By Jason Thibault
For my money Munk One (Jose A. Mercado) is one of the best illustrators working today. I initially caught a glimpse of his work either on Juxtapoz or OMG Posters. I shot on over to his website and spent a long time going through all of his work. He’s already an successful and accomplished illustrator and artist and deserves all the kudos that he receives from his fans and peers. And yes it made me sick (jealous) to discover that not only was he a killer pen and ink artist but a hell of a painter as well. Jose clearly works his ass off. I’m proud to present to you his work and his words.
And while I focused on his ink work in this interview please head on over to munkone.com and check out his incredible paintings as well.
What inspired you to first start drawing? Did you struggle in your formative years or did it come easy to you?
I think my first inspiration was a Frank Frazetta book of paintings and drawings that my dad showed me when I was little. There was this whole world with monsters and just so much imagination within each painting with that it really changed my view of what art could be and the world itself, especially at such a young age. Of course I couldn’t draw or paint like Frazetta but I’m not sure I felt like I was struggling. It didn’t come easy either but I think I looked at it more as a learning process.
What is a vital daily ritual for you?
I like checking my email and gmail reader before getting to work. Just to see whats going on in the world. Its great to be living in a time where information is relatively easy to come by and from so many sources. It can be an overload at times though and I have to take a break from from it all and just paint.
First professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it.
I think I was 14-15 years old and my dad helped get me a job re-painting a school mascot on their hand ball courts. I made a hundred and something dollars for a days work. I think I figured out 2 things that day. 1. I didn’t want to recreate other peoples work for a living. There is no creativity in that, so to me it’s not enjoyable at all. 2. I hated working out doors for such long periods during the summer even if its art related. I would much rather be inside while painting, maybe that’s another reason why I never became a full blown graffiti artist and use acrylics instead.
Were you self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etc…)
Over all I would say self-taught through books and years of practice, although I did take a few community college classes. I’ve been very fortunate to have met many people throughout the years have helped guide me along the way as well.
Tools of the trade: Taking a quick glance over at your pens, brushes etc…what tools have you mainly been using over the last few years?
Wacom Tablet, Sharpies, Pigma Micron pens, Bic #2 mechanical pencils, acrylics and spray paint.
How has your toolbox evolved compared to when you first started out?
For years I would use pencil or ink on velum paper and scan it in to color it up.
Since then I have diversified my tools to include more mediums and also only use the computer and software to create varied styles of work.
Favorite brand of ink:
I guess whatever is in those Pigma Micron pens (I know its archival) I use those the most other than regular bic ball point pens.
Type of paper:
Printer paper, I use 100% recycled for most of my preliminary sketching. I use tons of paper in such short amounts of time I try to keep it green and recycle wherever I can.
Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are the masters of ink?
Lately I would say the Mac and Retna inspire me to continue to do better. I met El Mac in person not to long ago and he was really nice. James Jean, Micheal Hussar, Mike Giant, Bernie Wrightson all do some killer work.
Once a client has handed off an illustration job to you, how do you first tackle the job. Could you give us a quick overview of your process?
I do some research into the subject on the internet or books and then sketch until I come up with a layout or concept that I like. I send it to the client for approval and if its approved I then take it to final either with traditional mediums or digitally.
What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?
1. Mos Def: The Ecstatic
2. B-Side Players: Fire in the youth
3. Immortal Technique: The 3rd World.
5. Strong Arm Steady: Tracks from their upcoming album for which I just finished the Artwork.
5. Cookin’ Soul – Night of the living dead/Notorious BIG Mix tape
6: The Decemberists: the hazards of love.
What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you)?
I have some of my own originals on the walls, my wife is a painter as well so there is her work up there also. I have signed prints by people like the 7th letter crew, Aye jay!, Slick One, Mear One, A collaboration by Mike Giant and Shepard Fairey. My favorite piece of art so far would have to be an original skate deck by friend Matt Loomis from Northern CA. It’s a portrait of Anton Levey (High Priest of the Church of Satan) drinking a 40oz. with some crazy death metal text behind him. Oh, and the 40 has an upside down cross on it. Quite a conversation piece.
What’s the last novel you read and last movie that you saw that you’d recommend? Which movies and books do you always return to?
Most of the books I have read and been drawn to in the last 10 years have been non fiction, lots of history, politics, business and art related topics. I also read many books to my 5 year old. The last book I read her was “La Historia de Colores” by Subcomandante Marcos. I would recommend any of his writings for sure. As far as movies I am all over the place, I think the last one I saw that I would recommend was Cadillac Records. I’m a sucker for the blues and biopics. Although the movies I consistently watch more than once are Zombie films and Comedies.
Current and upcoming projects?
I just did a tee design for the blink 182 tour, Album cover art for Strong Arm Steady, a print for Pearl Jam’s Berlin date. I am working on the Album Art for new Good Charlotte album. I will also be in a couple of group art shows coming up. On top of all this I am very excited to I have a major solo show in Portland this October so keep an eye out for that as well!
What would you tell an aspiring artist who is working his ass off but still needs and wants to break through to the next level?
I read a daily word of the day to my daughter and there was one that really stuck. We use it a lot around the house and its something I am trying to instill in her. The word is persevere. There have been days when it seems like nothing I am doing is coming out the way I want it to. Maybe there is a deadline coming up fast, maybe there’s no reason other than it looks like everyone else is having way more fun outside that day. I just try to keep going, working toward whatever goal I have at that moment, you never know what might happen if you keep trying. Set your goals high but work on secondary ones as well, as long as some goals are met eventually you will get somewhere.