MEET STREET ARTIST JAKE MERTEN!
After three years in Los Angeles, street artist Jake Merten, otherwise known as lookatart, returned to his native city of Chicago, where he’s been blowing up the art scene ever since. Thankfully for us over here at Threadless, he expressed some of that good ‘ole Midwestern charm and stopped by to spread the wealth. Now one of our once gross, bland, and basically altogether unappealing garage doors features Merten’s spray paint interpretation of a Saga comic book cover (originally created by artist Fiona Staples), and heck, we’re super pumped about it. Oh, and he also took some time to answer our questions, because he’s awesome. Therefore, read on to learn more about this very cool dude and his very cool work!
Merten’s interpretation of a Saga comic book cover makes our garage door look 100% cooler.
Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Lincoln Park, Chicago.
How did you get into street art?
I was working in the film industry in LA, and hated my job. I had been getting interested in the art scene out there and met a few artists that encouraged me to start painting. So, one Monday morning when I was fed up at work I quit, and started messing around with “street art-like” paste-ups, tags, and stencils. That was spring 2012. Later that summer I picked up spray painting and have been hooked ever since.
Merten’s work in Hollywood, California drives color into an otherwise uninspired street side (Image courtesy of Jake Merten)
Some of your work seems to be influenced by comic books while others are very realistic. How would you describe your artistic style?
Ha, I’ve been trying to figure that one out for a while. My love for comic books stems from childhood. I grew up idolizing the images and drew replications a lot as a kid. So, I think that aspect of my style just comes out naturally, but I’ve been working on photo-realism as sort of a study. I never went to art school so I feel like I have a lot to learn and absorb.
How do you decide what style to go with for each individual piece?
It kind of depends on what I’m into at the moment, and what has inspired me lately. But, at the same time I like to try to imagine what would be best received by people that look at that particular wall everyday. They’re the ones that have to live with it.
This LA building reveals a hidden personality due to Merten’s mark (Image courtesy of Jake Merten)
Your website has “indoor” and “outdoor” works separated. Do you find the two environments that different to work with?
The work I do indoors tends to be more acrylic and brush based, with some aerosol, whereas my outdoor work is strictly spray paint.
How does your extensive traveling affect the work that you do?
Traveling always humbles me. Suddenly you’re in a city where no one knows you and you have to prove to everyone, most importantly to yourself, that there’s a reason you’re there. Even more so, you’re restricted on time and materials, and you have to deal with whatever the weather is like for that trip. I’ve painted in frigid, snowy conditions because I only had three days to do it, so I did it. Absorbing the culture and interacting with the community wherever I paint is one of my favorite aspects to doing murals. It’s amazing to feel like you’ve given something inspirational to an area, hopefully leaving it better than when you arrived.
Merten stakes his claim in Denver (Image courtesy of Jake Merten)
How did you hear about Threadless?
I started shopping on the website in college, probably around 2007.
What made you decide to paint a cover from the Image Comics series Saga on the Threadless garage door?
Someone recently turned me onto the series and I instantly fell in love with the imagery. I had been wanting to paint that cover image, and it was a cool coincidence to find additional Saga fans working at Threadless. Plus, the space was a perfect fit.
The original Saga comic book series cover by Fiona Staples that inspired Merten’s work
How does your aesthetic align with Threadless?
It seems we share an appreciation for the power of design.
We saw that you’ve been working with Hollywood based artist MDMN. How did that collaboration begin and how is it working with him?
MDMN was one of the first artists I met in the LA scene. He and I began painting around the same time and quickly became friends based on similar interests and goals. We’ve been able to keep the creative relationship going since I relocated from LA to Chicago by working on collaborative digital projects, as well as meeting up to paint in various cities in the upcoming months.
A Jake Merten and MDMN collab in LA (Image courtesy of Jake Merten)
Do you work in any mediums besides paint?
I dabble in carpentry. I’m really into interior design and building furniture
Do you have any big projects coming up?
I have a few projects lined up in Chicago for the fall; one or two larger walls to look out for. I’ll be traveling to Denver and Miami for mural festivals before the end of the year, and am planning a solo show in Chicago for 2015.
Merten’s work waits to be discovered in an LA parking garage (Image courtesy of Jake Merten)