It’s pretty clear you’re on artist turf when you enter Jimmy Mezei’s studio. Work from projects new and old hang on every wall, plus a wealth of inspiration images (including the work of many a 20x200 artist!). The same charm that makes brown-bagged rosé feel like a mischievous treat appears in little ways around the studio. Jimmy’s penchant for naming inanimate objects is case-in-point: a studio plant named “Derek”, a paint cart named “Dolly”, and flat file (aptly) named “Flatty” all make your acquaintance. Then there’s a painted note about Paul, the pupper who belongs to his best friend (and 20x200 artist) Kellen Hatanaka, and this important reminder: “You’re not a Supreme Court judge. Relax.”
Below, the Brooklyn-based designer fills us in on his favorite media, his go-to procrastination techniques (take notes), and so much more…
P.S. Be sure to check out our Insta feed for even more pics of Jimmy’s sweet studio!
Where's your studio?
I’m based out of Red Hook, Brooklyn.
What's your favorite tool in the studio?
Lately it’s been my jig-saw. I’ve been working on some larger-scale installation pieces and it’s been essential in translating cut-paper work to wood.
What do you wear when working in the studio?
Depends on the day really…if the work is on a smaller scale and is easy to clean up (watercolor / design work) I wear my everyday garb—jeans and a t-shirt. If the work is larger in scale and all traditional materials I might throw an apron on.
What's the first thing you do when you arrive at your studio?
Emails while listening to NPR.
What's on your in-studio playlist?
A lot of podcasts—S-town, Heavyweight, How did this get made?, Longform, You Must Remember This. And as for music, on a certain day any of these people will set the tone for what I’ll be listening to for the rest of that day: John Prine, The Talking Heads, Dolly Parton, Solange, Kendrick Lamar, Tribe Called Quest, Prince.
You work with a lot of different media. Is there a particular one you find yourself turning to most? How do you transition from one to another?
I’ve been using watercolor a lot lately, and keep coming back to it in some form. I go back and forth between mediums so often that it doesn’t feel like much of a transition anymore. My thinking and my approach might have to adjust when switching but my choices are purposeful and I won’t use a material without being confident in its outcome, unless I’m after an unexpected result. Watercolour is versatile that way—in that I’m not looking to completely control it, I want a bit of play to see what will happen.
What sort of in-the-studio work goes into planning a mural?
Quite a bit of work goes into it in the studio—I conceptualize and mock-up in studio, and if the mural has 3-d installation elements I may even make those pieces in studio.
What's your work style? Late nights? Intense creative bursts? Slow and steady wins the race?
I like to be working fairly steadily, but if there’s a deadline looming it could be any of those paces.
What's your favorite way to procrastinate in the studio?
Which artists' 20x200 editions do you most covet?
Tough to choose, but I’ve been a fan of Jason Polan’s work for a while. I have one of his original giraffes from the site but I always liked his natural history / museum series. You can just tell he loves to draw and it comes through in all his work. Also, I don’t have any of Kellen Hatanaka’s prints from the site, and I especially love the Rackets. We came up together so he’s always been a favorite of mine. His hand is his own—no matter what he depicts it looks like only his, which is a incredibly unique quality.
Whens, Hows & Whys
When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist and how did you get there?
I’m not sure when I first realized it, but in the past three years I’ve certainly made a point to focus on self-initiated work and to have those pieces represent my studio, in order to attract work by which I’m more intrigued. I think up until that point I was still unsure of which area to focus on and after some major events in my personal life, I decided to just get after it. I also see the whole thing as a process and don’t know if I’m really “there” yet.
How do you get over creative blocks?
Process. I try not to edit; I try to just make something. A lot of the time getting out of my head and into my hands helps break any kind of stalemate.
What do you like best about 20x200?
I like that you can build a diverse collection, all in one place. There’s so much to choose from.
Why do you think it's important to have a dedicated work space for your art? What advice would you give to artists looking to build a creative work space?
I think it’s important, but that “space” can be anything you make it. I love having a studio space and certainly miss it when I’m not there but I think versatility and flexibility is almost just as important. In school I worked out of one room which was also my bedroom, and right out of school I worked at a cafe, had a roommate, and still found a way to make space to make work. It’s important to me to have the space but also to have these tools of adaptability at my disposal, so I can just grab what I need and go when I want to make something.
Want more? Pop by the ONS Clothing store cafe in NYC to see Jimmy's latest mural project on display!
The 411 on Jimmy Mezei
Jimmy Mezei lives and works as a graphic artist in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He grew up in Southern Ontario, Canada, enjoying the outdoors and any opportunity to make something with his hands. In his professional life he integrates traditional materials with digital techniques for his signature hand-rendered approach. A true multidisciplinary artist, Mezei is skilled in graphic design, illustration, and painting. His works expresses an interest in signage and a thrill for life—particularly in the everyday, even mundane, aspects that may otherwise get overlooked. With a fresh, almost tender, perspective, Mezei renders these aspects with colorful playfulness and understated wit.