When Aaron Jupin was a kid, there was little separation between the animated world and reality. Having grown up in Disneyland’s backyard, better known as Orange County, and consuming cartoons like The Simpson, for which his uncle was an animator, Jupin not only had an early introduction to animation, but also became absorbed in the colorful two dimensional world.
“I remember I thought that the WB characters actually lived in the WB water tower at the studio, “admits Jupin, as he sits in his Boyle Heights studio. “Thats was real to me then, and I remember my family and I would always drive past this water tower by my house and every time I was like, ‘Thats exactly where the Animaniacs live’. There were probably a thousand other water towers in the area, and the studio isn’t even in Orange County, but to me that was the one.”
Jupin’s early interactions with classic animation provided an alternative understanding of what art was and inevitably laid the groundwork for his now complete infatuation with the seeping hand-drawn lines in movies like Bambi and Fantasia , and the faint smears and blurry frames he catches in old cartoons that only come from the slight of a human hand. For Jupin it’s all about the hand, the visible involvement of the animator.
“My parents never took me to any museums even though I’m sure they wanted to, so when I would go home, I would watch cartoons and would think, That’s art!” says, Jupin. “Watching cartoons was my my first introduction to the art world. I think that’s why I kind of put…this is so corny to say, but I put classic animation on a pedestal. Everything that goes into it all done by hand, that is art, that is true beauty, that is magic to me.”
Jupin’s longstanding fascination with classic animation now predominates his own practice. Through abstraction and manipulation, he takes recognizable images from the cartoons he was brought up on and twists them into a new context; one that inevitably reflects his exploration and understanding of how these familiar images resonate with him. Delicate back line-work and background details., rather than main characters, come to the forefront in his pieces, creating something abstract yet eerily rooted in a visual language familiar to anyone acquainted with early animation.
It can be as simple as a staircase background in the movie Cinderella, however the color of the carpet or the staircase’s steps, or even remembering what happens in a specific scene of the movie, will trigger a sentiment or memory that deeply resonates with him. When Jupin sees something that he likes and has a strong connection with it, he’ll immediately paint it, letting the images unfold like a never-ending sketch.
“I’ll paint this background from Cinderella that sticks out to me, then look at the painting and I’ll remember something else from the movie, and include it. It’s almost like I’m creating a narrative, but with images abstracted and put together,” says Jupin. “I want the viewer to recognize these images, but mot immediately know where they’re from. Through their own memories they have this attachment to the piece. Whether they know it’s from Cinderella or not, they’re still like ‘Oh I know this. This is familiar.'”
Daisy Duck’s beak, Bambi’s legs droopy white flowers, planks of wood and rope all make repeat appearances in his paintings. Whether standing alone, pieced together or painted on top of existing imagery – like on the covers of his abundant collection of pocket pornos – Jupin interjects classically animated imagery on to the canvas that evoke his strongest memories and most prominent feelings. Otherwise whimsical imagery reveals Jupin’s darker thoughts and undertones, a visual depiction of what he’s getting out of each cartoon.
“My paintings are just myself dealing with my emotions,” says Jupin. “I’m putting myself into these cartoons and images good and bad sentiments that these cartoons and images remind me of. I’m not painting all willy-nilly, like, ‘This is cool, let me paint’. If I paint something, it’s because I have particular feelings, and now I’m painting it.”
Jupin is continually working through new ideas, most recently inserting new colors to his pieces, and almost always referencing imagery that serendipitously pops into his personal life and warrants a connection with his memories and feelings.
interview • Grant Hatfield
You have a unique perspective on the surfing culture as a participant, observer, team manager and photographer. What are the moments that inspire you to pick up your camera and shoot while on a trip? Are there particular things that consistently catch your eye?
For me, it’s just recognizing moments that contain beauty or hold emotion, and it happens around us everyday. I love shooting the in-between moments, quick gestures or instances with a little charisma. I always romanticize the tours professional skateboarders go on – they’re epic road trips. Moments you love, hate, are annoyed by, make you sad, there’s plenty of curveballs that can hit you on the road. And that’s when these moments happen, while you’re dealing.
Your upcoming show at Paul Loya Gallery has an interesting title. How did you come up with “Peregrines” to describe this body of work?
Growing up surfing in Southern California, I spent a lot of time going up and down the coast on quick surf trips, usually crashing at friends’ houses, meeting new people, being exposed to art and different culture. That’s what makes the surfing and skateboarding communities so special is the fact that by doing an activity you’re part of a huge family.
You can span the earth, meet people that do the same things as you, and be welcomed into their world, crash on their couch, and get to experience their world. I realized that surfers are Peregrines. Most people will immediately think of the Peregrine Falcon, which are found all over the world from the arctic to tropical environments, just like surfers… Traveling all over this planet to experience new waves and the foreign lands they’re home to.
Is it true that you printed all of your black-and-white photos in your own personal dark room? Why not do it the easy way and send it to a lab for prints?
I did print all the black-and-whites for this show. Shooting film is a process. It’s not as immediate as digital photography, but that’s why I enjoy it. When shooting film, you aren’t constantly looking down at the screen on your camera. You shoot a photo and continue on. That’s something I really like about analog photography; it keeps you in the present. It’s also extremely satisfying to be able to shoot a photo and make a print yourself. It’s great to see the process from start to finish.
Out of all of the photographers I know you have the most gear. If you had to narrow your arsenal down to one camera which one would it be and why?
I think acquiring camera gear is kind of a disease. It’s fun to use new equipment, lenses, or cameras you don’t get to shoot with a lot. So there’s always this want for new equipment. If I could only use one camera for the rest of my life, I would probably use my Leica M6 rangefinder. They’re compact and easy to tote around over your shoulder. Another nice feature (aside from great glass) is that they’re super quiet, so candid photos become much easier to snap.
Who influences you in the respective surf and street photography worlds?
There are so many in both of those worlds… surf culture photographers that have impacted me would be Art Brewer, LeRoy Grannis, Jeff Divine, John Witzig, Thomas Campbell and George Greenough. Richard Graham has amazing images; he was one of the founders of Surfing Magazine (along with Grannis). He captured a lot of environmental portraits that are spectacular. That’s a lot of that kind of photography that I find interest in, what’s happening out of the water, and how certain people exist on land. Craig Stecyk is without a doubt a massive influence as well. Warren Bolster did amazing work; I believe his image was used on Ride’s iconic debut album Nowhere. In the street world, Bruce Davidson, Bill Burke, Joseph Sterling, Jim Goldberg, Joseph Szabo, Lee Friedlander… There are so many people that make great images. The list could go on forever.
Your last zine from Deadbeat Club, Spotlight On Your Shadow, came out in 2014. Can we expect anything new from you coming down the pipe in 2016?
I have a few things in the works at the moment, but nothing solid enough to go in depth on. I’ve spent the last couple of months shooting and working on the prints for Peregrines. That’s been my main focus. I’m really excited for this show to come together.
Nolan Hall plans to split the 20 or so shots from his new show, Peregrines, nearly down the middle — nine black-and-white shots, and 11 colored shots. Or, vice versa. He can’t recall for sure. The decision could come late. In-between a hallmark North Shore winter and a busy travel season managing the Vans team, it was almost a miracle that he could focus on putting a show together, Hall says.
Hall’s lush lifestyle images have earned acolytes across California and beyond. Typically shot on film, they are honest and unadorned. We caught up with Hall as he was putting the final touches on his show—which premieres April 2nd, at Los Angeles’ Paul Loya Gallery—to talk about creative inspiration, what unnerves him, and how deadlines can miraculously work in your favor.
Do you normally prepare that early for shows?
I feel like I’m usually pretty on it as far as getting stuff done on personal deadlines I set for myself. I’ve definitely had shows where it’s right up to getting pieces back from the framer, stuff is being hung. Paul [Loya] and I had talked about doing a solo show maybe two years ago. We talked about certain dates. He was always like, “Maybe we could do it at this time?” and I’d say, “Ahh I can’t, I’m going to be in Hawaii for two months, I just have zero time” He hit me up right before the Triple Crown and asked me if the beginning of April would work. I had worries that it wasn’t enough time, but he said, “Let’s just do it and we’ll figure it out.” So he sent me all the dimensions for the space and I did the math of how many pieces I needed and broke it all down. It somehow worked out that everything got planned in time.
Does that help your creative process, needing to choose pieces in a shorter amount of time?
Yeah, I think I work better when I have a finish line. If I had more time, I’d find a way to procrastinate, get lost in options, and waste time. I think the selection process is different for other mediums, too. Like, painting for a show could require different deliberation. I think with photography, trying to think of a theme or packaging a particular body of work helps. A lot of it for me is beach and surf culture images, so I think that’s an easy one to grab onto as the theme of my show, and then to build from there.
If mediums force artists to consider different qualities for a show, how was it picking the sections for this one?
I was a little more scrambled. When Paul and I were initially talking, I was all over the place. Do we need to show new stuff that’s never been seen? Some bangers that are favorites of mine? I got to talking with friends and came to the conclusion that just because you’ve shown certain photos or they were printed in certain publications, a lot of people haven’t seen them. A lot of this show isn’t super new, but it’s stuff that’s never really been up for sale. I don’t know. I think in my head, I freak out and think my material is so old. But in reality, I’ve probably only shown it one or two times in really small shows.
Who were the other artists you drew inspiration from when you first started shooting?
Thomas Campbell was probably one of the first. My dad gave me this old Nikon camera when I was younger, and at a certain point I thought that I could do similar work to what he was doing. I had friends who surfed and were artists –- I could go document them. I grew up surfing with Devon Howard, and he was working at Longboard Magazine at the time. [Artist] Andy Davis, Alex Knost, and I hung out pretty much every day. We’d end up down at Andy’s house, go surf, and he’d let us crash at his place. Andy would be painting. The time spent with those guys had a huge impact on me when I was younger.
Your lifestyle shots are really candid, but they still require stillness and observation to take in the moment of the shot. Do you think the reflective qualities of your shots make a gallery selection difficult?
That’s interesting, because whenever you’re shooting digital or when you get your film back, and you’re going through your shots, you have the tendency to disregard details in the moment. And then maybe you revisit that roll a year later, and you think, “This is a cool photo. Why didn’t I catch this before?” That’s true for a lot of photographers, but you’re connected with the actual moment of what was happening, where you shot the photos or what state of mind you were in, rather than just seeing an image when you know nothing about it and are examining it out of context.
Did anything you try out for this gallery make you nervous?
I like to experiment here and there, whether it’s different techniques or methods, or whether that’s how I operate the camera or how I alter the chemistry when I’m developing shots. It’s a little scary when you think you have some good stuff on the roll, and you really hope there’s some good stuff on there, because you’ve never tried something before. So it’s a little worrying. But that’s why photography is fun, because it’s a challenge. Not in the sense that it’s a puzzle, necessarily, but that it’s ever-changing. And you’re never going to be completely satisfied with what you create.
[For more information about “Peregrine” at the Paul Loya Gallery, visit Nolan’s website here]