Growing up on Chicago's far South Side, illustrator/cartoonist/painter Jose Garibaldi learned early on to appreciate the fine art of comics. Whereas most parents would be quick to dismiss strips as lowbrow art, Garibaldi's mother welcomed it, making publications like Cracked and Mad Magazine readily available for his young mind to absorb. The choice to embrace the offbeat humor of Cracked and Mad clearly comes across in Garibaldi's illustrations and it's what makes his art most endearing.
His resume is an extension of such influences, and his work has appeared in publications like Dark Horse Comics, DC Comics, 40oz Comics and, of course, the aforementioned Mad. He has also collaborated with local designers Formula Werks as well as DJ collective The Comeups. Unfortunately for us, Jose G. has made plans to uproot and move to California, but before he does, we wanted to sit down with him and gain some insight on his artistic process and when we can expect his graphic novels to drop.
Where were you born and what was it that got you interested in art?
I was born in Blue Island, raised in Calumet City and the surrounding area, about five minutes south of Chicago. My mom used to put me on to cartoons she loved as a kid, and she taught me to read at an early age. She'd use children's books, Cracked and Mad Magazine to teach me. I fell in love with the illustrations in those books and magazines and hoped to one day do the same.
Who are some of your inspirations both inside and outside the art world?
Wow, that's a big one. In the art world right now, it's mostly my friends like Mike Huddleston, Jim Mahfood, Dave Crosland, Scott Morse, Joey D, Revise CMW, Laura Park, and Joey Potts. Toby Cypress is amazing.
I find most of my inspiration outside of the painting/illustration world. My friends, the nightlife, what I see everyday inspire my work more than anything else. What people wear, the way they act. Actually, I'm a magazine junkie. I think of fashion photos and magazine layouts when I approach a blank page. Music has always been a huge influence too.
How does Chicago inspire your work?
It's been my whole life up until now. I've never lived outside of the Chicagoland area. The TV commercials, the culture, the politicians and sports fans ... it all works its way into everything I do. All my stories are set against a Chicago-like backdrop and are based on my experiences here. I'm really sad to be leaving, but I'm sure it's long from working its way out of my psyche.
What's your take on the artist community here?
The community itself is great. I've formed friendships and partnerships with a billion visual artists, writers, rappers, producers, designers, DJs, promoters, bands, graf writers, cartoonists and we're all pretty supportive of each other. Galleries such as Rotofugi and OhNo!Doom are extremely supportive. Unfortunately, it seems the rest of the country is too focused on what's happening in New York and L.A to pay much attention to the talent in the Midwest.
What's the artistic process like for you when you approach a painting or illustration?
If it's for a client, I send them a sketch or a layout, get approval on that, move to tightening the drawing — I do everything in Photoshop — get approval on that, then move on to colors. If it's something for me, it usually begins as a sketch in my notebook. I'll scan that to keep the flavor of the original drawing, blow it up in Photoshop, then clean it up and color it. With live art painting I'll go at the canvas with no idea of what I'm doing, straight from the top of the head. I'll throw on some music or an audio book to help keep me in the zone.
What's your connection with The Comeups and FormulaWerks?
The Comeups is a crew comprised of DJ Intel, DJ/Producer Maker, DJ Pickel and myself. We Voltroned in, I think, in '06. It happened in front of the Black Beetle. Three of Chicago's finest DJs and me the artist. I've started DJing since then, but come nowhere close to the amazing party rocking skills those guys’ poses.
I was introduced to Formula through DJ Intel. Though I've been part of the crew for years, I didn't release a shirt until last year. I've got more in the works, I just have to fine tune the artwork.
Tell me a little bit about "Jose G Sketches Your Weekend."
"Jose G Sketches Your Weekend" started in May of 2009. It began as a way for me to help promote a lot of the fun stuff happening around Chicago, and also a way for me to draw and post regularly. I used to do a lot of sketching just for fun, and was missing that terribly. Nowadays, almost all of my sketches are work/project related, so I used this as an excuse to put fun nonsense down on paper. It's straight pen to paper, all just spontaneous thought, which is why some of the drawings are wack! Sadly, "Jose G Sketches Your Weekend" will end in the next few weeks, when I move from Chicago to L.A. I don't really know if I'll be picking it back up in my new home. I would like to collect them into a book and get that published someday.
You've had the opportunity to work with some really great publications like DC Comics, 40oz Comics, Dark Horse and Oni Press. What's that experience been like and are there any standout moments for you?
They're all great. I bugged out at the chance to work with Paul Dini at Oni, then at Dark Horse. I was a huge fan of his work on Batman: The Animated Series when I was a kid. Plus, it was the first real payday I had with comic book work. Coloring Jim Mahfood's art for 40oz Comics is always a blast, since I never know how to approach it. He sends me such crazy shit, that it steps my own game up as I figure out how to color it.
How surreal is it for you to grow up on a publication like Mad Magazine and then end up working for them?
I almost passed out. I was awestruck when Sam Viviano, Mad's Art Director, called me up and asked me to contribute. He's one of my all time favorite MAD artists. I've been a fan of his since I was a kid.
What are you currently working on now and what can we look forward to in the future?
I'm still working on my graphic novels Teen Heaven and Deeds, as I've been saying for the past five years. They're both still far from being done, but what I've completed of them is what I'm most proud of. I can't wait to share it all with the world. Other than that, working on several cartoon/brand concepts for animation and just trying to stay on top of my game.