Jeff P, Eclectix Interview 61

Eclectix artist interview


Jeff P, An Eclectix Artist Interview

Jeff has a mastery of classic naturalist rendering, science based illustrations which also play off abstract shapes, colors and objects. Coined “psychedelic naturalism” – think Audubon meets Timothy Leary. Multitudes of graceful snakes coil and intertwine within various environs, graceful and lovingly detailed in their realism. At times his palette is vivid and punched with saturated hues, others muted with a more real earthy tone. Surrealism abounds in his designs – weaving symbols, icons, botanicals and detailed specimens into a glorious landscape.

Jeff currently has work at Stephanie Chefas Projects in Portland, in the Project p:ear exhibition, through Dec. 31st.  Also, in January, he will be a part of Antler Gallery’s showcase at the LA Art Show.



jeff pfeil Eclectix artist interview



What medium do you prefer to use to produce your art?

I work primarily with acrylic inks on watercolor paper.  Liquid acrylic inks, soft body acrylics, and some heavy body and acrylic mediums.

 Do you work full-time on your art or do you also have another interest?  

I also work as a tattooer at Art Work Rebels in NW Portland, OR.  People are often surprised at the difference between my tattoo style and painting style.  My tattoos are based on old flash designs.  The only way I can explain it is: I like to paint like this, and I think tattoos should look like this.






Snakes seem to be a fascination for your recent works, can you touch on why?

The shapes, patterns, and colors of snakes are mind-blowing, and obviously they are pretty heavy symbolically.  But the real reason for the snakes, and the motivation behind a lot of my paintings, is more about process.  I figured out a way of laying out the scales that gives them a certain three-dimensional quality.  It’s not quite anatomically correct, more mathematical, and part of a look I’ve been developing that I like to call “psychedelic naturalism.”






My favorite art memory from my childhood is …

I have a specific memory of drawing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with another kid.  I could draw their heads really well, but struggled with the body.  This other kid said he was really good at the bodies, but struggled with the heads.  So naturally we teamed up, and I was really excited to collaborate on a nicely drawn Ninja Turtle. He finished adding a body to the head I had drawn, and I was heartbroken when I realized he was even worse than me at drawing the bodies.  I felt strangely superior, not because I felt I could draw better, but because I was proud to know I held myself to a higher standard.






When I was a little kid, I wanted to be …

I wanted to be a filmmaker.  I even went to NYU film school and graduated.  Live and learn.  Still paying it off.



My interest in art started …

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw.  Art has always been my way of interacting with the world around me, ever since I was a kid.  It’s how I made friends, spent time with those friends, it’s the motivation behind reading, watching movies, listening to music, arguments and discussions, hikes, vacations, work, recreation.  Everything comes back to art one way or another, and it always has.  Family, Friends, Art.  That’s everything.






An interesting bit of history surrounding one of my distant relatives is …

My grandfather on my mom’s side was a baker.  I never really knew him.  My grandfather on my dad’s side was a butcher.  I remember a story someone told at his funeral service, about a time he was shoveling the walk outside his church.  A man he didn’t know came by without a coat—my impression was that he was homeless, though I’m not sure.  My grandfather, who was famously always cold, didn’t hesitate to offer the man the coat off his back.  I think of this story almost every day, and try to live up to it.  That day at his funeral service, it seemed like one person after another got up to tell similar stories about him.  I can’t think of a better legacy.






I am often inspired and motivated by …

Looking through art books.  I can’t get enough books.  I love books.  Classic magazine illustration, advertising, sign painting, natural history, comic books, encyclopedias, photography, landscapes, textiles, portraits, folk art, egyptian art, renaissance art, package design, furniture design, movie concept art, storyboards, tattoos, cartoons, maps.  Books, man. Books.

If I could spend the day with any artist (dead or alive) it would be … 

I’d love to spend some time with Audubon, watch him work, and pick his brain.  Audubon destroys me.  I got to see an exhibition of his original watercolor paintings for his Birds of America last year at the New York Historical Society.  It was completely overwhelming.  He changed everything, and I find the intersection of art and science endlessly interesting.  With Audubon there is no separation.

The art technique that has helped me the most is ….

The most important bit of expertise I’ve learned in art is patience.  I don’t really know any tricks.  I don’t have any real art training.  What works for me is to just start, and keep at it until it looks right.  Every painting is a struggle for me.  I hate it a lot of the time.  I’m thinking it’s going great, and suddenly I’m on the verge of tearing the paper in half and quitting altogether.  I’ve learned that if I bang my head against the wall long enough, things start to come together.  When they do, when the painting is complete, all the frustration I endured makes the result that much more satisfying, and gives me enough energy to try it again.






If I could own one piece of art, out of the world’s collections, it would be …

Walton Ford’s “Chingado”.  A handful of years ago the Brooklyn Museum of Art had a huge Walton Ford show.  I went back day after day, bringing different friends with me or going by myself.  Just staring at those paintings from an inch away.  So much power, attention to detail, sense of humor, storytelling, craftsmanship.  Impeccable.

My current favorite piece of my own art is … 

I’m really proud of “Transitional Phase II-I” (shown below with detail) — the one with the iguana.  It required a lot of prep work, patience, attention to detail, and confidence in myself to complete that one.



Transitional Phase II-I [2014] DETAIL




A creative idea that I would like to produce is …

I would really like to collaborate with artists in other disciplines.  Printmakers, photographers, sculptors.  I have spoken to a few people, and hopefully some of these plans will come to fruition.

When I evaluate whether an idea is good or not, the most important elements are …

When I’m putting together an idea for a new painting, my focus is on the overall mood or feeling.  I know there is something specific that I’m going for, though I doubt I could explain it well.  It’s a feeling I stumbled on with the first three ROA paintings I did.  They are inspired by the classic religious, and tattoo image of the Rock of Ages.  Though, beyond the cross imagery, this reference is fairly indistinct.  When I finished the first one, I knew there was something there, and I explored it more with the following two.  A friend once told me that my paintings feel like a scene he’s stumbled across.  Some sort of vaguely non-human ritual.  The feeling that there is some deep meaning, and significance to what is being witnessed, but that it is completely out of reach, incapable of being understood.






The most memorable thing anyone has ever said to me about my art is …

My dad once told me “Your paintings defy human comprehension…in a good way!”  That cracked me up.

My ultimate project or fantasy is …

I really want to work bigger.  There’s something so powerful about the sheer size of certain pieces of art.  Walton Ford’s painting, Nila, portraying an elephant surrounded by many species of birds, is twelve feet high and eighteen feet wide.  I’m really attracted to it, and look forward to the opportunity to engage with something that overwhelming and consuming.

I am currently working on ….  

I’m currently working on a series of paintings of horseshoe crabs, part of my new “Ordovician Obduro” series (shown below, with detail).  They’re living fossils.  One of the great things about painting a new subject is that it forces you to really look at it in a different way, noticing tiny details as you work out the drawing and render it.  Recently, my wife’s aunt sent me some horseshoe crab specimens she collected.  After spending over 40 hours painting from photo reference, handling the physical crab was like the manifestation of a dream.  In this series, I’m also excited about exploring some new techniques.



Ordovician Obduro II [2015]

Ordovician Obduro II [2015] DETAIL



A specific event in my life that sparked a number of my works was …. 

There was a period a while back, where a lot of the drawing I was doing was not for myself, and not enjoyable for me.  It was slowly killing my enthusiasm.  Then a couple of friends from St. Louis asked me to do some really fun T-shirt graphics that reminded me how much fun drawing can be.  I think that had a lot to do with getting me back on a path to making art that I enjoy, and am proud of.

My views on folk art have really changed over the years…  

Folk art is fascinating. To me, folk art is art created by someone with little to no training as an artist.  That lends a purity to the expression of that art.  When I was younger, it was easy to brush this kind of work aside as unrefined, and lacking skill.  Anybody could do it.  But that’s kind of the point.  Somehow an untrained hand is able to capture a feeling that can often be elusive to the trained artist.  Tattooing classic American tattoo designs has helped me appreciate this in other forms of art.  You can find fault in these old designs easily: disproportionate bodies, misplaced features, inaccurate shading.  Despite these “mistakes,” and probably because of them, the image is imbued with a certain “realness” or “rightness” that a more accurate rendering lacks.



White Nose Syndrome [2012]



If I could time travel, the era I would like to drop in on is … 

Some time in the distant future.  I want to know where this whole thing is going.

The last song I choose to listen to was …

I’ve been listening a lot to the Melanesian choir music from the Thin Red Line soundtrack.  It’s some of the most pure, and joyful music in the world.

The last book I couldn’t put down was …

I read Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy while in Mexico last winter.  It was the most horrifying story written in the most beautifully straightforward language.  There are images from that book forever branded on the backs of my eyeballs.



War [2015]



My favorite character in a work of fiction is …  Cool Hand Luke.

One of my favorite words is …  Lobster.

One of my favorite smells is …  Frying dough.

One of my (recently) favorite movies/TV shows is …

Tim’s Vermeer.  My brain started leaking out of my ears watching that.

I can’t live without …

I can’t live without music.  I listen to everything.  It’s the best thing in the world.  I can’t get a thing done without music playing.

It’s not hip, but I really love …

I really love empty bars.  An empty bar, a couple friends, and bullshitting about movies, music and art.

My favorite part in my home is … 

The basement couch.  It’s nothing special, but I sit there by myself, with my wife, with my dog, with my friends.  I watch movies, read books, listen to music there.

If I could live anywhere in the world, it would  be …

Somewhere with some open space, on a quiet river or lake with hot summers and cool winters.  Family and friends close by, spending our lives together as one big tribe.

My favorite motto (or quote)  is …

“How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood, and be in a good mood…?”

- Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything






Link To Jeff’s Website




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