Meet Mr. Awkwardface — also known as Jesse Jaeger. This Atlanta native couldn’t escape art as he looked out the windows of MARTA as a boy, seeing graffiti all over the city. That was 14 years ago. Now he’s on the inside — looking out and influencing those around him. CommonCreativ ATL talked with Jaeger about his favorite themes to explore in his work, why he loves to call Atlanta home and more.
CommonCreativ: First off—money or power?
Jesse Jaeger: Money’s nice but the power would be better. The idea behind [using that phrase in my work] came from the saying “money is power.” To me, it seemed like you needed money to make it in the fine art world. Art supplies are expensive, but what if you had the option of picking one over the other?
CC: What does your artistic process look like?
JJ: Honestly, it starts with a cup of coffee, a breakfast sandwich and an open sketchbook. When it comes to putting paint on a canvas or wall, it starts with a 12-pack of beer and some tacos. Either way, it’s a little all over the place, a bit sloppy, and most of the time I have no idea what I’m going to do.
CC: How has your background shaped you as an artist?
JJ: I grew up in south Atlanta riding Marta everywhere. I always looked out the windows and loved seeing graffiti all over. The one that caught my eye was Totem’s Mr. Fangs character. So I started coming up with my own characters and hitting the streets with them and never really stopped. That’s where the Mr. Awkwardface character came from. Then, on rainy days, I would teach myself how to use acrylic paint and markers. From spray paint to using Adobe Illustrator, I’ve taught myself.
CC: What are some of your favorite themes to explore in your work?
JJ: I always find myself leaning towards a party theme. It’s just how I see people. Every place I have traveled to people seem to be doing just that. I like to take a cartoon-style character and make them a little more grown-up. I also find myself incorporating wood grain into a lot of my work as well.
JJ: I’m proud of most of my stuff, but I don’t think I have done my best yet. I think that’s what keeps me going.
CC: Why do you make art?
JJ: I ask myself that all the time. I think I do it because it keeps my mind in the right place. It’s an outlet. It’s a way for letting out how I feel or getting out what I have to say. Also, I like the reaction my work gets from people when they see it.
CC: What are some of your favorite art happenings, organizations or people in Atlanta?
JJ: Atlanta has always been up and down with its art happenings. At the moment, I’m really into the Outer Space Project and Forward Warrior. They are not only mural festivals but block parties, which I really like.
CC: What are your goals for 2016?
JJ: Just more murals and shows, like always — to keep painting. Get more outside murals before the end of the year.
CC: What are your thoughts on the city’s arts scene?
JJ: It comes and goes. We have a lot of creative people coming out of Atlanta.
CC: How would you define your artistic style?
JJ: Stream of consciousness.
CC: How do you promote yourself as an artist?
JJ: I just keep painting. Other than that I post some of my work online via different social media outlets.
CC: What’s one of your ultimate goals as an artist?
JJ: It’d be really cool to see one of my characters turned into a cartoon series.
See more of Jesse Jaeger’s work on his portfolio site.