I’ve had people tell me how lucky I am to be able to travel around the world and take pictures of people’s studios and interview them. Oh how I wish that were true—I’d be jet-setting to Australia, England, Scotland, Mexico, New York, California, Oregon, and a couple territories in Canada, just to name a few. Usually I’m only able to visit these beautiful studios in the virtual world, just like all of my readers, but today I’m excited to say that I’ve had the chance to stand inside the studio of Jay Nolte, who works out of his home in Wisconsin. After I saw his space—ceiling tall shelves filled with figurines and books, a 3D printer, and a keg for homemade brew in the corner (Milwaukee is Brew City so it definitely seems reasonable), I knew it’d make a great feature on Tuesday Tours. Jay has had over twenty years experience in the design and gaming industries, working with clients such as Disney, Harley Davidson, Random House, and Nickelodeon. Currently, he is an illustrator who creates the webcomic The Zombie Office. He travels around the states showing and selling his work, and when he’s not doing that, he’s working on his new book project Gargoyles or experimenting with a new artistic medium, like gauche, water color, or even 3D printing.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
About sixteen years ago my wife and I were taking a leisurely stroll through an innocent looking suburb named Wauwatosa, when quite suddenly we were pounced on by a roguish band of dogs and cats and stolen away to their lair. Once there, we were forced to cater to their every whim and fancy; kibble, squeaky toys, dog treats, catnip. Their sadistic desires knew no bounds. We tried every form of escape imaginable, with each attempt ending in catastrophe.
Ten years ago we went so far as to have an offspring to see if possibly someone younger and faster could elude our captors and make a successful break, but this was yet another exercise in futility. The fiendish brutes licked and pawed at him with savage precision. We see now that he never stood a chance. Then fate showed me a glimmer of hope. As I was attempting to email a distress message, the cat (we think she is their leader) strolled across the keyboard of my laptop. Initially, she was evaluating my actions, but then the warmth of the computer and the soft glow of the screen put her into a kind of trance. She collapsed on the keys and began to make low, guttural noises. Seizing this chance, I began moving the cursor across the screen. This pleased her. Since that day, I have been creating computer graphics in the vain hope that one day my family may know the sweet taste of freedom.
How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?It all seemed harmless enough in the beginning. You know, a collectible vinyl figure here, a Pixar storyboard book there. No big deal, right? It’s just that the number of items has grown quite a bit since we moved in. Really, I don’t have a problem. I don’t NEED these items if that’s what you’re thinking. I simply draw inspiration from having them around. They’re nice to look at, but I can get rid of them anytime. Honest. Can we talk about something else please?
Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
The first thing I do is get out of bed. Now, being an able bodied person you would think this would be a fairly easy task to accomplish. You would be mistaken. Sleep is essential for all creatures. It’s just that my body seems to require more of it than others, especially in the morning hours. Scientists are currently baffled and can offer not explanation as to why. But I can definitely say that I do get more done when I’m not asleep.
When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
Whenever my son joins me, we have a blast together. His talent far exceeds mine, and I love to watch him come up with amazing ideas. He reminds me to let go of control, have fun, and live in the moment.
Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I don’t think that I can reduce it down to any one piece or item. My studio is more like a warm cocoon of baubles, curios and novelties. I draw inspiration from the sum total of my hodgepodge. I obsessively collect books of other artist’s work. When I get stuck I browse through them randomly for inspiration.
What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
Oh look, the new Star Wars collectibles have been released! I’m sorry, what was the question?
What do you like to nibble/drink when you’re working?
Tea, iced tea to be more precise. I make my own and have a couple of favorite flavors. I never developed a taste for coffee, but I cannot work without caffeine. I do have a kegerator in my office. One of my passions is brewing my own beer. But I can absolutely guarantee you that no alcoholic beverages are consumed during the making of art. OK, maybe a little.
Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Right now I’m obsessed with Mark Ryden. I’m blown away by his imagery and his technical talent.
Does music influence your work? What are you listening to now?
Yes, I generally listen to music when I work. Usually it is the Grateful Dead. They’re the perfect background tunes to keep the left side of my brain occupied without overwhelming the right side.
What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Find what inspires you and surround yourself with it.
What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
You can read my webcomic The Zombie Office or get it delivered to you fresh at Facebook.com/TheZombieOffice. I’m also working on a new project called Gargoyles. It will be both a print and 3D printed project. You can view it soon at jaynolte.com or at Facebook.com/ArtofJayScottNolte.
Thank you for sharing your studio, Jay! Your space is like a cabinet of curiosities—I love it! I’ll have to come over for a home-brewed beer sometime and see how your newest project is coming along 🙂
Join us on September 1st when we take a look inside illustrator Charles Santoso’s studio in Sydney, Australia.
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