HIS WORK HAS BEEN FEATURED ON MAGAZINE PAGES, ROCK ALBUM COVERS AND THE WALLS OF LA LUZ DE JESUS. NEXT, FREE SPIRIT JERAL TIDWELL HEADS TO THE PUNK ROCK WALLS OF NEW YORK'S CBGB. TASTES LIKE CHICKEN'S REALTOON GETS THE WHOLE STORY.
realtoon: So how did you get started in this whole mess?
Jeral: I was born this way. (laughs)
r: And you were born in?
J: I was born in Los Angeles. My parents were rebellious teenagers running away from their parents. They decided to have a little fun, so guess what they got?
J: That’s right. They got me.
r: So did you grow up in LA?
J: No, my parents raised me in northern Louisiana. When I was old enough to get out, I moved around doing airbrushing, which was my first professional job. I settled in New Orleans and liked it there at first, but that was before I got to know it.
r: So, with airbrushing, did you just start with shirts and then move up from there?
J: Actually, it was kind of weird because I was doing t-shirts and drawings but I wouldn’t use any color in my drawings. All of my drawings were just black and white ink drawings of trees and stuff like that. So I was airbrushing and thought, “Man, we should just airbrush on canvases and sell this stuff.” And the guy I worked with said, “No. We don’t do canvases, we do t-shirts.” So, of course, I immediately went and bought some canvases and painted them. After that, the guy was like, “Dude, put them in the store.” So that is kind of how I got started. But I didn’t paint my first canvas until around November of 1996, right after I met my girlfriend, Lanie.
r: Has Lanie really affected your work?
J: Yeah. I would have to say I was pretty stagnant for a number of years because I was burned out from working as a commercial airbrush artist. You know, if you were to work at Burger King, for example, you don’t want to go home and make a fucking hamburger. So I was dead in the water creatively for a while. Then I met Lanie and she gave me peace of mind and helped me get it going again.
r: Didn’t you used to airbrush vehicles as well?
J: Actually I still do show vehicles. I sort of see them as canvas. Really badass, shiny canvases.
r: So how easy was the transition to traditional painting from airbrushing?
J: I had this overwhelming desire to try paintbrushes. To me, using paintbrushes is about 5000 times harder than using airbrushes because I started with airbrushes. One of the problems I had was trying to get those ultra-smooth gradients I got with an airbrush using a traditional brush. It was a freaking nightmare. Brushes have been one the most awesome things I have ever used and one of the hardest as well. But most people would say that airbrushing is one of the hardest things to learn because you have to work against a machine and they really do have attitudes of their own.
r: How did you get into doing album covers for Days of the New?
J: I met the lead singer, Travis Meeks, when he came to town and we hit it off. He liked my work and asked me to do his next album along with other merchandise for the band. That gave me the freedom to really start working on my own stuff. I no longer had to hustle around for jobs.
r: In working with the band you decided to move again, correct?
J: Well, we wanted to move out of New Orleans anyway because it’s just sort of nasty. It is really dirty, really violent and everyone there hated everyone else. I am way too goofy and fun for all of that. So we were thinking of moving north of Arizona but Travis said we should move up to Louisville, Kentucky. He said we’d love it. I didn’t want to move to Kentucky and have to start dating my sister or something. But, of course, that was just one of those stereotypes I found to be completely off, because Louisville is the most beautiful place. I just love it. The people here are kick-ass. We lived with Travis for a while and that sucked until we found our own place. But now we have a nice little place to call home.
r: What are some of your other interests?
J: I raced motocross for a while and I actually broke my wrist. Then, seven months later, I fractured it again. The doctor said, “You obviously don’t give a shit about your career. So you need to either get a new sport or get a new job.” As a kid, I would ride BMX bikes and jump over cars and shit. I never thought about my hands or career. I think hitting my head a few times has helped my creativity. (laughing) So I took the doctor’s advice and quit motocross. But now I ride a mountain bike. I like to jump off big stuff and have actually been in some publications doing tricks. For a couple of years I thought I was going to get famous being a biker.
r: I heard you are so rough on bikes that companies send you parts to test their durability?
J: Actually, this is the first year I haven’t gotten any free parts to test. They used me as a test pilot. I am really good at breaking things but breaking them in a way that I can tell them what happened. Not just by running it into a car or something. (laughing) I am a really good test pilot because I am very, very destructive. I just ride really hard.
r: Who or what has been an influence in your art?
J: Really, I have no idea. I really don’t know as much about art history as most other artists. The things I really dig are three-dimensional, such as toys. My studio is full of toys. I guess fantasy artists like Frank Frazetta influenced me. After one of my shows my tattoo artist came up to me and said, “You should check out Robert Williams. You are like his evil twin brother.” After seeing his work, I felt honored for the comparison and also found a new source of inspiration. From there I was turned on to Todd Schorr. Also, Errol Hesse and I go way back. We used to work together way back when. We both are into doing these pieces with crazy skulls.
r: Tell me about some of the shows you have been in.
J: My first official gallery showing was at a gallery named Desire in New Orleans. I got fucked. After that show I never wanted to do another show. I sold two paintings and walked away with jack. The curator of the gallery added all of these "fees" out of what I sold. The guy fucked me so hard I was walking funny for a little bit. But it was a learning experience. The next show I did was at La Luz de Jesus gallery on Hollywood Blvd in LA. It’s the gallery that first introduced hotrod art to the mainstream with the help of Billy Shire and Robert Williams. I have also had some shows in Louisville at some of the colleges.
r: Tell me about your show coming up.
J: I will be doing a show at CBGB in New York. It runs through June 22nd.
r: How can people see more of your art?
J: As an artist, the hardest thing in the world is to get your work out there because it costs so much to get promotional packages. So I put together a website. It is a great place to check out my portfolio.
r: Lastly, do dogs have lips?
J: Hell yeah! Have you ever French-kissed a dog?
r: Not lately.
J: Well, they have lips. Trust me.
VISIT HUMANTREE.COM TO SEE MORE OF JERAL'S WORK.