Currently Listening To: KHRUANGBIN
Favorite Beatle: Funny thing is how that changed in my life and how I went full Beatles circle. As a kid I loved Ringo because he seemed like such a goofball. As a teenager I loved the rebel nature and peace/love vibe of John. Later I started to relate more to George as he seemed a wise wizard and now I really dig Paul the most. Just love how happy and creative he still seems.
tell us about yourself and the kind of work you create.
I’m a self-taught artist from Antwerp (Multicultural Medieval port city), Belgium who studied languages and literature at the University of Antwerp, but dropped out to make happy silly colorful visuals (also because I sucked at English Grammar). I had always been drawing since I was a kid and hoped to become a comic strip artist or animation director one day. Took me until I was 24 to fully dare to pursue that career. I’m gonna go full cliché-interview answer here, but amazing things start happening to your life if you follow your dreams. Unless being a serial killer is your dream, I wouldn’t recommend that.
I love doing all kinds of different stuff: illustrations, comics, animations, murals… sometimes I write comedy stuff for TV as well. I love bold linework (Japanese woodblock printing, Tintin creator Hergé’s, 60’s psychedelic movement), prefer cartoony expressionism over realism, flashy colors and hope to make people happy with my lighthearted drawings. Cartoons (Betty Boop, Tex Avery, Ren & Stimpy) and movies (Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Gremlins, The Fly, The Holy Mountain, Roger Rabbit), books (Roald Dahl, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, Lovecraft), comics (Franco-Belgian comics, Moebius, graphic novels, underground comix) and video games (adventure games like Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Broken Sword) really formed me as a person (what is school?) I try to make things that are universal and fun. I’m still a big kid and generally optimistic. I just have a lot of fun and think that shows in my work. I love getting lost in the act of drawing and forgetting about time and space. I’m fascinated by what makes visuals iconic. I always thought technically I wasn’t all that good, so I felt like countering that with good creative ideas or silly puns. If I kept drawing I thought, I’d get better anyway (haha, don’t ask me to draw a horse). At least if the idea of an illustration is good or funny the drawing will still be worth looking at. And I think it’s cool to get someone’s attention with a catchy colorful image and then BAM there’s also a joke or idea in it that only later on seeps in.
I came up with the pseudonym Jango Jim because I have a difficult Greek name: Dimitri Sakelaropolus. My great grandfather was a sailor from Athens who ended up in Antwerp in the early 20th Century. I thought it would be easier for people to remember me with a catchy artist name. I love the sweet happy jazzy guitar tunes of Django Reinhardt and always loved that name Django (which means “I awake”. Funny because I am the worst at getting up in the morning.) When I was in Greece in 2005 people referred to me as Jim when I told them my name was Dimitri. So I joined those two and it became Jango Jim.
I’m always hungry to learn and explore new things. I try to travel and get inspired as much as possible. There’s so much interesting stuff in the world if you look for it (good food, museums, crazy professions, magic, indie comics, weird movies, sci fi stories, matchbox art, old toys, wild animals, folk art masks, tropical fish, the cosmos). I think the more fun and interesting your life is the better your work will become.
what is your typical day like? are there any challenges that you face on a consistent basis?
Usually if I don’t have an early appointment I will get up too late (and feel bad about it), take a shower and have coffee. I love coffee. I love making it, the smell, sipping it whilst drawing. You might think now I sound like a coffee addict and you are absolutely right. I’m terrible at waking up, although I’m not a cranky morning person. I love breakfast, it makes me start the day off in a happy way (fried eggs or fruity oatmeal for example).
I start by checking e-mails, surfing online a bit and writing down ideas/doodling. I draw stuff in my sketchbook every day. It’s very important to me to keep making things, even if it’s not good. It might serve as inspiration for future projects. It’s my little treasure box of ideas. When you have to work with short deadlines sometimes it’s handy to have this backup. Inspiration doesn’t always show up at the right time. My biggest challenges are coming up with good ideas and balancing life/work deadlines. It often takes a lot of time to find something I’m happy with. Sometimes I get burned out creatively, it’s ups and downs, but I know I just have to keep going.
The past year and a half were a big change for me as I had to work long stressful hours in an animation office to create my first 2D-animated series “Elvis & Benny”. I had to get up early and had very little time off. The discipline worked really well in getting loads of work done, but it was hard for me to focus all my energy continuously on one project. I’m freelancing again right now at my own tempo, doing occasional side trips to get inspired and it feels way more natural.
I like going out to meetings (if it’s not too often), to do live drawing performances or to make murals. Any excuse to travel is a good one for me. I like to see life as a series of little quests, makes things more fun that way. Doing taxes is definitely the least fun one. I try to keep posting good stuff online on a regular basis as that is usually how I get asked to generate new work. Evenings are pretty irregular with me. My girlfriend and I might go out to eat, go to a concert, go to a bar with friends, or I could still work late. I used to be a real night owl and still get very creative in the evening/night so often work till very late, but not as much as I used to.
you’re self-described as being able to draw fun out of dull subjects. what is your process like when breathing life into a topic that might not be so exciting?
First I research the topic or read the article that needs an illustration thoroughly. I try to find extra info on it online maybe. Then I usually start making dozens of doodles on a big sheet of paper. I draw whatever comes to mind in a more playful way, try to look at it from a distance. You can look at the world with any kind of glasses: how would an alien look at this? an animal? David Bowie? I try to find the funny or silly things especially, make weird associations, see if I can come up with puns. Boring subjects/environments often already carry a lot of unintentional humour in them. Look at the comedy series The Office. Then I pick out my favorite ideas and sketch them out in more detail. Adding bright colors to the final result very much helps to make any dull subject more catchy already.
you’ve had a lot of really cool top-notch clients such as converse, vice, and toyota. can you tell us a bit about your journey leading to household name clients?
Thanks! I’ve been very fortunate, but in general I think it’s a combination of constantly making cool stuff, working hard, getting it out there and being nice to people. It’s so easy to get your work spread over the internet. A friend of mine sent my work to someone she knew at Vice and they liked it. They sent it later on to someone at Converse when they needed a mural artist. With Toyota someone at a creative agency knew my work and contacted me. I love how organic these things can go, it’s super exciting. One time someone had passed my name to a famous Belgian musician and they asked me to draw live on The Voice a few days later. Because they liked what I did I was asked again to make a big machine animation.
The important thing is to be ready for situations like these, because they are often opportunities with short deadlines that come with a certain amount of stress and risk. They always scared me, but I jumped in nevertheless and learned so much on the way. On the other hand I missed out on hundreds of cool gigs and got disappointed many many times, but that’s just part of it. Now I never expect anything, you can only win that way. If you keep on making great stuff, great stuff will happen sooner or later. And if it doesn’t, keep making great stuff anyway. You gotta have fun.
the line work and color in your illustrations is so well developed. what lead you to working in such a distinct style?
I just kept drawing the things that I like in my sketchbooks and try to perfect those. I think it helped that I never went to art school, although I have no idea what my work would look like if I did. I just love drawing. I can’t stop doing it. I noticed young artists sometimes lose that love for drawing after art school. Never forget why you started in the first place. Because it’s fun! My skills are limited in a way, but I pay a lot of attention to color. I can work really fast now, but it could sometimes take me three or four times longer to find the right colors for a drawing than making the actual drawing.
I always loved indie comics and old school cartoons. Later on Naive and folk art, Outsider art, Pop art and 60’s psychedelic art have influenced me a lot. There’s something fun, innocent, beautiful and human to it. Because I’m so happy with what I do I feel like a big kid. I play around and that shows in my work too I think. I’m also very much fascinated by simplifying things or looking for the essence of things. Keith Haring or Picasso did an amazing job at that. How can something still be recognizable with the least amount of lines. I love that.
you have a few murals under your belt, which are quite fun to look at! what sort of work goes into producing one of these beauties?
I looove doing murals and would love to do way more. It’s such a different physical activity from sitting behind your desk. I like that variation. It’s just very labor intensive and not always easy to find legal walls. One of my ultimate dreams is to get paid to do giant murals all over the world. It’s the perfect travel excuse. I’m working towards that. I’m also part of a mural collective with artist buddies Rik Potoms and Sander Heremans from Brussels, although because we all have our own projects it’s not always easy to find the time to work together.
I usually look at the wall size and start sketching out ideas. Depending on what a client is asking or if it’s a personal wall I try to play around and make it as fun as possible to look at. If the surface is too rough I might consider using spray cans rather than paint, although I prefer using paint. I try not to follow the design too closely and leave room for improvisation on the wall if possible. I’ll do a rough sketch with a light color on the wall first and work from there. In the rare cases that the design has to be the exact same as the sketch I project it, but I try to avoid that. It’s way more fun to get surprised by your own imagination as you’re moving on. And it’s so satisfying to look at a finished mural on a big wall. Paint in your hair for the next week is a nice extra touch. It makes you look like a real artist.