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In The Make: Comics Off the Strip

 Words and graphic art collide in Jason Jägel's paintings.

Jägel discusses a large unfinished painting in his studio.

Whenever he leaves the studio, Jägel takes two notebooks and two pens with him. "I draw almost exclusively from my imagination," he says.

Hung and Flew, an image from Hang Glider & Mud Mask (created in collaboration with McSweeney's art director, Brian McMullen).

Jägel in his studio, surrounded by his art books, comics, and records.

Partial Eclipse, derived from Topsy Turvy, a comic insert that was published in McSweeney's issue 40.

Jars of brightly colored gouache paint, Jägel's preferred medium.

Climb the Stairs, an image of the character Mud Mask from Jägel's upcoming children's book, Hang Glider & Mud Mask.

Western Civilization, a work that layers sketches, brushmarks, notations, lyrics, and phrases.

Painter and sculptor Jason Jägel is an obsessive doodler. He fills stacks of notebooks with text fragments and simple drawings, but the rough images and snatches of dialogue are more akin to nervous tics than preliminary sketches. "Compulsive drawings always have the greatest substance," he says, "because I'm not overreaching or consciously trying to do anything."

Jägel comes from a family of artists: His father, John Jägel, was a painter, and his stepmother, Beatrice Hawley, was a renowned poet. Growing up, Jägel immersed himself in comic book art of the '80s and '90s, a form that heavily influences his gouache paintings of today. "There were these independent comic artists making stories with a lot of literary acumen," he says. "They were playful, but incorporated aspects of autobiography that I found really exciting."

Jägel's studio is a retrofitted shed in the backyard of his Mission home. He prefers to work on several pieces at once and let random associations surface on the page, a process he calls "disciplined improvisation." Unlike the storylines of the comic books he reveres, his work is chaotic: Colors splinter and swerve, space contracts and expands, and text explodes forth.


Originally published in the December 2012 issue of San Francisco.

In The Make is an online arts journal featuring studio visits with artists and designers. This is the latest in a monthly series appearing exclusively in San Francisco.

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