You know the popular adage, “Wherever you go, there you are”? It also applies to my apartment, because wherever you go, there’s artwork by JP Brammer. In the hall, right next to the kitchen, a flamboyance of flamingos. A regal peacock in the bathroom. A magical desert of blue cacti hangs right over my bed. These are at least three reasons why I barely leave the house, and that’s enough for me!
I’ve been a fan of Brammer’s since we found each other on Twitter. From liking and retweeting each other’s anxiety-fueled bon mots, to voraciously consuming his wildly popular newsletter the minute it arrives in my inbox, and, eventually, even interviewing him about his debut memoir, ¡Hola Papi!: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons, which charmed readers and critics alike ever since its release last year.
And he’s only just getting started.
So before he gets too famous and has to change his number, my delusional ass made sure to text him like, “Would you like to do some art for my newsletter that you will get literally nothing out of because you have about 160,000 more followers than I do?” Thanks to the spell I cast, he said yes! Before he could escape my grasp, I made sure to ask him a few questions. Read his answers below and don’t forget to check out his print shop to snag some of his art for yourself!
What are some of your earliest memories of drawing?
It was an Etch-a-Sketch I got for Christmas. Do they still make those? I have no idea. I drew a gun, and my mom said, “He can draw!” The gun was one of those old-fashioned revolvers. I was not a violent child. I wonder what made me want to draw a gun.
Who and/or what are some things that have remained an inspiration since?
In terms of art, I have many! My mainstays have been Marc Chagall, a Belarusian, Jewish artist who painted surreal works often featuring farm animals flying around. Georgia O’Keeffe, because, of course, the Southwest has had a huge impact on me. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, as those were some of the only Mexican artists I was made aware of at an early age, though later I would really hook into Jose Guadalupe Posada for his line work. Above all else, though, I’d say folk art inspires me. The kind of art you see in markets in various (old) cities. I love the imperfect details, the involvement of utility and religion.
What has been inspiring you lately?
I’ve been reading a lot of Nabokov. I think I would hate him if I met him. Well, he’s dead, so there’s no risk. But the writing style is really compelling. I’m re-reading Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, which is still perfect. I did a talk last year about Julius Klinger, a gay artist in Berlin who did a lot of commercial advertisements. I’m revisiting his work right now and really enjoying it. I like the bold colors and in-your-face style that making ads requires.
Who are some other artists whose work is important to you?
I like to go to art museums and walk around, so really it’s a lot of people. I also see art on the internet, and, while I don’t know any names, I’ve seen some wonderful things on Instagram, for example. I actually don’t think much about people, myself included. I try not to have any heroes or idols or people I admire. People seem to be pretty similar at the heart of everything, but the art is this thing that takes a step outside of those confines, so I like art a lot. I hope no one looks up to me. I am falling apart.
What other forms of media inspire you? How?
Albums, mostly! I’m so jealous of musical types who get to make albums. It must be so cool preparing a journey for someone to take through sound like that. I feel most connected to musical artists, if I had to connect to any kind of artist. I think that’s why I’m jealous. I like the idea of being able to connect with people through the things you make, and that’s when I feel closest to a stranger’s creative mind. I like film a lot, too, of course. Most people are like magpies, I think. They just sort of pick up inspiration wherever they find it lying around on the street, don’t they? Then later you can organize those things into some kind of theme or pattern. I just look at everything.
You’re also a writer. Does one discipline ever influence the other? If so, how?
Certainly! In reality, they’re not so distinct. It’s all just thinking of things then acquiring the necessary skills to make them happen. I guess I always held drawing in higher mystic esteem, because the process seemed much more abstract. But actually, most things are just a series of steps to take. It can be pretty technical in any medium. You learn how to do things and then you do them. I would like to, in my second book, combine both writing and drawing in a way that feels fluid, without making one feel like a crutch for the other, but even having said everything I just said, I find it’s a tall order to do so. I hope the puzzle comes together at some point, because I should do another book soon. The whole process of making a book is calling to me again, but I can’t do it until I hammer out these details.
There are a few themes oftentimes present in your work: bold colors, the night sky, the desert. What else would you like to explore down the line?
I would like to make things that are harder to love. I like most of my work, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes when I look back at my images and my writing, I see someone who is really eager to make a positive impression on people, to offer comfort, to soften the edges so that it’s approachable. In recent times, though, I’ve felt more and more dissatisfied with that urge. I want to be pricklier. I want to worry less if someone else will like it. Most of the things I really love, in terms of art and writing and other media, do things on their own terms. I don’t think I’ve made anything on its own terms yet.
You mentioned on Twitter that you were going to draw yourself a tattoo. Have you decided what you’re going to get?
I’ve changed my mind! I want someone else to design my tattoo! For now, I’ve decided on a big old Guadalupe on my arm. Something annoying about me is that I rarely want to engage with anything that I feel has nothing to do with me. When I think about images that have been a constant in my life, she crops up often, so I guess I’m thinking, why not? I was also thinking about a rattlesnake. There were a lot of rattlesnakes where I grew up. You see? Everything needs to have some kind of private, personal lore. I get sick of that sometimes. I should put a tiger on my bicep.
Can you share anything about what you’re working on now?
I’m working on too many things right now, almost none of them passion projects, and almost all of them freelance assignments. This is fine, as it gives me something to do, and I actually enjoy projects like that. I like the temporary bosses and finishing stuff up and sending them along and, generally, being the type of person people seek out to do something. I always dreamt of being a person like that, as an impractical, giftless child! I wanted to be useful and talented and good at something. I like how things have shaken out a lot. I feel like I have patrons leaving me a small sack of gold in exchange for my services. It’s also a good spot to sit around and expand your toolkit. I’m getting better at writing and drawing, so when I finally bottle that lightning, I’ll be able to execute it better. I hope!