Interview with Jack Hamilton

Here’s #6  in our series of our contributing Artist Interviews. 

1. How long have you been doing art?  As long as I can remember, I have some of my old man’s “Speed Age” and “Speed Mechanics” magazines from the 1950′s that I had painted or colored in as a youngster.

2. How did you first get started?  Basically, I would rather draw pictures than do my other school work.  I thought that Big daddy Ed Roth’s T-Shirt designs were the highest form of art, and when I was in Jr. High I would draw monster cars on the other guys’ notebook covers for $.50 a piece.  In high school I got a litter recognition when an art teacher entered a scratch board I had done of a hot rod devil’s head in a county art exhibit, and I just sort of evolved into whatever I am today from there.


 3. What was your first commercial job?  I guess this qualifies..when I was a teenager, I painted a huge 30 ft. sign for “Speed Marine” on the side of their old brick building in Orange, CA.  I had no idea what I was doing.  They put up scaffolding, and I gridded out their logo type and a cartoon image then started painting.  Speed Marine was a cool place to hang out, even if it was for just a couple of weeks.  They mated hi-performance car engines to flat bottom ski boats and they had stuff like Keith Black racing engines sitting around in the shop and I remember watching the famous pin striper “Shakey Jake” lettering one of the boats. Pretty cool stuff to a young kid.  I didn’t go very far as a sign painter though, and after a stint in the Air Force and college, I eventually went to work for a design firm.


 4. When did you first start referring to yourself as an artist?  The first job I had in a design studio, the owner liked to refer to us as Designers or Graphic Designers.  He didn’t seem to like the term Commercial Artist or Artist.  I believe he thought that if you told someone you were an artist, they would think that you didn’t do much but sit around and draw pictures all day (which is basically what we did).  I believe he thought “Graphic Designer” was more professional sounding, and if our clients thought we were professional people it would be easier to charge them professional prices.  So, I’ve just always thought of myself as a Graphic Designer that could draw and do illustrations.  I don’t think I really referred to myself as an artist until recent years.


 5. What was the first piece or work you sold and do you know where it is today?  This was also when I was a teenager.  I had a neighbor who wanted something cool to hang behind this really neat full on bar they had built in their home.  So, they paid me to do a rendering of a martini glass and bottle of booze.  They were heavy drinkers, and I don’t think things ended well for them or my rendering. It was not a great piece of art as I recall.

 6. Is art your primary business or is there anything else that you do for a living.  It’s all I do.  I’m self-employed and call my business “Jack’s Graphic Station”.  Over the years I’ve worked as a designer, illustrator and art director for marketing companies and design firms, creating art and advertising for everything from BB Guns and Beer to custom Wheels.  Nowadays, you can find me at car shows selling my Hot Rod T-Shirts along with some of my art and photography.  I also do freelance art work for a couple of clients.  I work out of a studio in my home and somehow, I have also become the designated grandkid caregiver..picking them up from school, doing after school snacks, watching them when they’re sick, etc.  I really did need something extra to fill in all those empty hours during the days.


 7. Are there any special works that you would like to share with our audience or perhaps some new ones that have not been published elsewhere?  I am working on an idea for a series of paintings, and I am gathering reference and canvas right now.  Hopefully, I will be able to knock out a few pieces in the upcoming year.  I also have a couple of the ’32 Ford pedal cars waiting in the garage for me to customize.

 8. What’s your media of choice?  I like working big with acrylics on canvas.  However, I spend most of my time on the computer.


 9. What are some other tools/supplies/mediums that you primarily use for your work?  For years I used rapidographs and artist markers.  Now I mainly do fine line marker illustrations which I scan, manipulate and colorize on the computer.  I work in Photoshop and illustrator to create illustrations, photos and graphics like the ACME Speed Shop logo.  I’ve been messing around with some “one shot”, painting a few gear shift knobs and various hot rod icons on things. I’ve always liked photography.  I take a ton of car photos, as I like to work from my own reference material.  I have done some digital restoration work on a couple of vintage hot rod photos and have also started selling some of my B&W photo images at the car shows.

 10. What, besides your art, brings you creative fulfillment?  I think most artists like to work with their hands and finishing any project t you’ve envisioned is fulfilling.  It could be a tile project in the house or finishing a piece on your car in the garage.  I’ve created a couple of custom pedal cars that I got a real kick out of doing.


 11. What are your motivations for creating?  Eating is at the top of my list.  Other than that, it is an outlet for all of the weird ideas that seem to pop or creep into my brain.

 12 How do you know when a piece you’re working on is done?  It may sound funny, but it isn’t always obvious.  When I get to the end of a project and start struggling with it, I’ll walk away.  After I do something totally different for a while or get a good night’s rest, I’ll come back to it and then I can usually finalize it pretty easily.


 13. What are some of your artistic goals for the future?  I would really like to get my photography under control so that I could present in a more organized and professional manner.  To do more painting, possible turning some of them into posters is another goal.

 14. What other artists or movements influence your work?  If it wasn’t for Ed Roth and all the artists that worked for him creating crazy t-shirt designs, I’m not sure I would have been very interested in drawing or being an artist when I was you.  I think I have most of Robert Williams’ hot rod posters.  I have always been enthralled with the so-called low-brow art of tattooing and pin striping.  I love the simple beauty of an Ansel Adams black and white photo.  I love the color and vibrancy of American South West Art.  I like the way early (and some present day) impressionists used color and push paint around.  I like high contrast art and the simple graphics of, say, the WPA posters.  There are many automotive artists today that are doing really cool stuff, and I love the vintage SCTA drawings of Gus Maanum.  So, I don’t know, I guess I am influenced a little bit by pretty must everyone and everything.

 15. When you start a new design, no matter whether it is for work or your own personal portfolio, what are the first things you do?  When I’m working out a new design for someone or I’ve had a creative flash, I like to do rough sketches with a ball pint pen and a yellow pad.  There is something very liberating about using a yellow pad.  If you don’t’ like it, you can just crumble it up and throw it away without wasting good artist materials.

 16. I know it’s probably hard to pick, but do you have a favorite out of the work that you’ve done?  I believe it is pretty much always the next one.

 17. What kind of projects are you working on of your own right now?  I’ve always got a couple of t-shirt design ideas going, and there’s the paintings, the photography, the custom pedal car ideas.  I need to do a few more shift knobs, and oh year, there’s that Model “A” coupe sitting in the garage that I want to get back on the road.

 18. What advice would you give for artists who are just starting out?  If you have a lot of responsibilities and bills, you might seriously consider some other line of work.  Otherwise, jump in with both feet and swim like hell?  Don’t worry about making mistakes; everything you do is not going to be a masterpiece.  Just do something that you like.


 19. And lastly, a fun question!  All artists have their quirks.  Name one of yours.  I gave my quirk initials.  I call it A.D.D.


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