Meet Joel Speasmaker…
Hi Joel! We first met years back when you started The Drama magazine. We did a killer collaboration together with The Drama and Brian Roettinger for a Poketo wallet for that issue! Tell us a bit about founding and publishing that magazine. How did you start it? Was it your first official mag venture? What were the joys and hardships of doing such a thing.
Hi! Let’s see… I started the magazine while in college to showcase an artists collective, also called The Drama, consisting mostly of friends in and around Virginia. It simply grew from there, and I was able to put out nine issues over the course of four years, featuring my favorite artists from all over the world. It was always done in my free time and as the business aspects continued to get larger, more stressful, and more expensive, I decided to stop. When I look back now it seems like a total whirlwind.
What do you feel like you gained by doing The Drama?
The best thing about doing The Drama was by far the people I met through it. I have many close friends now that I never would have met without it. This is especially apparent now that I am living in LA, where I am surrounded by previous contributors and collaborators!
I’ve been running Forest since 2004. It’s primarily just me but over the years I’ve consistently worked with other designers, illustrators, and web developers. I start out doing tons and tons of web work but have happily transitioned to mostly working in print, which I enjoy the most for sure.
Is there anything exciting that you have been working on lately?
I think the most exciting things lately have been projects I’ve been doing for myself. I started the Small Book Series last year, which are just little handmade books I make from time to time. I’ve taken part in a few group exhibitions, and I am super excited about an upcoming show with my friend (and Poketo artist!) Christopher Bettig this October in Long Beach.
You are currently working with Anthem Magazine. Tell us a bit about what you are doing there? What is the most fulfilling part of the work you do?
A big reason I moved to LA was to become art director for Anthem. I redesigned the magazine starting with issue 36, and it’s been a really great experience. It has been much different from doing The Drama because this time, the actual design is my main concentration, rather than [worrying about] adding in every other aspect of a magazine on top of that! I’m definitely proud of my work there and look forward to the issues to come.
One thing I know about you Joel is that you have wanderlust. What are some of your most favorite places traveled. Do you take back any of your experiences back to your design? Is there any place in particular that has influenced you deeply and how?
I love to travel and wish I could be doing it constantly. Everywhere I’ve been has deeply impacted me personally. The places I’ve been to definitely come out in my design whether I’m aware of it or not. In the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to visit Peru, Japan, Argentina, and most of Scandinavia. I often tend to forget how exciting it is to travel throughout the US too, which I’ve done a good amount of.
If you could live anywhere besides LA, where would it be?
I think if I could live anywhere right now it would probably be Stockholm. But after a little bit of time there I would undoubtedly be ready for someplace new and unknown.
What do you look forward to most in being a part of Islands in LA?
I’m really excited about this event. At the end of last year I was able to go up to Pender Island and spend a few days with Luke and Angela. It was one of those amazing experiences that’s hard to properly get across to others. So the fact that they get to come here, and show a little bit of themselves and what they’re doing is awesome. Combine that with Ted & Angie of Poketo and you really have the most perfect evening. And I haven’t even mentioned the great artists that will be there showing their work!
Hey Travis! How did you start doing art? Was it something you always knew you’d be doing?
I don’t know? Drawing is something I’ve always been into. My mom used to do toll painting and other crafty things when I was young. She’d also always encourage me and my brother Brett to draw; maybe it was to keep us quiet but it stuck with both of us.
I heard you live in a log cabin in Echo Park. Is that true? Echo Park history is fascinating. I love that the area used to be a hunting ground and a getaway for the wealthy. I imagine there were long treks of dirt roads that reached up to cabins in the hills back in the old days. What’s it like for you?
Yeah it’s a creaky old drafty shack, but a nice place to hideout and draw. It’s on a windy dead end road so most of the cars that make it back here are either really lost, or live in the neighborhood. It’s nice because it feels pretty remote (except the 5 freeway humming below), but Sunset is bustling just a couple miles down the hill.
Zines are a special part of the work you do. How do zines stand out to you amongst other mediums of art or publications? What’s a favorite one you’ve done so far?
I just really like the personal touch of it. I never toss out any of the zines I’ve come across. It either gets passed on or goes into the collection pile. A zine is an inexpensive ordeal to make and you get the freedom to put whatever you want into it. My favorite ones come together quickly and are done before I have the chance to stew about it too much.
Many of your pieces magnify people/emotions/things that are normally over looked, whether it’s our subconscious hopes that hand sanitizer will purify our irrational fears, or a piece of gum on the grip tape of a skate board. Why are you drawn to these elements? Do they say more about us than we’ve given thought to?
I’m not really too germaphobic, but i’ll get pretty caught up wondering what’s buried in a hotel room carpet. I like those drawings as an exercise in examining a subject and breaking down the elements that can’t be seen but are still affecting it. And there’s good room for a little comedy.
What’s a normal day look like for you?
[I] usually just wake up, pace around for a while, check some email, eat an egg, drink some coffee and start drawing. There’s usually some free lance to juggle for work, but I try to balance it out with my own projects and keep it fun.
What do you do on your off times? We all have a favorite taco truck in Los Angeles, what’s yours?
I don’t really know what I do with my off-time. Probably just pace around some more, maybe pedal out and look around some, or just generally space out. Taco trucks are a good off-time destination though. I like the one on Riverside underneath the overpass with all the vines twining around.
What do you look forward to most for Islands in LA and collaborating with other artists? Is there a lasting impression that you want attendees to leave with?
I’m just looking forward to meeting some nice folks and having a few larfs.
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Poketo and Islands Fold Pop Up Art Show, “Islands in LA”
Beginning at 3 PM, all are invited to grab a drink, hang out with the artists, and witness new pieces being created from start to finish to be showcased later that evening. At 6 PM the official party will begin with a release of a special edition Poketo tee shirt featuring a collaborative design by the artists. The spontaneous nature of the show will allow the public to purchase all original art right off the walls to be taken home that evening.
Friday, February 27th
3 PM – 6 PM: Open studio with artists
6 PM – 9 PM: Official Artshow/ Party