Killer Napkins is Jason Spencer, born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He has created merch designs for bands such as Suicide Silence & The Black Dahlia Murder, skate deck designs for Bad News Skateboards and he also has created some equally twisted paintings. He has an evolving style of work, which seems to dance between cartoony realism and whimsical evil.
How did you get your first paying art job?
I think one of my first artwork money making sale was back in college. I did a 3′x4′ oil painting which was basically a master copy/reinterpretation of Jacques David’s “Death of Marat”. Marat was changed to Jack from Jack in The Box complete with tacos and soda. My school actually bought that from me for $300 which was pretty awesome at the time. My first t-shirt/band art deal was for a friends band that I think they were only supposed to pay me $10 for and I never saw that, and then they asked if they could just get me tickets for a show, and they never did that. So that was pretty stupid actually. Most of the real paying jobs at the beginning were from a t-shirt forum called Emptees. It was more of me just trying to learn and develop a style and posting those up online and people were buying them.
Have you always worked in your current style and if not how did you work before?
Nah, Well I can definitely notice a difference over the years, and it is especially hard to say because I jump around in mediums a lot. When I was in college (which was about 3 years ago in a St. Louis Community College) I was really into concept art and game art. So I tried to draw seamlessly rendered characters and tried to do digitally painted characters. I still love using oil paints, but they take me forever. Lately I have been getting more in to the details with the merch art, and trying to translate that on to panel with acrylic and ink. But as far as subject matter goes, I think that defines my style more than how I execute it. I love creating dark twisted cute cuddly nipply teethy saggy things though. To me they are humorous. To some of my friends they just think they are gross. Though, it truly seems like it is a never ending evolution when it comes to art styles and subject matters.
Who are your artistic influences?
Some of my all time favorites over the years have been Yoji Shinkawa (concept artist for the Metal Gear Solid Series), Michael Hussar, Chet Zar, Lucian Freud, Odd Nerdrum , Alex Pardee, Greg Simkins, Jeremy Fish, etc.. There is just so much creative talent out there that just blows me away… Truly inspiring stuff and just seeing it and experiencing it has to have some influential affects in some way.
What words best describe your artistic style?
Hmmm hah I guess: Juicy, Hungry, Meatbags, Cute, Sexy
Where does the name Killer Napkins mean?
I always wish there was a cooler story behind it, but really there isn’t it. It started as an AIM screen name that was created when I was about 15. I thought.. hmm, what kind of name can I pick out that no one else already has so I don’t to do something like JS1987 blah blah hah. Then it just kind of stuck as an online presence. Come to find out, that napkins were actually “killers” at one point. I read an article that in some diners in Hong Kong had some substandard napkins that had traces of toxic chemicals and heavy metal residue on them that were capable of causing cancer.
Tell us about your studio space?
I work on the digital illustrations and designs in my bedroom on my desktop. My studio at the moment is a small section of a one car garage in the house ha. It isn’t too bad when there is no car in there, gives me a little breathing room, but quite tight with my roommates Kia in there. Looking to hopefully soon upgrade to a decent sized space to really spread the wings out a bit. I seem to be buying more and more tools and toys which lead to me making more and more painting panels which are starting to flood the place out. It gets the job done though for now.
Do you work full time doing artwork?
Not at the moment. I have a “full-time” day job building basements. It never really seems full-time though with the slowing of the economy, and especially in the winter time. There tends to be a lot of days off on a count of bad weather and just slow work, so it still gives me a good amount of time to come home and do artwork. My goal is eventually to be able to just say screw physical labor and focus purely on art, and I think that just may happen soon, but for right now it seems to be balancing out decently enough.
How do you create your work? Take us through the process from concept to final.
Most of my work starts the same way, by sketching little thumbnails or just a bunch of random ideas and trying to find a good composition roughly in the sketchbook. From there if it were for a shirt or poster, I would scan in some of the rough ideas and tighten them up a little bit on photoshop with the Wacom tablet. I tighten it up enough to where I can just do the line-work over the top and have all the major parts there, but still being able to make up some new stuff as i am going. Once I get the major lines down, I go in with tons of hatching and shading. From there I drop colors under neath, tweak em a bunch until something looks good and then I am finished. I suppose it is different for paintings, but I usually just blow up the sketch on to a panel, do some rough acrylic under-painting, then many many thin layers of oil paints until I am happy with the outcome. I sometimes take longer amount of time just thinking about how to go about certain areas in a drawing, than it takes for me for me to actually drawing that certain area.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished up a bunch of skateboards for a cool little brand, and now I am working on a few other things for them like ads. I am also currently working on a sculpture of some weird cycloptic beast head made with sculpey clay. I have a few oil paintings under way along with some large ink drawings for a two man show with Justin Tolentino in September. I like to bounce around a lot between a ton of projects so I can always go back to something with a fresh look at it. This art collective I am part of called, Screwed Arts, are planning a trip up to Grand Rapids for the Artprize event. We were lucky to snag a sweet space at UICA art gallery, and we get a 22′ tall by about 90′ long wall to bust a massive installation mural and complete it in about 10 days. That is also in September and I am sure will be an awesome time.
Do you have any dream projects?
I would love to do more skateboard designs, they are such a unique canvas to go about and having pretty much an unlimited color amount gives me more to work with. I would also love to be able to do some gallery installations involving sculpture, mural, and all that sort of good stuff. I always thought being able to design a toy or sculpt a toy would be really fun to do as well. I also thought that being part of a weird crazy cartoon/animation would be really fun. I always loved 2D animation, try it out every now and then, but always end up spending countless hours to just get like 5 seconds of a moving character and get discouraged haha. I guess there are tons of things I would love to eventually do, and making them all happen would be a dream.
What are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
I used to love a lot of punk and ska. Some of my favorites were: Rancid, Streetlight Manifesto, Choking Victim, Sublime, Goldfinger.
Right now I have been listening to a lot of this indie folk punk type stuff: Jeffery Lewis, Frank Turner, This Bike is a Pipebomb, The Mountain Goats, Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, etc.
What art sites do you visit online?
I am an active member on a few art forums:mintees, Bandjob,Gigposters, Society6.
I love browsing through some art blogs, though I really don’t have any specifics that I religiously follow.
Do you read any art magazines and if so which ones?
I am really digging Hi-Fructose and Juxtapoz, no subscriptions or anything. I will pick one up every now and then at the bookstore. I have been definitely trying to beef up my art book collection though. Just recently picked up Alex Pardee’s new book: Awful/Resilient.
Name one artist you would you like to see interviewed on Metal Band Art and why?
I would have to say Johnny Crap . He is an excellent illustrator/designer and a great painter as well. His merch designs have that cool old school vibe going on to them and his paintings have a really twisted day of the dead kind of feel, and executed very well.
Check out more work: Killer Napkins