Jeremy Fish inhabits a world of rats shaped like grenades, trees with breasts and skull-shaped hot air balloons. That is to say that his art mixes violence and vice with resolutely cute elements. Highbrow stuff this ain't–Fish's work is a direct reflection of his love for nature, roadtrips, dirty jokes, women and, above all, skateboarding really fast down San Francisco's steep hills.
Fish grew up in upstate New York but headed west in 1994 to attend San Francisco's Art Institute. Nurtured by the close proximity of beautiful vistas, gut-busting burritos and peep shows at the Lusty Lady, he refined his bold, confident pen strokes and his repertoire of skulls, bunnies and camper vans with wings. His knack for creating self-assured, iconic images landed him a job as art director at Think Skateboards. It also led to a monthly illustrated series known as "The Big Stupid" for skateboard bible Slap Magazine; the project found him collaborating with Andy Howell, Bigfoot and Pushead, among others.
When he's not helming his "top secret" Silly Pink Bunnies gang–whose logo, a bunny with a shaka handsign for a face, is festooned all over the Bay–Fish keeps super busy churning out paintings, illustrations, sculptures, toys (his plastic bunny van is available at strangeco.com) and eye-popping decks for The Unbelievers, a company he co-owns with skate rogue Scott Bourne. Upon the release of his latest endeavor, a book for Upper Playground called I'm With Stupid, we decided to ask Fish a few questions. We found him in the Zurich airport hungover from fondue and Schnapps, but he took the time to give us a few of the quick and mysterious quips he's known for.
XLR8R: What's the last great book you read?
Jeremy Fish:Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson. It rocked. I heard they kicked his ass afterward. I don't read much. It hurts.
If you could have a superpower, which one would you want and why?
Super "show me your boobs guy": the overwhelming superpower to prompt women of all ages to display their breasts in said superhero's general direction.
What is your favorite music to make out to?
What's the best skateboard trick you can do?
Ruining my body.
What's the most important thing you learned in art school?
Talking shit, ignoring art kooks.
Do you feel like art school helped, hurt, or had no effect on the art you make?
It helped my work ethic, and hurt my view of art, artists and the formal art world.
What's your favorite thing going on in skateboard deck design right now?
Matt Irving from Delphi Collective and Todd Bratrud (Consolidated/Burlesque Design) pretty much. Chris Wright is also amazing.
You live in the Bay Area so you must have some good slang. What are you known for saying all the time?
Skin up, nice one, anything.com/whatever.
It appears you like road trips and camper vans. Tell us a good road trip story.
I once drove a 30-year-old van around the country with my dad. I took him to North Dakota, which was his 50th state, and got a photo of him holding up the five-zero handsignal in front of the state sign. I love driving around the U.S. I try to do it every other year or so.
What are you really into drawing right now?
Animals. Rival animals that by nature oppose each other. Predators and shit. The sheep and the wolf, the worm and the bird and so on. But they are pals–promoting romance and shit. And some skulls. They're scary.
Throwing the goat, flipping the bird or peace sign?
Flipping the bird with all four paws.
What is your favorite medium?
Pen and paper. Micron pens and Bristol board mainly.
What's the biggest hurdle you've had to get over in your career?
People in my life. People who can't support me and what I'm doing. This is a pretty lonely road.
What is the idea behind The Unbelievers and how did you come up with the name?
My partner Scott Bourne came up with the name. It means believe in nothing. Don't follow what you are told, don't be a sheep. We are a small skateboard mega-corporation. It's a lot of fun. Skateboarding is supposed to be, I think.
What's your favorite secret spot in San Francisco?
The Rite Spot...but please don't go there.
How do you feel living in San Francisco influences your art?
Infinitely. Between the sick-ass psychedelic hippie heritage, the foundations of modern street skateboarding, the hills, the beach, the park, my friends, Fecal Face, Upper Playground, medicinal grass, my little shack in the avenues and all the amazing women that are probably somebody's girl.
Name one piece by one artist that has had a profound effect on you and why.
Everything by Will Barras. He's an amazing illustrator/painter dude from London who works in a real assembly line technique, making lots of pieces in the time it takes to make one. He's really unique.
What was the initial concept behind "The Big Stupid" series that you did for Slap Magazine and how did it change over time?
I wanted to make a comic that had to do with skateboarding with little to no text. I also wanted to collaborate with other artists I admired. It just got weirder, and after three years they cut me off. I still love Slap and Mark and Joe.
What movie character do you most identify with?
The Dude. Jeff Lebowski [from The Big Lebowski].
What are some of your upcoming projects?
I am working on some animation projects, a shitload of art shows and as much traveling as I can manage. I am also working on skinning up the biggest I've ever skunned. I also plan on working myself to an early grave, as I really love my job.