Jiro Bevis on his trippy illustrations, finding humour and dealing with creative blocks
The illustrator talks to woo about his work upon the release of his playful pin badges inspired by psychedelics, sex and feeling good
words Sophie Lou Wilson
Smiling rainbows, mushroom orgies, genitals holding hands. Welcome to the trippy world of Jiro Bevis. The illustrator, who recently designed a series of quirky, irreverent pin badges for woo, isn’t afraid to have fun with his work. For him, humour is fundamental and experimentation is key. Since graduating from Central Saint Martins in the ‘00s, Bevis has worked with a plethora of musicians, restaurants and fashion brands, bringing his fun, colourful designs to life in various contexts around the world. He’s inspired by his collection of books, the calmness of exhibition spaces and the feel good films of Pixar and Studio Ghibli.
Tasked with drawing illustrations for woo based on feeling good, psychedelics and sex and relationships, Bevis's resulting pin badges are vibrant cartoonish designs to make you smile. “I did a bunch of sketches and it ended up looking quite trippy and psychedelic,” he says. How would Bevis style his pin badges? He’s got a rucksack that's already covered in badges and patches that he’s planning to add them to.
Below, we caught up with the artist to discuss mushroom trips, Studio Ghibli films and creativity as a form of meditation.
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When did you start illustrating? Were you always artistic growing up?
Yeah. I’ve got an older brother who’s very artistic. My mum went to fashion school in Japan. My dad was very into comics and records so there were always creative, artistic, interesting things around. I studied graphics at Saint Martins and when I graduated, I felt that I probably had to make a career out of it. That slowly snowballed and I’ve constantly been drawing and doing graphics ever since.
A lot of creatives refer to their practice as a form of meditation. Is illustrating a meditative activity to you?
Yeah, definitely. It is a really therapeutic process because most of the time it's just you at a desk. I've done drawings that are not necessarily meditative, but they've released whatever emotions are in me. I'll show my partner a drawing and she can tell pretty easily what kind of mood I'm in and what day I've had.
How do you hope your illustrations make other people feel?
To be honest, I don't think my work is the deepest so I just want people to enjoy them. I'm happy if I see someone wearing one of my graphics. I like seeing people enjoy it and liking what I do. That's my aim.
You're a fan of Pixar and Studio Ghibli which are comfort films for a lot of people. How do they make you feel and why do they inspire you?
Pixar knows how to make you cry. I could be cynical, but I think they're just generally great films. Being half Japanese, I grew up with Ghibli. Again, they're just brilliantly written stories more than anything. Take away the stylistic element or how well it's drawn and they're still beautiful, well told stories that you could watch as a child or an adult.
Your work is very fun and playful. Would you say that it reflects your personality?
I guess. I think a lot of the time you're giving a piece of yourself through your artwork so it does represent you in a way. I'm sure some people would say I'm not as fun as my drawings, but I guess so, otherwise I wouldn't be doing what I do.
What inspires you?
Anything really. I've got a ton of books. Living in London, you've always got endless exhibitions, galleries and stuff to see. I've always got a ton of files that I save online. You don't want to limit yourself to just a few things. Anything can catch your eye and inspire you and somehow influence your work.
Your illustrations often feel quite trippy. Have you ever experimented with psychedelics or microdosing for your creativity and mental health?
I have, but not necessarily for working. I think when I was a teenager I tried and it wasn't very productive. It was just the usual experimenting with friends. I went to Mexico with my partner a few years ago and we went on the top of a mountain with mushrooms and that was a very spiritual experience and really enjoyable.
Your work also has a lightness and humour to it. Why do you think it's important to keep that humour, especially when the world can feel quite heavy sometimes?
Like I said, my work isn't the deepest, so I think humour and enjoyment is key. The world can be a miserable, stressful place so if anyone gets enjoyment out of my work, then that's brilliant.
What do you do to unwind and de-stress?
Whenever we get the chance, my partner and I just crash on the sofa. We watch films or go for walks. Introducing nature to our daughter has been really enjoyable. She's really embraced it, getting her hands dirty and looking at all the insects and bugs. Taking in nature is always a good thing for anyone.
How do you get over creative blocks?
I don't force it. If you feel you're a bit of a rut or you're struggling then you’re probably best going for a walk or doing something else because maybe your brain isn't in the right space. So do something else. Relax your brain. Engage in something that you're actually interested in at that time, and then maybe come back to it the next day or whenever.
When do you feel most creative?
I think when I wake up because when I'm asleep or trying to get to sleep, my brain is whirring around and I've got things going on in my head. When I wake up, I've usually got a few things that are fresh in my mind that I want to put down.
What advice do you have for emerging artists today?
Just do what you want to do. Don't be scared to make mistakes, always experiment, because that's the only way you're going to learn. Ultimately, you're always going to be your biggest critic, so push yourself. If you can do this as a career, it's a great thing because I love drawing pictures and I'm very lucky that I can do this.
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