Like many artists, Jeremy Stroup finds it hard to define himself as one, or even process what exactly that means.
With one look at any of his creations, however, you almost can’t describe him as anything but.
“It’s still hard to answer that question of ‘What do you do?’ with, ‘I’m an artist,’ Stroup said. “I definitely believe I am, but sometimes it’s hard to process or explain. I started pursuing it whole-heartedly when I switched majors in college. I was on track to be a Spanish teacher but really struggling with it, when an art teacher just suggested I try art as a career path. This was the first time anyone had said this kind of thing was a possibility.”
Stroup made the inverse choice from others in his position; it’s easy to go into college with your best hobby guiding your choice of majors when you eventually learn that a degree in something a bit more normal will yield the best outcome career-wise.
Instead, Stroup was chugging along through las clases when the suggestion of art bumped him into a new realm.
“My family was very supportive, and I decided I’d better take it seriously,” Stroup said. “From there I dug into art history, started going to museums, cataloging art online, and taking in as much as I could.
“After graduation, there was a big slump though. There wasn’t as much of an outlet for my artwork. There wasn’t really a surrounding community of artists at the time. It took a lot of willpower to keep producing artwork. There’s a kind of sneaky, art-school arrogance that tells you people are going to want to discover you, and you’re gonna show them all once they see what you’re bringing to the table.” Intricate and colorful
The style that Stroup brings to the table is pretty recognizable once you’ve been given the delightful opportunity of viewing a handful of pieces.
They usually consist of thicker black lines to determine the outline and the primary setting of a piece. After that point, especially in his pen drawings that he often merges with collage, the outlines get filled with wonderfully intricate colors, shapes, and patterns. As your eyes wander across pieces like “The Fox” or “Orpheus,” you are introduced to more and more intricate layers and an unstoppable amount of nuance.
“After a couple of years of going through different series, getting stuck on different topics, styles, and subjects, my style began to emerge,” Stroup said. “It’s very easy to get entrenched in drawing things a certain way, and only that way. It took a lot of effort through doing commissions, projects for other people, and drawing from life to encourage and force me to be more flexible in my style and subject matter, or to be willing to work with others, which is still very challenging.
“When a style becomes ingrained, it’s more difficult to escape than it is to create. It’s as signature as your voice, gait, or thumbprint. I do it without thinking about it, and it often is more of a challenge to reign in my style to be less expressive and more true to the subject matter. Sometimes these are the best pieces because that restraint results in a more orderly, visually pleasing image.” Restrained and orderly
Stroup practices that restraint in other ways, like keeping a job unrelated to his art. By day (or night, rather) Stroup works as a bartender at J.K. O’Donnell’s.
Though these nights aren’t spent producing any kind of artwork, they do help Stroup meet people and get the word out about his showings.
“I’ve worked in restaurants since high school and stumbled into a job at J.K.’s in the summer of 2014,” he said. “It turned out to be a great fit and bartending has been sustaining me and my art career ever since. Many of the people who come to my art shows are people I met there. It really is a great group of people.
“When I’m not there, I’m usually working on an art project of some kind, usually at the coffee shop or at home late at night. Freelance art is kind of a new field to me, but the more jobs I complete, the more opportunities show up, so hopefully this blossoms into a more full-time job at some point. If I’m not at the pub, I’m almost always working on artwork or our house. It’s easy to burn yourself out, or not make enough time for friends, family, or myself.”
Unlike many people, inspiration for Stroup comes easily. It also comes from a lot of different places which is perhaps why there is plenty of it. But just because something is plentiful doesn’t mean it crosses over well into output.
“The real challenge is taking a good feeling and turning it into a finished product, pushing through the challenges along the way,” Stroup said.
“My biggest inspirations come from a long list, but I love long walks, just looking at things, plants, rocks, colors, the sky, and how the light hits things. I love manuscripts and medieval art. I really enjoy the level of detail and the system of patterning. I love drawing figures and people, so I’ll sketch stances and poses from a book of kung fu, then collage these into other drawings.”
“I’ve been enjoying collage a lot lately because I can take smaller scraps of drawings and recombine them into new pieces. This way things that seemed a bit one-dimensional before can be combined in a way in which they seem to me to harmonize. This process has been extremely fun. It’s always a good sign when your art becomes very entertaining to you even if it’s not in its most sophisticated stage. It’s a good sign you’re exploring your medium and trying new things that are inspiring and exciting.” Staying authentic and inspired
Though some artists draw themselves into ruts, Stroup has found ways to keep himself guessing. This step into the realm of collage that helps his pieces become more three-dimensional also adds a new dimension to Stroup’s relationship to his pieces. They’re fresh and intriguing and something that is an old habit or second-nature that stays exciting is worth the effort and time.
And when that thing helps you stay authentic and inspired, it’s often what keeps you going.
“I think I’m most proud of having produced a style and system that’s entirely my own,” he said. “It’s borrowed from and informed by a long list of sources and inspirations, but somehow picking through all of them, that particular cocktail of things is me. So I seldom know what I’m doing with my art, but whatever I’m doing, it’s me as I am and that’s a very weird and difficult thing to be. It might not be world-changing or historically significant, but it is true to myself.”