Jamie Wolfe is an animator and artist based in Los Angeles.
We talked to her about her raw style, recent videos, and following her gut.
I’m not the first to dig your frenetic, protean video style, which seems to be very consistent across projects. Is this something that has evolved over time? What was your artistic style like before and do you imagine any big shifts in the future?
Jamie Wolfe: I’ve always had love for tactile, raw line-work & bold graphic imagery, but it didn’t fully embrace that into my artistic practice until 6 (or so) years ago. Before I that I primarily worked as a graphic designer and was required to exercise a lot more restraint in my work. These days I try to work more intuitively, following my gut and releasing control whenever possible.
I’m always changing, so I’m sure my work will inevitable continue to change alongside me. Lately I’ve been experimenting with switching up my tools and surfaces. For instance, I’ve been obsessed with old school cel painted animation and have been learning all I can about those processes. Who knows, maybe I’ll take a leap in that direction next?
I tend to be allergic to art/music/film that is overly processed or excessively shiny & prefer to surround myself with art and artists who also embrace raw craft & guttural expression.
You’ve clearly crossed paths with punk. Did your work lead you to punk or a love of punk lead you to this work?
Jamie Wolfe: I tend to be allergic to art/music/film that is overly processed or excessively shiny & prefer to surround myself with art and artists who also embrace raw craft & guttural expression. I’ll almost always leap on any chance to collaborate with other artists who share an affinity for that sort of expression, in any form.
My favorite thing about releasing a film into the wild is watching it take on a life of its own. It’s been really fascinating to hear people’s interpretations of it, and to see the different nuances they respond to.
Can you tell us about “Roommates”? What about this particular project has resonated with viewers? What kind of work went into the 3 minute or so long final product? How do you feel about it now that it’s made the rounds in festivals and press?
Jamie Wolfe: Roommates is a film about 4 people who live in an apartment without air-conditioning. I made it 2ish years ago, right when I moved to Los Angeles, after a particularly brutal final summer in Brooklyn. It was as hot inside as it was outside. Everything was sticky, everybody was sticky. Nobody could think about anything but how hot and sticky they were. I wanted to make a visceral film about that specific brand of mania.
The film took about 6 months to make. All the line-work is hand painted with sumi ink on animation bond, and then colored digitally.
It almost serves as a time capsule of a specific time in my life, which makes it fun to look back on. My favorite thing about releasing a film into the wild is watching it take on a life of its own. It’s been really fascinating to hear people’s interpretations of it, and to see the different nuances they respond to.
You recently received your MFA from CalArts. It may be too early to ask, but how do you feel this experience has impacted your work? How do you feel generally about art education or formal structure?
Jamie Wolfe: The formal structure really worked for me. It was a game changing to exist in a bubble like that for 3 years & soak in the wide array of perspectives of my peers. I feel far more grounded in myself and have a significantly more distinct understanding of who I am in the greater context of the field.
Your latest video “Prizes” is still on the way. What can we expect from it?
Jamie Wolfe: Prizes is the story of the rise and fall of Lydia, a game show contestant with an obsessive fixation on lightbulbs and Wendy, the alluring host of the lightbulb-centric gameshow. The film explores obsession, deception, and control, through the rising tensions of wild characters in absurd circumstance. While there’s a quasi-linear narrative at the bones of the piece, I think the term “psychedelic narrative” might be a better way to describe the ride.
This is my thesis film so I’ve been working on it for 2 years, but theres a bit more I want to add before I’m officially “done”. I’m looking to begin screening it soon.
The other night I literally dreamt that I drove to a gas station & put gas in my car. It’s far easier for me to tap into my subconscious through the act of drawing & filmmaking, as opposed to sleeping. That might be why I make art in the first place.
“Prizes”, especially, seems a bit nightmarish. The primal subconscious is already on full display in some other videos of yours, do your actual dreams (or nightmares) inspire you as well?
Jamie Wolfe: My dreams actually tend to be very boring! I think the other night I literally dreamt that I drove to a gas station & put gas in my car. It’s far easier for me to tap into my subconscious through the act of drawing & filmmaking, as opposed to sleeping. That might be why I make art in the first place, to let something out that would otherwise be trapped deep inside my guts.
How do you take your current aesthetic and move to more commercial projects? How can you maintain your artistic integrity while working with brands?
Jamie Wolfe: A lot of it comes from conversations with people, and getting down to 1) what they are responding to in my work and 2) understanding the concrete boundaries they need me to work within. I actually quite like the challenge of working within constraints. It forces me to find new solutions that I might not have otherwise tried. That has usually allowed me to keep my aesthetic while still meeting a clients needs.