Slam team rider Jeremy Jones is an inspiration whose artwork is as distinctive as his skateboarding. We have been lucky enough to work with Jeremy on a variety of different projects and he grabbed the creative reigns when designing our Spitfire x Slam City Skates Formula Fours. We took this opportunity to interview him about the origins of his artistic process through to what he is working on now. We are happy we got to discuss his work on our most recent collaboration and much more…
Words and interview by Jacob Sawyer. Jeremy Jones at the drawing board from our Spitfire video filmed by Sirus F. Gahan
Jeremy Jones picked up a board when he was 10 years old, initially it was a means to keep up with two other rollerblading friends from his neighbourhood. Later he would see some older skaters rolling past on their way to Heatham House youth centre in Twickenham. Further investigation would unveil a whole new world no-one at his school knew about, a world he would quickly become immersed in. School daydreams were replaced by fantasising about what ramps to configure and tricks to learn at the weekly local skate nights.
This was the foundation of one of our favourite skateboarders, Heatham House would later be replaced by Southbank as a training ground where his talents would evolve on and off his board. Jeremy is one of the newest riders to be added to the Slam shop team and his unique approach and ability is always surprising and refreshing. His artwork is another area where he excels, informed and inspired by the world which drew him in all those years ago. We have collaborated with Jeremy on a number of Slam projects, most recently our team up with Spitfire which celebrates our 35th anniversary. We wanted to talk about this and find out more about his mastery of different mediums which is as varied as his bag of tricks. This interview primarily delves into his artistic process and it’s evolution with some skateboarding chat to boot.
Wallride nollie out the hard way at the Museum of London. Filmed by: Sirus Gahan
What board did you start out on?
I had an Action Man fish board which doesn’t count which I was pushing around on my knees on. My first proper board was a Brian Wenning Habitat board and I remember it being £65 which is mad because that’s the price now for the higher-end boards now. I remember saving up the extra £20 to buy a proper American board, that felt like something. It was part of some kind of mosaic series.
What was the first video you ever saw?
The first video I ever saw was some Vans tour DVD. While I was waiting to try on some shoes at the shop in Kingston they said I could choose a DVD and I chose that one. That didn’t stand out too much though, the first video I really liked was Habitat Mosaic, the first one which ever got into my head. I loved everything about it.
That’s quite a hypnotic video.
Yeah definitely, it was the first one I ever spent money on, I saved up to buy the DVD.
Were you already drawing a lot when skateboarding entered the picture?
Yeah I was, I started drawing by copying stuff out of the Beano comic. So it went from copying the Beano and always making up stuff, cartoons, I had a stage of drawing football players and then when I got my first ever Document magazine I would copy pics of the skaters and graphics from that. I would also cut it up and make collages of all my favourite bits to stick on my bedroom wall.
What were the most important comics for you growing up? Were you a collector?
Not so much a collector but I was a proud member of the Beano fan club haha. That was always the main one really. I’d send pictures into them too and hope they put them up but they never did. I loved the Numbskulls, Calamity James, Billy the Whizz and Gnasher as well.
Beano characters continue to inspire. Calamity James and Gnasher canvases sandwich an Abstracted Bash Street Kids graphic for Lovenskate. Artwork: Jeremy Jones
Your comic references are broad but you always manage to nail the characters and their essence, like they were created by the artist themselves. What’s the secret?
I think that just comes from being very particular about getting it spot on. I’ve done a lot of practice, copying all of those characters. I can always tell when something is slightly off and it will really bug me. I need it to look exactly like the character if that’s my aim. I want to do it justice. There are some where I abstract it a little more and stretch them out. There are a lot of different techniques I use to make sure the scaling is right.
There are even apps nowadays where you can layer things on top of each other. I can do the image digitally before I paint it and work out exactly where the hand is going to be in comparison to the foot for instance. It stops things turning out a bit weird and means you can make sure it’s spot on. When I started out I was guessing where things were going to be so there were definitely a few which looked odd or a bit distorted, I’ve think I’ve got it down now.
I love the vast array of characters you choose from different decades, Snoopy or Calvin and Hobbes through to TinTin.
Cheers man. I’ve always loved doing abstract kind of graffiti backgrounds and found making them really satisfying but no-one really wanted to buy them. I wanted to make some money out of my art so needed to make them a bit more relatable. I’ve always been super into cartoons and especially the nostalgic ones. I think the first one I ever did was a Top Cat one, I thought it would look cool to just have Top Cat chilling on it because the colours were kind of the same. Then I sold that one straight away and realised I was on to something.
Top Cat continuation with his nemesis Officer Dibble. Artwork: Jeremy Jones
“I feel like drawing cartoons is quite a good crossover of what both my parents do. My mum is an illustrator and my dad’s a comedian, so combining those two things kind of felt right.”
It really resonates with someone when they know the character inside out and have some emotional connection to it.
For sure some of them are in the forefront of your mind and others are kind of in the back of your head and make you ask what was his name again? I love doing some of the proper nostalgic ones too where only a few people get it.
Did you ever picture yourself as a cartoonist in the Beano, frame-by-frame style?
Yeah that was like my dream. I remember seeing this documentary about the Disney artists and computing that they get paid to sit and draw cartoons all day and they’re really good at it. But now I realise I wouldn’t want to be an animator in that sense because there would be a lot of tedious work as well. I feel like drawing cartoons is quite a good crossover of what both my parents do. My mum is an illustrator and my dad’s a comedian [Milton Jones], so combining those two things kind of felt right. Pleasing them both in a way but doing something completely different.
Were there any particular skateboard company logos or graphics you obsessed over and copied?
I was quite a grom about it when I was a kid, copying any logo. Thinking any sticker was rad, like the sickest thing. If I had a T-Shirt from a skate brand I’d keep the label and stuff like that. Copying them, then at school drawing all the logos of skate brands I could remember on the back of my textbook. I’d be copying the World Industries graphics or the Blind reaper, they always had crazy cartoons. Wet Willy, Flameboy and Spitfire of course.
I also always wanted to copy stuff French [Richard Sayer] did from visiting CIDE skate shop but it was aways a bit too nuts and detailed to get my head around, I opted for cleaner lines and cartoony stuff. Fos [Mark Foster] was an influence too I’d be copying Fos’ stuff and Toy Machine graphics too.
I feel like your canvases carry the energy of easy 90’s skateboard graphics where it was open season and so many pieces of pop culture were being reappropriated under the radar.
I haven’t really thought about it like that before but I like the idea of re-hashing graphics or recycling them. Every idea has been done before that you can only be so worried about copying someone else stuff. I think it’s good to copy stuff and reinvent things and pay homage.
Jeremy’s Wise Guys in the wild. Making his mark at Southbank on and off his board
Did the graffiti scene at Southbank make an impact on you and was it seeing people paint there particularly that sparked you to paint your first piece on a wall?
Definitely, even seeing people putting up stickers there I thought was really cool. Before I even did any painting on walls I’d make my own stickers on white labels with a Sharpie and stick them up at Southbank when I went there at the weekend. It felt like a bit of creative rebellion in a way. With the graffiti side of things I always wished I could have done it more or had someone who wanted to come and do it with me. In my group of friends there wasn’t anyone really so I was enjoying it from the sidelines for a bit while working out what looks good and what doesn’t. Rather than rushing in and doing some rubbish tag I worked out what I liked first.
“Before I even did any painting on walls I’d make my own stickers on white labels with a Sharpie and stick them up at Southbank…It felt like a bit of creative rebellion in a way.”
Were there certain graffiti writers who influenced what you did?
Yeah and that kind of ties back into Heatham House where I started skating. Out the back was a football court and graff writers would come and paint the boards surrounding it. I liked what people like Vibes, Towns and Has1 did there.
From £3000 handbags to bird boxes, Jeremy’s work has adorned a wide variety of different canvases
Where’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever been asked to paint?
I had to paint some designer handbags once for these really rich people. Each of the handbags cost about £3000 and they wanted me to go straight on there with paint pens which you can’t really rub off once it’s dry so it was a bit nerve racking but it all went okay thankfully.
Did you study art or graphic design?
Not at University, I went to Richmond college and started doing a year of A Levels. I did ICT, architecture, photography and graphic design. After a year it all got a bit much, they were all quite full on subjects. I was getting behind on my work and not looking forward to college so I started again. I did a two year BTech in art and design which was way more my thing, we were experimenting with different stuff. One week we’d be building sculptures, the next week graphics on the computer, then maybe sewing.
We were really exploring and finding out what it was we liked to do. Everything would blend together in some way too, you could stitch something on fabric, scan it into the computer and make a graphic out of it. There was no room for that in my A levels because everything was separated. Following those two years I got an internship at a gallery as soon as I came out. I didn’t fancy going to university because I was enjoying that. That was for Graffik Gallery and eight years later I’m still there taking workshops.
“I got an internship at a gallery as soon as I came out… eight years later I’m still there taking workshops”
Jeremy teaching at a workshop for Graffik Gallery on Regent Street. Photo: Jon Payne
What was the most valuable takeaway from your school experience?
Willingness to experiment. It was more relaxed than GCSE art for instance. If you had an idea they encouraged you to try it, if may turn out shit but if it worked then it worked.
Did you learn a lot from seeing your mum working as an illustrator?
I think so, I definitely saw that if you want something to be good then you definitely need to put some time in. Her work is a lot more detailed than mine, she does scraperboard illustration, so loads of intricate detail. I’ve seen how many hours she has spent at her desk just to create a little image of a strawberry for a jam jar. She taught me to put the time in and little tips on drawing. She used to draw me and my siblings dinosaurs when we were kids so we would watch her do that which was sick.
You have different mediums you employ. From spray painting backgrounds and embellishing them with paint pen, spray paint to wall through to designing stuff on the computer. What’s the most liberating right now? Is that ever-changing?
It does change but I think the most liberating is starting a fresh canvas with no specification as to what it has to look like at the end. Being able to throw paint at a canvas and then decide which colour comes next. Smudging it with your hand, turning it around and just still experimenting.
Jeremy working on a huge canvas for Smith & Partner Gallery
You just had some work in a show at S&P Gallery on Gloucester road how was that?
It was good, I wasn’t expecting to have so much artwork in the show. My impression was it was going to be a small show where I would exhibit a couple of pieces but when I arrived I had most of the downstairs room to myself, I had a great space in the group show which was really cool. It was a bit more of a fine art style exhibition which was nice. it was the first time that I’ve had paintings in an exhibition where someone is playing the harp in the corner haha. I’m now working on a solo show with them which will hopefully happen this year.
Are you always chipping away even when uninspired? Does it come in waves or at this point is creativity just a constant?
It comes in waves, a certain amount of it remains constant. I find that if skating is going good, then creativity is going good, they work off each other. If I’m not skating much then I’ll lose the drive it takes to paint all day and find myself chilling or cycling around. They go hand in hand for me.
“I find that if skating is going good, then creativity is going good, they work off each other. If I’m not skating much then I’ll lose the drive it takes to paint all day…They go hand in hand for me.”
When you paint your wise guys characters in the wild have you done outlines before and have a plan or just let the mood take you?
They are very much instinctive, the shapes are just in the library in my head of things I draw. I have a certain amount of ways of drawing a nose or a mouth that I think look quite cool, there’s a loose library in my head I refer back to. I just enjoy it when I’m doing that and don’t make it too much work.
It’s cool that you also teach kids to use spray paint for Graffik gallery. It must be amazing seeing kids unleash their talents and work outside the usual constraints of creativity.
Oh yeah it is. I teach adults as well but with the kids they let you know how happy they are at the end. Adults can be quite reserved but kids will do a little dance at the end and give you a high five. So it’s super rewarding when it goes well. You can see the spark in their eye and they’re already planning to come back. I wish there was someone there when I was young to do that with so it’s nice to be that guy.
Has that informed your process in any way?
You’re constantly watching other people make mistakes so you can really learn from that. Seeing what design choices they use, what works and what doesn’t, different compositions and what colours work together. Teaching is a great way to further develop a skill.
Carl & Lenny chilling on the Southbank Seven while Big Bird and Kermit enjoy a beer by the river. Artwork: Jeremy Jones
I love some of your more recent canvases where the background is a piece of art in itself before even adding a character. It’s like a further evolution of your work where fine art meets cartoons. It seems like the future is wide open with your talents with acrylic too.
That style came about unintentionally, I can’t claim it was my idea. A friend commissioned a piece of Carl and Lenny from the Simpsons sat on the steps at Southbank. That was their idea and it worked out. I liked how it looked so tried a few others and also had other people pitching commission ideas off the back of it.
I also like the train carriage paintings before there is even a bonus character in the equation.
They had some good feedback. I made some stickers of the Pink Panther painting. I’m going to try and stick some of them on the train in the exact place so it’s in the right spot when you’re looking over at it. I want to do more of those but they take three times as long to finish. I have to really plan them out digitally first to make sure the background will look okay before I commit to the canvas.
Jeremy’s Pink Panther canvas rolling on the carriage which inspired it
Do you picture yourself pursuing fine art stuff in your future?
Yeah I think so but I always want to keep it mixed and come back to smudging paint with my hands and throwing it at a canvas. I feel like I’m able to copy anything at this point so the future is wide open.
There will always be wise guys that need to live on a wall. Even when you’re a pensioner.
Those wise guys have got to get up and when you’re a frail old man you’ll never get arrested.
It’s been great getting to work with you on different Slam graphics, what was the most enjoyable thing to work on?
I had a lot of fun working on the design for some bearings which will be coming out soon. I really enjoyed doing the Cross Keys graphic because it was a bit more illustrative than stuff I would usually do. Once we had settled on the idea I knew it was going to take a long time and be challenging but I really liked the process and was really happy with how it came out.
Jeremy’s Cross Keys graphic immortalising our favourite pub. clothes from our 2019 Lookbook. Photo: Alexis Kembery
It’s sick you painted the inside of the shop too. You’ve done a few other jobs like that?
Yeah that was cool, I’ve done a few odd jobs like that all over really. I enjoy doing it but it can be a bit boring depending on the brief. There is sometimes very little freedom and you’re trying to get things just right. There are definitely worse things to be doing though, it’s quite therapeutic in a way because when you get it spot on it feels good.
Let’s talk about the Spitfire collab, was it a dream gig?
Yeah it was pretty much. When I was younger I was copying the Spitfire flamehead. I remember going to my friends birthday party when we were about 9 and his mum had made us these bootleg Spitfire T-Shirts with our names on them, I wish I still had it. They had a flamehead on one sleeve and our names on the other. It was a football party as well, nothing to do with skating, we just loved Spitfire.
Spitfire Wheels 51 Alarm Fire and 50 Ways To Burn. Two classic ads, the first ever from 1995
“I went through every single one of those, all of those images are so iconic. I remember cutting one of those ads out and having it on my wall.”
Did you study the 50 ways to burn back catalogue when designing the flamehead for us?
Yeah they’re so good, I went through every single one of those, all of those images are so iconic. I remember cutting one of those ads out and having it on my wall.
How was the design process?
Once we had the idea solidified and knew what route to go down it was cool. We agreed on the rat and the Thames, and the bridge worked. I did the whole thing on the I-Pad using an app called Procreate using the Apple Pencil and drawing onto the screen. This process was fairly new to me and I was learning bits as I went along.
By the end of the graphic I felt like I knew the app inside out but it took a while. It really opens things up working like that and you still feel like you’re drawing but it looks like a glossy computer graphic. If you were to try and do that in Photoshop using a mouse it would be a complete nause but by doing it this way you have this nice freedom of still using a pen.
Our Spitfire x Slam City Skates Formula Fours on board next to an obstructive rat
Did you like working within those constraints (skateboarding’s smallest canvas) or was it challenging?
It was quite tricky to picture how it would look in the end. I kept a wheel nearby me on the desk while I was doing it so I could picture it and would then keep shrinking the graphic down to the right size and put it next to it. I was surprised by how much detail they got on to the wheel because I imagined loads of it may be lost, it turned out really crisp.
Did you work closely with DLX on what could and couldn’t do with existing imagery?
There weren’t that many rules to consider. The coolest stage was when they sent me over the Spitfire font, it all felt real then, such a nice moment. I knew what they would want and how our idea fitted in. Andy Pitts is a legend. Mainly the conversations with him were about taking out details where I went in too much because they would end up being lost by the time they made it to the wheel. He said he’d keep me in mind for working on some stuff in the future too which is amazing.
The Procreate design process behind our Spitfire x Slam City Skates Formula Fours by Jeremy Jones
What artists inside and outside the skateboarding world inspire you?
With Instagram now you find out about so many more artists whereas back in the day your reference would just be a few books or magazines. Now you can find out about people who aren’t even very well know who are really cool. One of my all time favourites is this guy @yakahead who did some Minute skateboards graphics, I think he is rad. Another guy who is on Instagram is a guy called @ermsy and this other guy @jakobderbruder, I like their work too. I also really like @jacobovgren‘s work who does a lot of stuff for Polar and @soypanday with all the all the rad illustrations he does for Magenta
What are you working on right now?
Nothing specifically for anyone else. I’m trying to build up a body of work for the solo show at the S&P Gallery I mentioned earlier. I’m also working on some new stuff for Graffik Gallery. That’s quite a lot of work for the foreseeable future. I sometimes get overwhelmed by staring at a screen a lot so it’s nice to be hands on.
Any advice for kids wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Just to crack on and keep churning work out. Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from someone else’s work if you think it’s rad, and make it your own. Keep pushing.
“Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from someone else’s work if you think it’s rad, and make it your own. Keep pushing.”
Alternative Pingu replacement portrait to close. Artwork: Jeremy Jones
We would like to thank Jeremy for taking the time out to talk to us. You can buy original canvases and prints direct from Jeremy himself by visiting Jeremy Jones Paints. Be sure to follow him on Instagram.
Find out more about the Spitfire x Slam City Skates wheels Jeremy designed for us.
Previously by Jacob Sawyer: First & Last: Jarrad Carlin, Paul Shier Interview: “There Was never a dull moment in that three-year period of our lives…”, Daewon Song Interview: It’s never too late to progress and never too late to come back when you think that’s it”, Benjamin Deberdt: London / Paris / New York, LIGHTBOX: Karl Watson by Mike Blabac, Catch Up with Pontus Alv, Ode To Victoria Benches with Dan Magee, Nick Jensen and Toby Shuall.