil Lettering
Heat
SPICY Pencil Lettering
Human Pencil Lettering

What are you currently working on?
Any major projects in the works?

 
I'm currently working on new pieces for the danger.live website. Danger does printing at events and offers a few different options. I want to take the core idea of each of their offerings and make a rough illustration of it.
 
Deciding on the appropriate finish level for them has been a challenge. I want to communicate the potential energy of the events but still have something that's articulate and engaging enough to communicate what's happening. Sketchy drawings often have a life to them that more finished illustrations can lack.
Work that's too polished can end up looking stiff and lack the visual touch of a human hand, like something that was made by a robot.
J.Gilman Script

Humans alone will build, make, or craft something simply because of how it makes us feel when we look at it.

J.Gilman Portrait

Favorite artist tool?

A pencil. The mastery of a pencil is essentially what legitimizes your claim to the title of artist. If you can make something visually compelling with very simple and cheap tools like office supplies, then you're a good artist. Make something great from nothing great.

Autonomous Fusion logo
Autonomous Fusion logo design
Autonomous Fusion logo design

Autonomous Fusion Logo Process

What is your advice for any up-and-coming
artists and designers?

 

Draw every day

Put it on your daily calendar if you have to.
 

Always do some side work that is 100% yours

Don't expect your professional work to provide all of your creative outlet. As a designer, you need to strike the right balance between personal investment in a project and keeping a professional distance. At the end of the day, you're a hired gun there to get a job done, not make a work of art that you're personally completely happy with. It's a collaboration.
 
If the design does the job, solves the problem, communicates what it needs to, etc., you have to let it go. If you try to make it too much into your vision, instead of the client's vision, it can be disappointing when they request changes you might not personally make if it was all yours. If you go through that disappointment cycle enough times, you risk burnout. Conversely, the work will always have your name attached to it, so it's a balance. That balance is likely to be different for every client.
 

Learn to love repetition

"Repetition is the mother of all learning" is a very old proverb that applies to developing skills like creating artwork. If you want to develop a skill, you have to do it a lot without getting bored and quitting. With any kind of art, from visual to martial, it's usually the simple, basic fundamentals that you have to repeat to get really good. That's probably the biggest challenge to progressing, especially with all the distractions available to us.
 

Fail a lot and fast

You’ve got hundreds, maybe thousands, of bad drawings in you. Get one or two out every day. I have sketchbooks that are full of failures.
 
No Parking
Walker Street block lettering
No Smoking block lettering
Electrical block lettering

Traditional American 1920s style Door Signs

How do you incorporate screenprinting in your creative process?

 
Screenprinting is great for reproducing simple black and white art. It's simple and bold. White letters on dark garments is a classic, almost universally appealing design form, so I stick mostly to that.
 
Wearable art is one of the best inventions of the 20th century. Being able to create something, screenprint it on a shirt, and make it available at an affordable price is something we take for granted, but it's a pretty amazing cultural phenomenon.
Be Kind To Animals Shirt

Shirt Design for Danger Press

Birocratic
Always Carry A Sharp Knife
Give More Than You Take
Freedom Lies in Being Bold

To see more of J's work, visit jgilman.com
You can also find J on Instagram