September 21, 2023

Jake Swanson, AKA Trashboy, is a printmaker originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. He earned a BFA in printmaking from Ohio University before moving to New Orleans, Louisiana where he currently resides.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

My name is Jake. Someone I used to date gave me the name Trashboy a long time ago, when I was a volunteer at the New Orleans Community Printshop and Darkroom. I’ve been living and creating in New Orleans for the past 10 years, with an emphasis on screen printing.

Photo courtesy of the artist

Could you describe your practice?

I spend a significant amount of time in the research phase of the creative process. I’m constantly typing words, phrases, and ideas in the notes app of my phone anytime I come across or think of something I could potentially use. I have a fairly large personal library of adult books and magazines that I primarily use for sourcing imagery for most of my work, although I will surf the web sometimes if I’m looking for something specific. Once I settle on an image or text portion of a piece, I’ll explore different compositions using Adobe Creative Suite until I get to something I’m satisfied with. Lastly, I screen print the finalized image on paper. I also often print on t-shirts.

Photo courtesy of the artist

What/who is influencing your work right now?

I’m largely inspired by a lot of vintage advertisements, magazines, and commercial design work. I geek out a lot on old product packaging and discarded paper I find out in the world and take note of the different typefaces and layouts. I’m often most attracted to things that appear to be done very cheaply or by someone with limited skills or tools, such as flyers for lost pets or personal ads. I’m also constantly cataloguing things like signage and labels that serve a predominantly utilitarian function. I love looking at community bulletin boards or telephone poles and seeing what kinds of things people are posting on them. Also pornography. I look at a LOT of pornography.

In addition to these, I’m very fortunate to be in a community and friends with countless creative people that are very skilled and talented. They’re doing everything from carpentry to playing music to tattooing and are constantly providing inspiration.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Some artists who come to mind in no particular order are: Steve ESPO Powers, Jerry Hsu, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Raymond Pettibon, and Barry McGee. I recently discovered the work of Mark Flood and I’m really drawn to a lot of things he makes.

Describe your current studio or workspace. 

I’m super fortunate to share a studio with my friend and really talented painter Max Seckel. He invited me to share his space and equipment a few years ago which is so generous of him. I have a small folding table as a desk in a corner where I work on an outdated and barely functioning computer. There are a ton of records to listen to and a wall of windows that provide great lighting during the day and views of moving freight trains. The studio itself is located in an old school building shared with many other creatives. The building is only a few minute bike ride from where I live which is really convenient, and also right by the industrial canal of the Mississippi River.

Jake Swanson & Max Seckel’s studio

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on?

I recently participated in two shows here in New Orleans the past few months. One was at Mortal Machine Gallery in the French Quarter and the other was upstairs at a bar called Anna’s. My first zine from 2018 titled “HURT” was recently reprinted and released through B.B. Press out of San Francisco. I also submitted imagery that will be used for an upcoming album of a pretty well known band from here called THOU that will hopefully be released sometime within the next year.

I’m currently working on some collaborative projects with a couple local creatives here. I also plan to make some new printed things that I’ll be vending at the Arts Crafts and Books fest organized by Burn Barrel Press, who I collaborated with recently on a shirt and tote bag design, that will take place in late October.

Photo courtesy of the artist

What’s the most gratifying part of creating your work?

I would say the most gratifying part of what I do comes from the printmaking process. I think turning images that were created using digital tools into physical objects for people to engage with outside of a screen is really important in this day and age. I really just love printmaking in general and have invested a lot of time and energy into learning and maintaining that practice so I feel the need to remain committed to it for as long as I can.

Photo courtesy of the artist

What catalyzed your interest in art making?

I can honestly say I don’t think I would be making art had I not grown up skateboarding. I got my first board when I was in 4th grade I think and I still remember going to the skate shop to pick it out. I remember being totally blown away by the variety and amount of imagery on all the decks, shirts, and stickers. I grew up skating at a time when it wasn’t nearly as popular as it is now and still had this outsider, anti-establishment kind of edge to it which I think influenced and led me to the unconventional lifestyle I live today as a printmaker. Skateboarding also has this way of changing how you perceive your surroundings and opens up a whole new set of possibilities of how you interact with your environment, much like how a lot of artists have their own unique ways of thinking and creating.

What are you really excited about right now?

I’m really excited and looking forward to the end of summer. The weather here in New Orleans gets pretty brutal during the summer months and also there is a bit of a lull in the city since a lot of people leave to escape the heat or go work a seasonal job somewhere else. Typically in October, it begins to cool off and people come back to the city.

Shirt designed & printed by Swanson. Photo courtesy of the artist

What do you do in your spare time?

I feel like I need and prefer more time alone than a lot of people I know. I’m a pretty private person and mostly hang out with a small group of people. I spend a fair amount of time loitering outside places, people-watching while smoking cigarettes. Then I’ll ride my bicycle around to a different spot and do the same thing. I like going to shows and seeing live music while supporting my friends in bands and the touring acts. I’ve been playing a lot of backgammon and card games the last couple months, sometimes I’ll shoot pool at a bar with a friend.

Interview conducted and edited by Natalie Toth