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Jacob Ovgren

Studying comic books and cartoons


Jacob Ovgren, den meisten bekannt durch seine Polar Grafiken, hatte beim Vans Shop Riot Finale in Amsterdam eine Ausstellung. Wir trafen uns dort zum ersten Mal und er führte mich durch die Artworks. Am nächsten Tag saß ich mit Oisín Tammas von Skateism vor der Noord Skatehalle rum, als Jacob sich zu uns gesellte. Er blätterte in der neuesten Skateism Ausgabe und fand ein Bild, das Yann Horowitz mit einem Regenbogen zeigt. Er lieh sich einen Stift und fing an einen freundlich dreinschauenden Pimmel drauf zu malen. Niedliches mit nicht Jugendfreiem zu verbinden ist sein Spezialgebiet und er erschaft dadurch gerne kontroverse Artworks. Da hatten wir den perfekten Intervieweinstieg.

Do you always get spontaneous ideas to draw or is it planned most of the time?

No, it’s spontaneous. The sketching at least but then you work on things later and develop them. You try to get the spontaneous ideas down when you get them and then complete it another time.

So how many drawings do you actually do before you have the final one?

Sometimes you nail it straight away but a lot of times it’s hard to say. If you do a big sheet it’s almost like a mind map. Like yesterday at the exhibition you saw the Vans poster and all of the original drawings. You can just put them together and play around and twist.

Where does your inspiration come from most of the times?

Well, I don’t know. It can be like whatever, you know.

"It’s interesting to see how people act when they’re not thinking that they’re being observed."

Do you more observe people a lot or rather watch the news?

I mean a bit of both. Before I was here I was up at the balcony looking out at this crowd thinking of what are people actually doing. But it doesn’t go super deep. It’s interesting to see how people act when they’re not thinking that they’re being observed.

And you’re always going for the more grimy or dirty side. Is that what interests you?

Yeah, you’re looking at a crowd and you’re looking for the thing that stands out. And then you’re like „Oh, there might be something here“ and you focus on that. It’s like weird people: more interesting.

You also combine it to bigger pieces. How do you combine those things where’s a lot going on?

It depends, if I’m drawing a big scene I try to get as many… usually I have a sketchbook filled with small ideas and I’m like: I’m gonna put this guy here, put this thing there, somebody writing something in the background and I try to put it together as I would like it. You just see how it works. I don’t know how to explain it, it just kinda happens. Sometimes it’s not really fitting together but when it does’t it kinda works as well. Like it’s so not working that it works.

Do you use those that don’t work as well?

Yeah, sometimes I like when you cut things out because then you can play with them like stickers and sometimes you just have them laying around at the desk and notice things that you’d have never noticed otherwise, like this coke can is gonna be perfect within this scene and I would’ve never thought about I’m gonna do this. Or when they’re loose you can just find different connections between them.

You do that a lot right? Cutting stuff out, put it together with other stuff and draw around it.

Yeah, I like to play around composition wise also. I work in Illustrator so I think it comes from that, because then you play around with it and when you’re doing a piece by hand I approach it in the same way so I do the drawing, color it, and cut it out. Sometimes you have a street corner and you have loose things that you can glue on.

"I love a lot of the Aaron Herrington stuff, it feels like he’s getting some good boards. But maybe because it’s easy because he’s American. It’s like: „Yeah, I want an American flag on it“."

So you’re taking the digital approach to analog.

Not always but that’s one technic I have. [laughing] Because every time you choose or change a medium… If you go from glass markers to crayons or from watercolor to something even if your trying old things it looks different. So you have to approach it in a bit different way. I think it develops. When you try to draw with new things it’s good to experiment a bit.

How is it when you draw for Polar? How is the creative process? Do the riders give input or is it Pontus asking for a specific series or are you totally free to do what you want?

Usually I scan a bunch of stuff that I send to Pontus and the team and they can choose what they like and give some feedback and I can make a better sketch with something and incorporate that into it. And sometimes the guys have ideas and Pontus has some ideas. It always goes back and forth quite a bit. But it’s always different. Sometimes it’s like: „Oh this drawing! I like it“ I send it to the team and they love it, Pontus likes it, and it’s a smooth ride on the way through.

Is it harder to draw when it’s not your own idea but from a teamrider?

It might be harder for me to do it exactly as they want it but usually it works quite well. I can incorporate some of my own ideas into it also and I want the riders to be happy with the board as well because it has their name on it. It’s their board. Sometimes the guys give you ideas that make you draw stuff that you wouldn’t draw otherwise. We have a good connection.

Which one of the riders has the most ideas and is most involved with doing graphics?

Usually it goes through Pontus with the riders but I say they all have some good ideas and know what they want. When I was doing stuff for the exhibition, I love a lot of the Aaron Herrington stuff, it feels like he’s getting some good boards. But maybe because it’s easy because he’s American. It’s like: „Yeah, I want an American flag on it“.

The American imagery always looks good, right?

It’s such good colors as well. But also it’s hard to tell before you see it on the board. Like you have it in the computer but then when you get it it’s not that cool. The really simple stuff with just one small little thing can look really good when you actually see it in real life. So I’ve been trying to do more of just scanning sketches and pasting them. I think it’s the easier technic and looks pretty well on the board and also a bit different. And we always want to progress and not stay the same.

The Polar board graphics are all pretty different and it progressed a lot. In which direction do you want to go?

That’s also changing from time to time. As I said, now I’m doing more sketching stuff. When there’s a big collection I like it when there’s one really well done computer vector graphic and maybe one more handmade and one a bit sketchier. I like when you get the whole range in there. I’m not a big fan of a series. I think it’s better to chop of the series so they come out in different collections. So all of the boards don’t look similar.

So you wanna try different styles?

I wanna explore, you know. I mean, I have one go to style – the comic things that I know quite well. But that’s also why you have to try new stuff to challenge yourself a bit and see how it works.

Have you studied all of that or did you learn it by yourself?

Well, I read comics and watch cartoons and stuff so that’s kind of studying I guess.

What are your favorite comics and cartoons?

When I was a kid there was one called Bamse. It’s a Swedish one about a bear that eats a lot of honey and becomes super strong. It is very nicely drawn. I’m not that drawn into the Marvel superhero kind of stuff. I’m more into the underground comic stuff that goes a bit dirty sometimes. Like when it looks like it’s made for kids but when you look closer then you realize it’s for adults.

Do you have a recommendation for a cartoon series?

I like Sealab 2020. I like Wonder Showzen. That’s a very good one. Sometimes it’s like uh you don’t wanna watch it. You get a bit uncomfortable but in a good way. I think it was on MTV2 early 2000. It’s not really cartoons it’s sketches and some animation and some stuff like that. But it´s great.

More from Jacob in our Skate Urbanism issue.