A Fear of Everything with Jordan Debney September 03 2019
Jordan Debney is a New Zealand-born Australia based artist specialising in illustration, streetwear graphics and light-reactive paintings. Jordan has focused on his passion for all things botanical and a fascination with the dead. His bold wood-cut paintings and hyper-coloured illustrations can be seen on clothing, brand packaging and large scale murals.
We recently spoke to Jordan about being a workaholic, balancing client work and personal work, and the drive to create.
Interview by Joseph Estorninho. Photos supplied by Jordan Debney.
Can you tell us a bit about your daily creative routine?
Eat, sleep, work, repeat – except I get to choose what order to do it in. I’ve recently cut caffeine from my diet so that was a high hurdle to jump over. Now that I am caffeineless and almost a real adult at 28, I’ve tried doing the whole breakfast thing which I’ve concluded isn’t for me. To be completely honest, I am a workaholic. All I do is work. I find it incredibly hard to balance work with non-work. I will find any excuse to stay in and keep working, especially in winter, when I go into this predatorial hibernation. I keep my other hobbies in check by tending to my plants and making sure I get fresh air. But I do love my work. Life is too short to hate your job.
How much of the work you produce is personal work, compared to client work?
I work for various streetwear brands which consumes a lot of my daylight hours. It comes before my personal work most of the time because, well, I gotta pay my bills. That being said, I like to consider myself pretty good at managing my time so my days are usually pretty packed with as much as possible. I make new prints and stickers every now and then, which can go a long way to keeping myself satisfied. I never take my creative freedom for granted when the opportunity presents itself.
How does your approach differ when working across multiple disciplines: making merchandise, graphic design and creating artwork for exhibitions?
My work dabbles in two different realms: dark and twisted with pop-pastel vibrancy. I’m aware a lot of it isn’t for everyone, but a good balance of both is a representation of my personality. Most of the time I’m pretty conscious if I have made something too "effeminate” – which doesn't bother me – but I also have to keep things relevant if I’m going to make sales, with things like my pins and stickers. I gotta appeal to those weirdos out there, too. For artwork, I feel adjusting it to fit a demographic will defeat the purpose of it. A lot of my fans follow me for various reasons, but the ones who get it, really get it. It’s not about the death, or the pink – it’s how I managed to combine them.
What are you hoping to show at Outré that you haven’t already?
I have been doing my wood cut paintings for a while now and I’ve only exhibited them in a couple shows back in Wellington, so this is my first chance to show these works in Melbourne. I hope to showcase the colours (many people have only seen this work online) and the patience that it takes to make them and to give people an opportunity to take one home with them.
Tell us about the themes in your exhibition.
The name of my show Pantophobia can have a lot of meanings, but to sum it up you would call it “the fear of everything”. My work shows a lot of your stereotypical imagery of basically good versus bad. To me it’s metaphorical: it’s the balance which I practise most days of my life. You can't have one without the other. I wanted to show that while something may seem bad, that isn't necessarily the case. Some bad events can be good, and a lot of good things that happen can be bad. It all has to do with how you approach it, how you react. Not everything has to be frightening.
What drives you to create your artwork?
I have this drive inside of me that tells me to make these things as a personal therapy, mostly reinforced by music and nature, life experiences of the good and the bad. I am mostly inspired by my hard-working creative friends such as Elroseabel, Ink Boy, Carla Scotto and Gina Kiel, to name a few. I can appreciate the hard work and talent of using what they know to create what they feel. It's inspiring to see their creativity every day. If you removed all the clocks from the world and stopped the sun in the sky, the only way of knowing time is still passing is by seeing that they are still creating. I believe everyone has their own personal form of self expression. This just happens to be mine.
Your skeletons are expressive and have their own thoughts and lives. Why skeletons and not fleshed out humans?
I feel like everyone can relate with a skeleton. We all have one (are one?). They tend to represent a lot of negativity in people’s eyes, like bad symbolism and satanic imagery. But I don’t see it like that. You’re alive because we have these skeletons, so they can’t be so bad right? How bad could a skeleton riding a spring-loaded lilac unicorn be? He’s just there for a good time – as we all are.
Do you have any projects lined up for the future you are particularly excited about?
I would be shooting myself in the foot if I told you that I am working on a sock brand which I will be announcing later in the year, as well as limited prints on holographic material, and some fan-favourite skate decks for some upcoming Melbourne shows... Oh wait. Oops!
Do you have any goals for yourself as an artist?
On a daily basis I am haunted by the fact that I am too deep into this now to be able to stop. It’s a thought that terrifies me as much as it excites me. My goal would be to just keep on going to finally know what scares me so much.
Thanks for your time, Jordan!