Interview with
Geoff McFetridge

“I spend much more time in playing sports outside than being in art museum”

Today you went to Griffith Park, located about 20 minutes by car from your home and did trail running, then skateboarding at car park between the Griffith Park and your atelier, and then you went to the atelier. My first impression of you was that you got some serious exercise in the morning.

Geoff: I am doing these kind of things everyday. I get bored with all kinds of stuff easily so the sports I play are always changing anyway. Honestly, I spend much more time in playing sports than being in art museum and it has been same for long time.

I see you are making works with inspiration from your experience in exercise rather than from seeing artworks in museum. So what kind of sports have you ever been into?

Geoff: I am skateboarding since when I was young, and also surfing, cycling, trail running, climbing, skiing, marathon, and started fishing these days. I put all of my tackles and tools in garage but it’s already full.

It is unlike New York. It should be lifestyle that you are living with full of nature in Los Angeles. Why are your sports such important in your creation?

Geoff: Well, can I talk about skateboarding? What I learnt from skateboarding was that you play better by practicing and repeating them. Even mastering a trick, you cannot do a crazy trick without practicing step by step. It is same in drawing as well. We always make mistakes when drawing by hands. We can move forward by keep correcting the errors. We try not to make same mistake, then we make different mistake. Isn’t it interesting? It is quite fascinating playing sports and drawing.

I saw you drawing by pencil without seeing any materials and references in your atelier. The reason why you do not use computer is because you intend to make errors?

Geoff: It is not that I am not using computers at all during my drawing. But basically, I draw by 3B pencil on tracing paper like this. Almost like I am in unconscious. Also I do not ever search on google when drawing some animals, like I have never searched images of coyote on google when drawing them. When visiting somewhere, then encounter with the animals, and then I draw the animals only with the impression they give me at the time. By drawing them with ambiguous sense, I can invent what is unique to me. That’s originality. So it is all about how I do not draw them looking like real objects. That seems to be what is drawing for me.

“If I open an encyclopedia of animals and draw the fox, it won’t be the same”

Is it same as in the fox you draw in your collaboration with Goldwin? Could you tell us about the story behind the illustration?

Geoff: The picture is based on my personal experience during the trip to Hokkaido. There was very gentle and deep snow powder falling in Niseko-machi in January. The super light powder covered the whole forest and shut my views. That was first ever experience to me, and I enjoyed skiing with it. When I reached to a little high hill, I was stopped because there was one fox looking at me. The red fox is looking like he was making eye contact and talking something to me. And it sort of started turn, and I started going. And it goes down hill. So I was skiing following this fox. It sounds like a made-up story isn’t it? You know, 1,2,3,4,6,7 turns following this fox. He can go wherever he wants. I can only go down hill. But finally we went down the hill together. Then he was missing in the deep forest eventually anyway, it was amazing moment. This experience like we have heard in old stories inspired me when making the graphic of Goldwin. Of course there is no photos, no go pro videos left, but I can trace the memory and drew the ear, eyes and legs. If I open an encyclopedia of animals and draw the fox, it shouldn’t be the same as it is.

It is an unbelievable experience. Let’s get back to the story of sports, what you are doing, such as trail running and marathon, they are all individual sports rather than team games. And it sounds like most of them are physically demanding sports that will try your limits.

Geoff: Yes definitely. It will link to something in myself, “how much time I can spend in the solitary pursue. “ Going ride my bike for four hours and spending solitary time for work in the studio. Studio time and sporting are very similar, like keep answering to my own questions such as in what point I finish, how much I can achieve.

I imagine you participate in some races, and you look like enjoying the time, being in the places and environments rather than doing sports seriously.

Geoff: Yeh certainly. I don’t enter races so much. More like running Griffith Park this morning. I ran there just for seeing beautiful sunrise in the morning. I had to run up the hill in darkness to see them. It is not kind of running for me. If I am asked what I was doing in the morning, I might say“ I went to Griffith Park to see sunrise, I saw some coyote and bunnies on the way to a hill!” I don’t say I was running. If the purpose is different, it will or won’t get me tired. If the purpose is running, it is going to be so tiring. So I am not feeling at all like that I have done exercise too much, or got exhausted when I get to the atelier.

As your artworks are so iconic that we will know by seeing them, you have your style. Have you ever got bored with your own style?

Geoff: No I’ve never. Although I easily get bored with myself as I told, I have never got gored with drawing. Maybe that’s because I change other things so frequently. I sometimes get bored with myself, but I have never done with what I draw, what I want to draw. It sounds like I’m repeating same thing, but what’s amazing about drawing, it’s similar to skateboarding or skiing, is that you will be better at doing by practicing and repeating them, which means that I can do tricks more freely and I can develop my capacity of drawing. So I am sure that I can draw way better than 5 years ago, or even 2 years ago. I enjoy it because it is rare to feel my own growth in normal life.

I assume that there is expression without words. Just like there are language of classic music, that of oil paint and that of photography, your drawing has your own language.

Geoff: What I always do before working on a project and before start drawing is rethinking images in my mind, by try changing the angle from the scenery you usually see, or putting a fantasy feeling into it. What I am speaking is a bit special language, is a drawing language. That’s why people feels it original, or they feel like I’m traveling to different world, and that’s how people get attracted expression without words. I like reading books so I sometimes think in words. But what is left if we take words away? By taking words away, those remaining become open for viewers and let them think. Rather than providing information to them, I let them participate in my works, so it becomes universal. I think my drawing is close to something very poetic.