Sometimes the most enjoyable art is the simplest. Whether he's depicting a carton of milk playing with a pile of plastic dinosaurs (caption: "Spoiled Milk"), or twisting perceptions of skate culture (see gallery, below), illustrator Jayme Lemperle uses puns, wit and a boyish crassness to make viewers laugh. When I first found his blog, Stale Bagel, I rifled through the site laughing more with each click, firing off links to friends.
The kid's kind of on a roll. He's had his work featured in Thrasher Magazine; Odd Future's Tyler the Creator once commissioned a drawing of himself on an ostrich. Lemperle's drawings continue to appear on several RIPNDIP designs, including T-shirts and skateboards, and he's currently prepping for a collaborative show with RIPNDIP and The Good Company in New York City this fall.
Lemperle's art isn't about big ideas or being high-concept; it doesn't need to be. He's obsessed with cats, Mozart and skateboarding, never discerning between high and low art, just enjoying it all. We caught up with him to discuss his pursuit of art, skateboarding and what it's like sharing a room with a 3-year-old in your 20s.
XGames.com: You had a pretty unique living situation when you moved back to New York. Tell us about that.
Jayme Lemperle: I lived in Arizona for five years and that's when I really started skateboarding. When I graduated high school I moved back to New York to be with my grandma and little cousin and ended up sharing a bunk bed with him for two years. It was great, especially if you like waking up around 7 a.m. every morning regardless of what time you went to sleep.
I had all the toys you could ask for and, to make things better, I found out I had sleep apnea and had to sleep with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) apparatus every night. On a scale of 1 to 10, those years I was a solid 9; I was really surprised that girls didn't see it that way.
But in the two years of living there, I had a lot of time to focus on drawing. That's when I started my blog, Stale Bagel, and was able to develop the style that I work in today.
What first got you interested in drawing, and what were your early influences?
My uncle Phil is who really got me into doing art. He was an artist himself and had different mediums that he let me experiment with, like laying down plaster onto glass and spray painting on it and then drawing into the wet plaster with a stick. He allowed me to spray paint on walls and draw with his markers. He also gave me a lot of good advice, like telling me that art is something that you can do and it's completely your own thing. It doesn't matter if anyone else likes it, as long as you enjoy doing it. That's the way he looked at the world and I try to go about it the same way.
Also, growing up in elementary school, one of my best friends, Joseph Pentangelo, was my art pal. We had our own comics that we drew called the Ninja Sewer Babies, which was basically the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Rugrats combined.
What do you think of the concept of "high" and "low" art?
There is no high and low; it's all the same to me in the end. You can't relate to everyone's art, just like you don't enjoy the same music as everyone. I look at other people's artwork as the thought behind it more than the technique; because something's well-drawn doesn't mean it's good. Something drawn poorly can still be great; it's just what that art means to you. Art is for everyone. Don't let pretentious people tell you what's right and wrong.
Where do you draw the inspiration for your work?
There isn't really one place that I draw for inspiration from other than skateboarding and cats. Those are the most reoccurring elements in my work, because I skateboard and have a weird obsession with cats; they are just so cute.
For other artists and inspiration, I get that from my friends that also draw, including Michael Giurato, Bekah Abraham, Quinn Arneson, Henry Gunderson, Edward Salas and Chris Millic. Those pals really inspire me to do more art because they all kill it.
You've recently decided to just pursue art full-time. How has that process been? Tell us about some of the projects you've worked on.
I felt trapped working at a grocery store on the Upper East Side for low pay and absurd hours. I never had enough time to focus on my art and I had to break free. I bought a plane ticket out West and spent a month and a half out there. In that time I did the summer and fall line for RIPNDIP [apparel] and just created a ton of stuff that I wouldn't have had time for work[ing] at this job.
What attracted you to RIPNDIP? What's the difference between making art for yourself or friends and translating it onto a product?
[Owner] Ryan [O'Connor] and I got started through a mutual friend. We both were new to the clothing game, but Ryan was able to print the shirts and I was able to draw them. Working for a friend is good because you are able to share ideas, rather than just doing a graphic for some random company that just wants to do one shirt. It's cool because the company is growing and I'm going along for the ride. I'm really getting an understanding of being a graphic artist for a company with my own art direction.
You've been traveling quite a bit this past year. Where have you been and what have you come across?
Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. One of the most memorable places was Portland. It's amazing over there and I could see myself living there. Another wonderful place is Dolores Park in San Francisco. It's a strange place -- people setting up dance parties, dudes riding unicycles around, people selling chocolate-covered strawberries. I love it!
What's next for Stale Bagel?
Well, the only thing I can tell you publicly is [about] a RIPNDIP x The Good Company collaboration art show in New York City, where I'll be showing some new work that is a little different than what I usually do.
What do you think shapes your sense of humor?
See more of Lemperle's work at Stale Bagel. But be warned: The content might be kid-tested, but it's probably not mother-approved.