This month's album, Låpsley's Long Way Home comes packaged with an incredible print. We talked to Jose Mertz, the artist who created it.
I was thinking it would be cool to spend some time talking more about your process. I was struck in the interview you did with Miami New Times by the story of you deciding to focus on yourself after art school instead of jumping directly into a new job. From the sound of it, you went on a spiritual journey instead that had quite a lasting effect on both you and your artwork. What was that like for you? Were there any people or places along the way that have stuck with you and/or still resurface in your work?
I have always been interested in archetypes and the idea that they all exist inside of us all. Heros, King, Queens, Hunters, Providers, Friends, Fathers, Mothers..etc. I also have always been interested in those who have dedicated their life to discovering the true nature of self underneath those archetypes. I have drawn Bodhidharma many times and actually named my son after him. ( Bodhi Mertz ) If you don’t know who Bodhidharma is, it’s well worth the research for inspiration. His teachings I find to be crystal.
Tell me more about your process for your work. I saw that you’ve done a freestyle piece for Adidas, but in general what does it look like for you to begin working on a piece and see it through to the finished product?
Well, each idea gets tackled differently. For the most part it usually starts with a sketch or rough scribble. I will then flesh it out and play with composition as well as write notes on color transitions if any and elements throughout the piece. I also will look for reference and compose the final image after. Its a mini production for me at this point but I find each step very enjoyable like cooking a great meal or something. One of the most satisfying things is when making a actual product as opposed to a painting or drawing, is when its made and people are wearing it or having it integrated in they’re life somehow. It reminds me we are connected in a interesting way.
Your style is striking, and makes it easy for someone (in my opinion) to know that they’re looking at a Jose Mertz piece once they’re more familiar with your work. How did that style develop? What were the major influences?
I believe that everyone has a unique fingerprint when doing or making anything. Two people can draw the same thing and the result will never be the same. We all have different life experiences and make decisions that vary from person to person. Art making is a series of decision making and then actual execution. The way my hand applies lines and color is based on the repetitive action and application from years of practice. Some say its a “style”, I just know it as the way I draw or make pictures. It was never a pre meditated style to attempt or execute.
Although I am influenced by Inca, Aztec, Japanese Yokai folklore and mystic imagery they all get filtered through my sensibilities and expression. I love and respect the artists from the past and the power they put into sculptures, temples and murals. It was functional as well as a aesthetic result of vigorous training.
Could you walk us through a few of your favorite pieces?
Sure. I can talk a little about the most recent ones.
I did a mural in Wynwood titled “Iron Galaxy Horses” - which was inspired by the movie Matrix actually. I thought the part when “Neo” goes to visit the “oracle” was great. I wanted to capture that moment of guidance and meeting of two great minds joining to find a deeper solution to a phycological / spiritual issue. Although the piece is quiet, its a crucial moment for this Buddha of imagination who is riding these mutated horses - coming to a Oracle for guidance. It’s a made up narrative but interesting moment enough that I wanted to capture it somehow in my own rendition.
Another recent one is Caves and Maps” - I painted in Wynwood as well and is based on the idea of the infinite in all things in the world of matter. Its a face with crystal eyes but made up of colored caves and elements. ( smoke, water..ect. ) The hair has unfolding matter that kind of reads like a comet tail that wraps around the entire building. Its like two images in one. :)
Lastly, I have to ask about music. What are some of your favorite albums/artists? What’re you listening to the most these days?
Music is a major part of my life and almost my life’s work at one point. I have way too many artists and albums I love but at the moment I have been listening to a bunch of 70’s soul and funk. I love down tempo and smooth jams with hard drums. I’m from / live in Miami so bass is always in rotation! I love 90’s Hip Hop and intricate lyrics. I cant point at any particular artist but right now I scan over the music landscape and listen to just about everything. For the most part has to have a dope groove and hit me in the chest. :)
I’m hype to have my work integrated with music / vinyl. I grew up being enchanted by amazing covers I would see in stores and vinyl digging. I hope to do more and to contribute to the art of album illustration / art.