Jacob Stack comes from a little place in Donegal, right beside the Bluestack Mountains – a “wee bit of a coincidence” as he describes it. An illustrator, he graduated with a BA(Hons) in Fine Art Printmaking from Limerick School of Art and Design in 2012. Essentially, he describes what he does as “making art and drawings that make me happy and hopefully makes other folk happy.” Here, he talks to us about his inspirations, his processes, and the best thing about what he does.
Is drawing something you’ve always done as a child?
I did draw a fair bit of drawing when I was wee. I have fond memories at home, when we used to cover the table at home in newspaper, and just made such a mess with all of the paint..it was great! I did kind of drift in and out of drawing really at school. I used to love it in primary school for a while, but art class was used more as treat than a subject really. I didn’t really pick it up properly again until the leaving cert years, when I had it as a proper subject for the first time. What was always there, was the doodling on school books and homework diaries.
Was there a turning point where you thought “Hey, I could do this for a living.A”
Ah, it was a very specific moment…maybe not for making a living, but more, ‘there is a very small chance it might work out’. I had started drawing more in this style towards the end of second year in LSAD after chatting to Des MacMahon, the printmaking tutor. In a fine art discipline, I wasn’t great at the conceptual side of things, but it was the first time I was really enjoying what I was making, both working on it, and the results in the end. The specific moment was in third year, at the Drawing Awards exhibition in the college. It was the first time I had work selected for it, and Irish artist Charles Harper, the curator of the show, bought one of the pieces. A most excellent surprise.. I’m still chuffed.
What’s your preferred medium to work in?
Drawing with pencil. It depends what I’m working on, idea and subject wise, but it’s the hand drawn I enjoy the most. Pencil, pen, charcoal, or watercolour…or a combination of all of those. That’s me in my element. I much prefer that than sitting at a screen for too long.
You often work on rough pieces of paper, incorporating the medium you’re working on with the concept of the piece, can you explain the reasoning behind this?
I’m not too sure where that came about really, but I do enjoy working on scrap bits of wood, cardboard, brown paper, different surfaces like that. They have a bit more about them initially, than a blank piece of paper, both texture wise, and that.. you know, that the burnt edge there was more than likely caused by a dragon. Half the narrative is there in the canvas already, and I just fill in the dots.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Ah…does everyone say it can come from anywhere? Because it kind of can. For my personal work and scribbles, the environment is the biggest influence perhaps. Growing up, and currently living in the countryside has had an impact. There is a forest by the house, which I just love going wandering through with the dogs (Scruffy and Ben) just a few miles away from the coast too. No better places to get a sense of perspective. Travelling is a big thing for me too. I was fortunate to get to visit Tasmania and parts of New Zealand for a month earlier this year. The landscapes, people, and wildlife were just spectacular, and it’s an important thing for me personally to get a new wave of inspiration for drawing. I do have a pencil with me at all times though, and scribble on any bit of paper that is close by, if there is a bit of inspiration I happen across, they get gathered in my sketchbook.
Can you take us through your process?
Whatever I’m working on, it’s always pencil and paper first. That’s the starting point for everything I end up doing. Personal pieces and commissions generally start the same. I’d start with the roughest wee thumbnails. Sometimes you can tell right then if it will work. If it’s work for someone else, I do a bigger, more decipherable scribble, just so they can see what is going on.
On personal pieces as well, sometimes I just start the drawing/unclear areas of watercolour, having a very vague idea what I want and figuring it out as I go along. I sometimes feel that some pieces can end up over worked, if I redraw it a few times and it doesn’t have that spontaneity. Several drawings in my sketchbook that I scribbled in a few minutes, I prefer over the ‘finished piece’ that came from them.
What’s your favourite subject to work on?
Hmm.. animals seem to never be too far away. Cityscapes crop up every now and then. I enjoy the repeating patterns, and adding in lots of detail. I think my favourite subjects change. Ah my favourite subject to work on recently was a detailed few drawings and paintings of a workshop, packing every corner and spare bit of wall with posters, frames, signs, and tools. Getting pleasantly lost in a detailed picture is me in my element.
What are you working on next?
Next thing to work on, is a piece for an upcoming exhibition in Temple Bar Gallery, with Peachy Dublin. I have to start that actually. It’s the 19th to the 21st of August. There’s a great line up of artists, and it’s in aid of a mental health charity. Also, maybe a small event in Dublin and showing of some drawings and scribbles in Dublin, Jam Art Factory, for Culture Night…I think.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
Getting to draw most days. I’m so so fortunate in that regard, and I’m endlessly thankful for that. Meeting some wonderful, creative, and inspiring people, across all fields, and collaborating. Having something at the end, that you couldn’t come up with yourself. I’ve been fortunate to work with a few bands, other visual artists, and the occasional collaboration on screen print editions with the good folk at Damn Fine Print. Also one of the highlights, is the occasional message from folk hearing that a drawing has picked up their day a wee bit.
What challenges do you come across in the work when doing commercial illustrations, for clients?
I do find working on someone else’s idea a fair bit more daunting. Sometimes it’s difficult getting what they have pictured in there head, onto paper. There can be a bit of back and forth over the work and changes then. It gets there in the end though.
You’re a big fan of music – do you listen to music when you draw? Does it influence you in any way?
Music is on practically all the time when I’m drawing. Yeah, sometimes it directly influences a personal piece, if I set out with that intention. Maybe it sneaks in without intention too. Sometimes it’s the artist, a particular song, or a specific lyric that I pick up on. Album artwork, record sleeves, and concert posters, have always been something I’ve loved, so some of the influence is from that too. My spare money then goes to gig tickets.
You often make very detailed pieces – how do you have the patience? Does your mind wander while you work?
Once I start one of the more detailed pieces, I just get pleasantly lost. The music is on again, and if I’m enjoying it particularly, I don’t notice the time passing at all.… unless I’m under pressure to get it done. Then my mind is cursing myself for making it too complicated, and time is flying by..
Do you have a rough idea of how it will look or do you draw and see where it ends up?
I usually start with a thumbnail sketch/scribble. That mostly just figures out the layout, and working out a few colours roughly beside it. It differs from then..sometimes I have a very clear idea where I want it to go…others can be the opposite, and figure it out as it happens..
Where do you like your work to end up? Tshirts, album covers, framed pieces…
It’s been a pleasant mix recently, and very music based. I got to work with the lovely Bookshop Band on an album cover, and it was a real buzz seeing the album artwork printed for the first time a month or so ago.
Worked on a music video for We Cut Corners’ new single, which was a very new process for me. And seeing that all put together was epic. And what was particularly mad was working with the Cranberries on a t-shirt for their European tour merchandise this summer. A crazy mix of the songs from growing up, and my current job.
It basically just comes as a pleasant surprise anytime someone wants to collaborate on something, or use my work! It’s really neat seeing used in a variety of ways, and how they see how my work can be applied in different ways.
Where can we find your work for sale?