written and interviewed by sharlene gandhi
There is something so seductive about art; perhaps it is the mysterious way in which the viewer cannot deduce why he loves it so much. Jason Kattenhorn, who works under the brand name BlackEyed Jack, describes himself as a ‘biro wizard’, and I can happily confirm that he is no less than that. In an age where all work is digitised, it is nice to be able to step back and appreciate hand-drawn art, beautifully crafted with just two tools- the biro and the creative mind. Nevertheless, BlackEyed Jack makes sure he exploits the vast range of software available in our day to digitally enhance and colour his images.
BlackEyed Jack’s illustrations, at first, strike me as controversial, yet not in a way that is detrimental. Widely-recognised public figures, including Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote (played by the infamous Angela Lansbury), and the Duchess of Cambridge, feature as prominent characters in his works. Anthropomorphised animals also make regular appearances, often on vintage bikes or dressed in smart suits. There is a bit of a Banksy air about his works that trigger conversation and appreciation about the art behind the potential controversy.
Give your characters an atypical prop and there you have your hook: Leisurely Lesula and Murder In The Afternoon
BlackEyed Jack recently took a step into the T-shirt industry, on which Jason Kattenhorn comments that his “bright and vivid imagery showcases really well when emblazoned on an individual’s chest.” I have no option but to agree, whole-heartedly. It is one thing seeing a print in front of you, and another wearing it on your chest. Having it, quite literally, closer to your heart does something to the vibrancy and the intricacy of the print that gives all wearers a certain sense of pride at being able to own something so unique and carefully thought-out.
I had a little chat with the creative mind behind the BlackEyed Jack brand, Jason Kattenhorn….
Give us a brief introduction of who you are and what it is that you do…
I am a freelance illustrator specialising in biro portraits. From anthropomorphism to famous faces, with fridges filled resplendently with haunted cephalopodic terror thrown in for good measure. Expect lots of biro and bewildering sights.
How did you get into illustrating? What is it about this art form that interests you?
I have been drawing all my life and it was only last year after a friends inspiring monologue that I decided to take the leap and freelance. The simplicity of drawing interests and spurns me on, as a few lines on a page can create wonderful imagery.
What/who inspires you to create these drawings?
Expressive, eccentric and lovable individuals inspire me. I love to try and challenge myself; I hope my work eventually is photo realistic in style. My most recent project is based on putting down the smart phones and going back to basics. Pick up some plastic cups and some string and let your imagination run wild. You never know who may be calling.
Where does the brand name ‘BlackEyed Jack’ originate from and why did you decide to use it?
As a kid I had this awesome T-shirt with a pirate named Black Eyed Jack on it. I wore it all the time. As a pseudonym it works perfectly for me as I like to create a bit of mystery in myself and my work. To be honest I still have the T-shirt, it’s a little snug but I can still manage to get it on.
What was the effect, as an artist, of moving into the T-shirt market?
The T-shirt market opens up a plethora of opportunities for my work to be seen by people who otherwise may not have seen my prints. My T-shirts are digitally printed to enable all the vivid colours and details to be reproduced. I struggled to find T-shirts with great designs on that I liked, so I took it into my own hands and made my own.
Where do you see BlackEyed Jack illustrations and the brand in 5 years’ time?
Ideally in 5 years’ time I would like to see Black Eyed Jack in more magazine publications, maybe have had some of my work featured in a film or book. Realistically I just hope I am still going strong and doing what I love. This year I am focusing on trying to get an agent and building up my portfolio.
Reveal your secret for success in the industry…
This is the age of technology and although I don’t like to admit it the internet is the way forward. Don’t be shy if you want you work seen then show it. Email, tweet, and Facebook your way to the top.
BlackEyed Jack prints are available at Mr Bird’s Emporium, a vintage fair in Birmingham. They can also be ordered via the BlackEyed Jack website, www.talesofblackeyedjack.com, by emailing BlackEyedJack7@gmail.com, or tweeting Jason at @BlackEyedJack.